Dunnam designs the eye-catching posters for the Memphis Comedy scene. A former comedian himself, he takes goofy ideas from clients and molds them into riffs on famous and iconic pieces of pop culture history. “When I came in, the scene was just getting started,” he says. “Now, it’s exploded. I have a blast making those posters.”
Most of Dunnam’s work takes place behind the monitor, crafting a clever fusion of a client’s persona with all the self-referential wit expected of a decent comedian.
“I had to channel my inner Bob Ross for the mountains in the background here,” he says of a recently designed piece for Canadian comedienne Hannah Hogan.
While he often uses famous movie posters as a base, Dunnam, has been known to apply a liberal coat of Mid-South flavor and peppers subtle in-jokes and callbacks throughout his work.
“I try to tie something into a joke, pull something in that’s a reference to their work while still making something neat to look at,” he says. “That’s probably because I’m an art nerd and I like to make sure everything makes sense.”
While his commissioned work incorporates a wide variety of personalities and references, Dunnam’s independent work packs a more psychedelic bent inspired by video games and science fiction.
“I can’t find a job doing ‘real’ work and most comedians are broke,” he says. “It’s the art community, so there’s a lot of trade going on.
Dunnam, 30, was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a condition that results in fragile, easily breakable bones. Think Mr. Glass from the film Unbreakable, but cranked up a few notches in Mitchell’s case. “I have type 3, whereas Samuel L. Jackson had type 1 in the movie,” he says. “To be honest, I never thought I’d live this long to begin with, so it’s nice to be around.”
The early days of the online community provides a network of similarly afflicted people all too familiar with the day-to-day pain associated with OI. The beginnings of Internet culture also offered a new creative outlet for Dunnam, crafting stylish forum signatures for fellow online community members. This early work built a sizeable portfolio and led to a rabid interest in creating digital art. “I’ve probably done more than 1,000 signatures, free of charge,” he says. “With my own, I’m on my 50th.”
Dunnam was a recent participant in St. Jude’s The Art of Science, an exhibit that paired local artists with St. Jude researchers. His contribution, Lateralus, presented a 10-foot bone scan of a naked molerat. Dunnam’s work can also be seen at the WIP Theater, a combination art gallery/comedy showcase in Chicago.
In a word: Referential
Mitchell Dunnam sees the humor in things. As a comedian and digital artist employed by some of the funniest people in the Mid-South, he kind of has to.