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Who needs nice? Dan Finnerty puts the naughty in noel novelty songs

December 20, 2007|August Brown

WHEREVER the '80s pop monolith Bonnie Tyler is right now (hopefully in a candlelit castle surrounded by choir boys with glowing eyes), she's probably cursing the name of Dan Finnerty. The satirical singer-songwriter enjoyed a cult career on the L.A. indie comedy circuit in the early part of this decade for his debilitatingly earnest covers of blown-out pop ballads (one rarely hears a dead-serious version of Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" from someone with a goatee).

But Finnerty's big break was for forever ruining Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" with an exquisitely profane cover in the Will Ferrell frat-staple "Old School." His scene-stealing cameo resonated so deeply with the Sigma Chi set that frat boys still accost him in the street to tell him in song exactly how they "need you more tonight."

"It's scary how much people watch that movie. They're bummed if I don't hit my 'I' exactly right," Finnerty said. "They'll come up to me and sing it even when my 10-year-old daughter is with me."

Such is the appeal of the stocky, surprisingly adept 37-year-old comedian, whose full-ensemble act the Dan Band has become one of the most unlikely A-list nightclub acts in Hollywood. Like Tenacious D's classic-rock homages and the wimpster-baiting indie-folk of Flight of the Conchords, Finnerty hijacks a towering musical tradition (in this case, female-sexual-empowerment pop hits such as Janet Jackson's "Nasty" and Sheena Easton's "Sugar Walls") and topples it simply by performing it.

He'll insert some choice expletives and deadpan choreography, but the underlying joke is the tension between how Finnerty obviously loves the spectacle of power-ballad song craft, and how little he has in common with its singers, some of whom have taken a shine to Finnerty's parodies.

"Alanis Morissette had us play with her at the House of Blues a year and a half ago," he said. "She asked us to do 'You Oughta Know.' It was the song that everyone was waiting for, and instead, out came three fat white dudes. She had to chase us off the stage."

Instead of chasing him off, fans routinely sell out his local shows at venues such as the Avalon Hollywood. Steven Spielberg produced a Bravo special on him and Sony released an album of cynical Christmas originals, the aptly titled "Ho," in November. Anyone who over-sentimentalizes "The Brady Bunch" should steer clear of the video for "I Wanna Rock U Hard This Xmas," where Florence Henderson proves that, like Finnerty, the best way to stay famous is to be in on your own joke.

"I did not expect her to look as kicking as she did," Finnerty said. "We had to hold her back. At the end, she was crawling across a pool table to [canoodle with] Santa."

-- August.Brown @latimes.com

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THE DAN BAND

WHERE: Avalon Hollywood, 1735 Vine St.

WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Friday

PRICE: $20-$25

INFO: (323) 462-8900

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