SPRINGVILLE — You may know his face, but if you don’t know his name yet, you will.
Maybe you’ve seen him slurping a bowl of soup on the couch, while it dawns on him that the soup is not, in fact, homemade. Perhaps you know him as a frustrated dad, kneeling next to Santa Claus and a bawling tot, bemoaning the fact that a Sunday trip to the mall might mean a missed kickoff. And yes, he was that guy freestyling for newsman Anderson Cooper.
His name is David Ebert, and he is Springville’s very own. From Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, to throwing down rhymes in the Big Apple, the 26-year-old actor has done it all.
“It’s never been something I planned on or pursued,” said Ebert, of his short rapping career. “It’s just that the opportunities have come up.”
Ebert said his main focus is on acting, though he has tried his hand at plenty of other things, along the way.
“Everything’s a tool,” he said. “Everything that you can do as a human, make it a tool for helping you build a career. I’d like to say, in every aspect of you life, but certainly in performance.
“Anything I’ve been interested in, I’ve just done,” continued Ebert. “Even if it’s not exactly in line with things I’ve done before. I figure, I’ll do it, I’ll be bad at it at the start – because everybody’s bad at everything when they start – and then I’ll get better with time.”
Actor, writer, editor, comedian, freestyle rapper and, for about a week, a coffee barista – Ebert has worn many hats. And it all started in Springville.
“When I was young, [the Springville arts scene] was very supportive,” said Ebert.
“I get this feeling that our music program, when I was there, was bigger than any other music program in Western New York. It was its own culture, almost. And through that, I felt very supported to do the plays and musicals, in town.”
The actor recalled performing in Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, run by the Springville Center for the Arts, and in summer musicals, which he called “a great opportunity. I think it’s good for kids, even if they don’t go into the arts: for public speaking; for learning to be a human; to perform.”
Ebert said the local music scene also helped him to find his voice. In the early 2000s, he performed comedy and parody songs with Dave and Dennis, and sang for Swashbuckling Six. “I don’t know music, I don’t play an instrument, I couldn’t sing, but they let me sing with them,” he remembered.
“I miss the town. I miss it. Especially being here – I’ve got no space. I’m crowded in, all the time.”
After graduating from Springville-Griffith Institute in 2005, Ebert attended the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he studied acting. After graduation, he snagged a contract with the Seaside Repertory Theatre in Florida. After spending two seasons there, Ebert made a permanent move up north – to New York City.
“I came back to the city completely broke – I had no money,” he said. “I got a job the day I got here, working in a coffee shop.”
But Ebert wasn’t long grinding beans: It only took a week to find work in a print shop. While there, Ebert said he took night classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Theater.
“I’d spend all my time, when I wasn’t at work, working on my career,” said the actor. “I did open mic standup, improv and sketch [comedy], any acting job that came my way.”
With a lot of patience and a little luck, Ebert was able to land a gig as a freestyle rapper.
The actor heard about a part-show, part-tour called “The Ride.” By chance, they were looking for a freestyle rapper – something he had done in college. So Ebert crossed his fingers and took the plunge.
“I got the casting director’s phone number – I don’t know how I dug up this guy’s phone number – and I freestyle rapped a voicemail for him, and it got me into an audition. I got the job, and it was the coolest job in the world. I made way more than I’d ever been paid before.”
Rapping turned out to be a way onto the small screen for Ebert, who found himself giving a live performance for Anderson Cooper, as well as getting screen time on the local news. “I’ve been on Japanese television at least half a dozen times,” he said, with a laugh.
After landing an agent and booking a few commercial spots, Ebert said he is now able to support himself full-time, with his TV work.
Acting is “a very funny business,” he said, “where a benchmark of success is whether or not you can make a living doing [it]. Nobody’s like, ‘oh, you’re a plumber? Oh, wow, you get work as a plumber? So people pay you money to [do that]? That’s incredible!,’” he joked.
Besides his TV acting, Ebert performs with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater – an improv comedy collective in New York – and edits, runs sound, co-writes and co-stars in a sometimes off-color comedy web series, Shane and Dave.
Ebert credits his success with his willingness to help others in the business.
“I try to help every person I can, at least where I am, because all we have is each other in this business. That’s really how it is, and it’s all about who you know. I spend a lot of time cultivating those relationships. I will work 12, 13 hour days as a reader on an audition for no pay, because that casting director will remember me and bring me back again.”
A willingness to throw caution to the wind also goes a long way, he noted.
“I try not to make any decisions based on fear – like, I’m afraid I won’t make enough, I’m afraid of what will happen next. I try to make them out of confidence that the next thing will come.
“I don’t understand why people make decisions that are, like, I’m scared I will get tired, I’m scared I will get whatever – if they are doing something that is in line with what they want to do with their lives.”
Where does the Springville native see himself going from here?
“I guess an ultimate goal is that I want to have a family and a house and have kids and send those kids to a nice school and do all of that, doing things that I just enjoy doing. So, whether that ends up being on a TV show, having my own TV show, being in movies, whatever that is, I definitely pursue my immediate interests. So, a long game is hard to predict because I feel like, ‘oh, become a movie star,’ but we don’t even know what the face of movies are going to be, in the next 20 years.”
Whatever entertainment looks like in the coming decades, it’s a safe bet that Ebert will be a part of it.
Ebert has a website readers can visit, including his commercials and episodes of Shane and Dave at www.davidcharlesebert.com.
Ebert performs with the Alamo troupe during the Upright Citizens Brigade’s Maude Night in New York City. For more information about UCB, including show times for Alamo, visit newyork.ucbtheatre.com/shows/view/1425.