Whether it’s with movies like “Dumb and Dumber,” at his concerts or with interviews, actor-musician Jeff Daniels feels the need to make people laugh.
“We’ll walk and people will say, ‘What is this?’” Daniels says with a sly laugh about his show, which comes to the Mesa Arts Center on Friday, October 30.
“You don’t know what to expect: You have an actor with a guitar and that’s usually a bad thing, but it’s entertaining as hell. You’re also getting the guy who’s been on Broadway and knows how to be in front of people.”
Daniels, who is accompanied by his son’s act, Ben Daniels Band, says he engages in conversation with the audience.
“And with my son’s band, there’s a lot of musicianship. I feature those kids. [The audience] is laughing then we drop one on them that just makes them tear up, then we get them up dancing in a way that they never have before with a song called the ‘Big Bay Shuffle.’
“It’s a great night out. It’s the fourth tour we’ve gone out on. We keep going because it works. We have a great time and so does the audience.”
Ben Daniels, a graduate of The Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Tempe and Gilbert, agreed with his dad.
“It’s very entertaining,” Ben Daniels says about the concert. “For the most part it’s all upbeat. He tells a lot of really good stories about the songs. The songs are great, too. With our band and him, everybody gets the chance to be featured.
“We get to play a couple songs after one of the intermissions. We get to do a couple songs about him. He comes back and it escalates from there It’s a pretty wild time.”
In between filming movies, Daniels recorded and released Times Like These, his sixth album to benefit his Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, Michigan. He says he is a very patient songwriter.
“It’s an ongoing process,” he says. “It comes and goes. The thing that you wait on are the lyrics or the good idea. I’m not very good at writing three bad ones to get to a decent one. I’m a little more critical.
“I edit myself now. If I use the same chord progression for two weeks and I still haven’t written anything, I keep throwing things away.”
Besides the tour, these are busy times for Jeff Daniels. He just wrapped the film “The Divergent Series: Allegiant,” which he calls the third film in what could be a four-film series. Next, he’s promoting the Steve Jobs movie “Jobs,” in which he plays John Sculley, the former CEO of Apple, and the sci-fi drama “The Martian,” with Matt Damon.
“Martian” and “Jobs” have serious tones to them, but Daniels knows when to draw the line with comedy.
“I learned that it’s OK not to be funny,” Daniels says. “We really focus on just throwing good songwriting onto it. It’s not that I don’t think the set is going to be funny. It will be. The people who are there, they don’t want to hear me doing an hour and a half of navel gazing.”