Welcome to another “Why So Serious?” — a column where we ask stand-up comedians a handful of questions, and don’t expect anything resembling straight answers.
For this installment we talked to Denver stand-up Andrew Orvedahl, who, along with Ben Roy, Adam Cayton-Holland, Greg Baumhauer and Jim Hickox, puts on Denver’s finest comedy show, The Grawlix (the last Friday of every month at The Avenue Theater).
A frequent performer at the nationally-renowned Comedy Works clubs, Orvedahl also runs the long-form shows The Narrarators and The Forecasters at Paris on the Platte, and is competing in the New Faces showcase at this weekend’s Aspen Laff Festival.
What was your first time performing stand-up like, and what made you want to do it again?
My first time performing stand-up I literally thought I was going to faint backstage. I was clutching at the wall, doing this nervous little dance, pacing around, basically driving everyone insane. I remember being so angry at my friend who had pressured me into trying it. Then some comic (who I have never seen since!) told me, “Relax, you’ll be fine as soon as you get your first laugh.” And he was right. My own fat, bearded comedy angel. Or demon, if my career doesn’t take off and I’ve wasted all these years.
I wanted to do it again immediately because of the insane high I got from it. I’m never going to do anything realistically thrilling like skydiving, so this is my skydiving. This is a nerd’s “running of the bulls.”
What kind of perspective did moving to L.A. and back to Denver again give you?
Well, it showed me how much I truly hate the winter in Denver. I didn’t know I hated the winter until I didn’t experience winter. As far as comedy goes, living in L.A. really opened my eyes to how many hundreds of super-funny, talented people there are out there. Denver is pretty insular in that after awhile you pretty much know everyone and their skill set. I saw hilarious new comedians almost every time I went out in L.A. Now I realize that “making it” in comedy is like a high schooler thinking he’s going to play in the NBA. Except you have to be really talented to be in the NBA, so my metaphor is flawed.
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever felt bad laughing at?
I have a joke about my baby daughter getting circumcised. It’s just terrible, but it makes me laugh every time. If she ever finds out when she grows up, I truly hope she kicks me so hard in the crotch.
When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried, and why?
Hopefully I can convey this situation: I recently got accepted to a comedy festival, and when they accepted me they sent out an email saying how their fest was not for people who do “below the belt” humor, and crude jokes, and they were looking for smart people, and clever jokes, etc. So anyway, they finally release their ad promoting the fest, and it has a picture of this old dude doing that “bitter beer face” (toothless, bottom lip tucked up over top lip). And it just blew me away. Here they are telling us how clever the fest will be and then they resort to the cheapest form of humor ever — the funny face. I just kept laughing.
Also: Pretty much any tweet by @Meganamram. I’ve never met her but she is so goddamn hilarious. Here’s just one example: “I don’t want to learn karate but I really need a new belt.” Genius.
How would you characterize Denver’s comedy scene
One of the very best in the country, and I’ve heard from comedians all around the country that this is true. I think Denver’s scene is “edgier” than most (for lack of better term), sometimes to its detriment.
Do you have mentors in the local scene?
Yeah, probably too many to remember here. When I started out I came up under Troy Baxley, who is just a legend in Denver (and beyond), and from there I learned a lot from Chuck Roy, who has these amazing improv skills on stage. I toured with Josh Blue for a period and learned a lot by watching him throw down these awesome shows, even after a hellish day of traveling, or being incredibly drunk and/or high. Every show he did was top-notch. I draw a lot of inspiration from my peers as well, the guys I do The Grawlix show with. I’ll also give props to newer guys like Nathan Lund and Chris Charpentier for being really funny and creative and keeping Denver’s comedy scene evolving and fun.
What’s your favorite thing to do outside of comedy?
As boring as this sounds, and I’d like to bullshit you and tell you something like “working on my novel!” it’s sleeping. Having a baby just sucks the energy out of me, and solid sleep is in such short supply. I actually have fantasies, vivid fantasies of sleeping in past 7 a.m. A close second is riding one of my bicycles. Yeah, I have more than one bike BECAUSE I’M FUCKING BIG TIME.
Visit the Wheeler Opera House’s website for tickets to the Aspen Laff Festival, which continues through Saturday.
John Wenzel is an executive editor of Reverb and an award-winning A&E reporter for The Denver Post. He is the author of “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” (Speck Press/Fulcrum) and maintains a Twitter feed of completely random song titles and band names.