On the last Thursday of each month a group of young, slightly tipsy comedians takes over the Orange Cat studio, a ragged, brick-walled gallery near 26th and Larimer that typically hosts more visual art-centered gatherings than stage shows.
For a couple of hours, Los Comicos Super Hilariosos transform the space into a comedy venue to rival any I’ve been to in town, which is impressive since Denver is no slouch when it comes to comedy these days.
We’ve cranked out several national-quality performers in recent years, and between mainstream venues like Comedy Works and the newly-opened Improv, the Denver Improv Fest, and open-mic nights at the Squire Lounge, comedy fans always have a place to enjoy stand-up.
Unfortunately, a lot of it’s crap, which brings us to Los Comicos. As it turns out, the Los Comicos Super Hilariosos show is put on by Wrist Deep Productions, the same gents that host the open-mic nights at the Squire and the “You Suck, Get Off the Stage!” gong show at the Oriental Theater. Principals Adam Cayton-Holland, Greg Baumhauer, Ben Roy, Jim Hickox and, formerly, Ben Kronberg (now based in L.A.) conduct their sets like punk rock shows, swilling cans of PBR between jokes and never fearing a technical difficulty or awkward moment.
It’s comedy at its underground finest, even if you sometimes have trouble hearing the punch lines through the noisy heater that hangs from the ceiling, turning on and off randomly, or the chattering of your own teeth as freezing air wafts in from the street. It’s all part of the charm.
The Nov. 29th installment of Los Comicos was my first, though I’d been meaning to check it out for awhile, having heard nothing but good things from people that had attended. The group’s Myspace page says it all: “Wrist Deep is the type of production company that believes comedy is best served with cheap beer and lots of friends.” Indeed, the crowd on Thursday at times seemed a bit insider-y, calling out performers’ names or getting name-checked from the stage.
Fortunately, it never translated into a sense of exclusivity. You didn’t have to be friends with these guys to appreciate their skewed take on the news (think SNL’s “Weekend Update” but punchier and more unpredictable), the video sketch in which they reacted to the “Two Girls, One Cup” Internet phenom about poo porn (I laughed so hard I couldn’t freaking breathe) or their pointedly offensive humor in general.
The self-consciousness was apparent at times, as when Adam Cayton-Holland (a Westword writer) noted the number of anal rape jokes vs. little people jokes that had been told that night (“for those keeping score”). And really, the guys leaned on a number of perennially mock-shock topics like abortion, masturbation, race, gender and religion.
But the notes it hits are uniquely satisfying, making you wonder why America ever dug crap like Dane Cook or Larry the Cable guy to begin with. The entire night was solid, but closer Ben Roy presented perhaps the most compelling set. His unhinged, drunken persona was gloriously erratic, mixing Louis Black’s quivering indignation with Bill Hicks’ vitriol and David Cross’s unapologetic misanthropy. He even started his set by noting the environs, which he referred to as “the set from ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan'” before moving onto topics such as upper-decking (if you’ve heard of it, you can imagine how he used the folding chair), pregnancy tests and interacting with his mom while high.
The point of gatherings like these isn’t to imitate the polished comedy world, although many of these performers tour and overlap with it. No doubt, many of them also easily have the chops to make it in bigger cities and venues, as often and well as they perform. Rather, Los Comicos Super Hilariosos is the antidote to those lame, mind-numbing observations that pass for comedy most of the time. The bullsh*t meter never went off throughout the evening, and that’s a rare, welcome thing.
John Wenzel is co-editor of Reverb and an arts and entertainment reporter for The Denver Post.