The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday September 27th

Comedian Displays Photographic Flair

One image is a businessman shoved into a urinal. Another is an infant running through a field, clutching an over-sized hypodermic needle flanked by youthful soccer players.

This is just some of the "Surreal Photomontage Art" created by UNC junior David Townes.

You might have seen him. Anyone who has been to a Chapel Hill Players show or to the Student Union front desk, where he works three days a week, knows this familiar face. Or do they?

Average in height and dress, above average in his work and play, Townes is quite a character.

Several characters, in fact.

Performing for two years and counting with the on-campus sketch and improvisation group CHiPs, his fellow players are quick to point out what he brings to the group. "He has lot of excitement and energy," said fellow CHiPs member Marc Mongiardo.

Jon Karpinos, another CHiPs member, also said he thinks Townes adds an interesting element to the ensemble.

"There have been some great moments in practice where Dave was a monkey, and he watched everything with the perverse fascination of a monkey. It's been really great," he said.

To help bring realism to his many characters in CHiPs, Townes admits to being an avid people watcher, especially from the Union desk. He flashes a mischievous smile that means trouble. "I'm the guy that's watching you when you think no one else is."

And this is where his talent truly lies -- taking the everyday and creating something worth watching. Most obvious in his collages, he has a knack for giving people something to talk about.

"Even though they are ridiculous, they are based on things we hold to be true. It's fun to manipulate things from real life," he said.

It's this kind of playfulness with a solid base in reality that Karpinos believes Townes brings to CHiPs. "Dave has a really great sense of wacky characters who take themselves really seriously," he said. "It's really fun to improvise with Dave because when you are improvising, you have to take it seriously."

But while Townes displays a soft spot for the absurd, it's his handle on reality that tends to influence his aspirations. "For the longest time, people thought I should be a game show host," he said.

He added with a straight face, "But I knew I wasn't as smart as Alex Trebek or as good-looking as Pat Sajak, so I probably wouldn't have made it."

Rejecting the lights of quiz show stardom, Townes has dreams of being behind the camera instead. A double major in advertising and media production within the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, he says he would love to direct television commercials. And if they are as popular as his surreal collages, people might start looking forward to commercial breaks.

That's because people seem to love David's offbeat photomontage work. To date, he has sold roughly 15 pieces and says he has gotten good feedback. "I've gotten a lot of supportive e-mails, people who enjoy walking by," he said.

Calling his body of work a "personal habit," Townes' artwork, like his other projects, hints at intentions and inspiration beyond simply ridiculous situations.

"A lot of them are autobiographical I think." Then, flashing that playful smile again, he added, "I'm not going to tell you which ones though."

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at

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