Why So Serious, Ben Roy? (UMS edition)By John Wenzel | July 20th, 2011 | 3 comments
Along with a handful of other stand-ups, Ben Roy could make a legitimate claim to being the new face of Denver comedy. From the glossy pages of 5280 magazine to appearances at Montreal’s Just for Laughs festival and clubs around the country, the 31-year-old Portland, Maine, native has proven that his act works far outside of the Mile High City.
Roy’s enraged, proudly in-your-face rants and anything-goes live sets are already legend around town. He came up through the underground, open-mic circuit and helped create acclaimed alternative shows like Los Comicos Super Hilariosos and The Grawlix (where he still performs) while becoming a Comedy Works headliner and nationally touring stand-up.
Roy, also the former lead singer for Denver punks the 29th Street Disciples, and now, post-punks The Fire Drills, will return to headline Comedy Works July 27-28. But first he’ll take part in Andrew Orvedahl’s first “Randomicity” show on Friday (July 22) at Sobo 151 as part of the 11th annual UMS on South Broadway.
We caught up with him via e-mail in advance of the shows.
Ben Roy gives his son “The Talk” in this FunnyorDie.com video originally produced for The Grawlix. Caution: Contains mature subject matter.
What was your first time doing stand-up like, and what made you want to come back?
I was kind of fortunate in that I didn’t have that nightmare first set a lot of comics talk about. My first time ever doing stand-up was at the Comedy Works downtown and I had a pretty good set. My second time on stage was better and I can even say looking back now it was pretty good. I didn’t really start struggling till later. Most of my struggles and nightmare sets came when I was trying to figure out who the fuck I was up there.
What’s your favorite joke of the moment (yours or someone else’s)?
Wow, that’s really fucking hard. This comedy scene just keeps topping itself. This local kid Jason Keyes has a great joke about girls taking guys home and not fucking them. I don’t want to do it injustice because it’s all in the timing but it cracks me up. Another comic, Darlene Westgor, she’s out of Minneapolis, has a hilarious story about losing it on her elderly neighbor. It cracked me up each time I heard it. Adam Cayton-Holland’s “Ivory Billed Woodpecker” bit is up there as well. Well written and crafted. It’s a long bit but it keeps your attention because it’s so well done.
What’s the worst thing you ever felt bad laughing about?
You mean aside from your anorexia, John? Fuck, I laugh at shit I shouldn’t all the time. I’ve been laughing a lot at the idea of how I find myself honestly wishing that a meteor would bear down on earth, threatening all of our lives and existence as we know it, just so I could justify drinking again. I mean shit, if it just missed us causing catastrophic mass suicides, global pandemonium, looting, rape, and misery, surely people wouldn’t chastise me for having a couple beers.
What’s a joke you used to love to tell but now can’t stand?
Let’s take everything I did from 2004 to 2006 and put that down on the list. Just nonsense. You start out doing comedy thinking that it just comes to you so easily. And it is coming to you easily because you’re working premises that have been beaten into the ground by everyone else. It really gets hard when you navigate the waters with an attitude of avoiding other comic’s toes. I’d rather not state the jokes specifically because some people are still doing jokes on those topics. It may work for those people but it just makes me uncomfortable now.
When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?
Here we go. Okay, I promise I’m not turning all sappy-parent or anything. The last time I cried laughing was at the my son. I’ll preface this by saying that at the time he was terrified of roller coasters. So a few months back we took him to Lakeside and put him on one of those kiddy-coasters and he fucking flipped his shit. My wife and I were standing at the railing and every time the train passed us he screamed bloody hell. As his car would pass us you’d hear in a shrill pitch and fevered pace, “STOP THE TRAIN!”, then next pass, “STOP IT!”, then again, “STOP THE TRAIN!!” My wife, the felon ride operator, and myself were all literally doubled over. Wait, I guess this answer could go under question three as well.
What’s your favorite thing to do outside comedy (and music)?
Since I stopped drinking beer I don’t do a whole lot these days outside of comedy. I like to hang out with my wife and kid. I’m a baseball nut. I love going to Rox games and beating my face off the railings as the wheels fall off another hopeful season. If I’m just at home I like watching Westerns. I’ve been collecting them for the past year or two. I like traveling as long as it’s not alone. Wow, that last paragraph reads like eHarmony’s, “Don’t do if you want pussy” example.
Have you ever been forced to choose between music and comedy? Which came first for you when you first started out?
I have not yet. It seems like whenever one has started to fall by the wayside the other would step up and become more active. Right now, the band I’m in (The Fire Drills) is real relaxed. Everyone in the band has careers, family or other bands to keep them occupied. We play every month or two and that works for everyone involved. I will say this privately (between you, me, and everyone who reads this column), I do wish music would pan out. I love comedy, don’t get me wrong, but there is no feeling like playing a good show with a band. I crave it. That’s why when we do play I lose my shit. It’s a different type of vent and connection. As melodramatic as it sounds, music may have saved me when I was younger. I hated myself and my environment but I had a thriving band to channel that into. Who knows, maybe I’m saying that because I’m doing more comedy right now?
Where would you like to be professionally in 5 or 10 years?
I’d like to have it all. The NBC sitcom. I’d like to be the first comic to have 37 back-to-back consecutive performances on Letterman. I’d love to own a yacht made entirely out of women that floats on a man-made reservoir of Alize. I want to have seals lining the shores. Not the aquatic seals, but the Grammy Award-winning artist, Seal. I want multiple Seals. How, Ben? I don’t know, figure it the fuck out.
What’s your biggest non-comedy creative influence?
People. I heard a quote that said, “I am because we are.” I get it all from watching how this shit-show evolves, blooms and wilts.
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 random song titles and band names.