Bringing a great stand-up show together isn’t just about intelligent booking and sequencing, although those things help immensely. Nor is just about each performer having a solid set with a good audience. It’s about being able to replicate that magic from week to week or month to month, to consistently bring in worthy talent and appreciative audiences.
And alcohol, of course.
Denver comedian Chris Miller knows these things well, having put on his “Chris Miller Show” at the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse for the past year and featured both top local talent and rising national names.
We caught up with Miller in advance of tonight’s 8 p.m. show at the Voodoo featuring Adam Cayton-Holland (who makes his “Conan” debut next week), Comedy Works headliner Troy Walker and Ladyface troupe member Mara Wiles.
Tell me a little bit about “The Chris Miller Show.” How did it start — and why?
“The Chris Miller Show” was first created out of pure selfishness, greed and my desire to have more stage time. Getting stage time when you are new to comedy is tough. Rightly so. I created the show to control my own room. Then I realized that if you create value for the community it will be returned to you. JFK said it best: “Ask not what your comedy scene can do you for you, but what you can do for your comedy scene.” I am paraphrasing, but you get it. Once I got past having more stage time, it evolved and got better.
I have spent a lot of nights at comedy shows, and created one that I would want to go to. There are so many comedy shows these days that are just thrown together, and it cheapens the scene. Shows that are three hours long and showcase 15 comedians. On top of that they are shitty venues! If your going to put on a show, put in some fucking effort! Movies are only an hour and a half for a reason. I wanted a show that combined more elements in it as well. How do we appeal to everyone’s senses? So, the show combines comedy, video skits, digital shorts and music. It’s a little bit like (T.J. Miller’s) “Mash Up” on Comedy Central.
I have been very lucky as well. As the show gained in popularity, I was fortunate enough to partner with Ben Roy, Adam Cayton Holland, and Andrew Orvedahl –- creators of The Grawlix. Because of them, we have booked some of the hottest names in comedy today: Andy Haynes, Ryan Singer, Chris Fairbanks, Sean Patton, Dave Ross, Hippie Man, Chuck Roy and many others. It’s just getting better and better and better.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, your background, that kind of thing?
I grew up in Reno, Nevada. Reno has a way of attracting all evil and filth, maybe because gambling and prostitution are legal there. It’s probably more accurate to say that gambling and prostitution attract all manner of filth. Either way, that is where I grew up, in the epicenter of greed, and sex.
Growing up in that environment has its advantages. One of our rights of passage as young men was celebrating our 18th birthdays at brothels, which is the legal age to pay for sex in Nevada. You can pay for sex with a woman, but you cant drink legally at 18. We would get everyone together, like we were going on a hunt, and show up to these brothels like wild frat kids. The girls would line up and we would point and giggle and make snide comments. None of us ever had the courage to sleep with any of them, well at least until we got to college anyway. What I am trying to say, is I spent part of my youth in brothels, and coming from Nevada that doesn’t seem weird to me.
I am just rambling now. So: I got a job out of college. Started my own company. Made money. Hated my self and where my life was going. Had a nervous breakdown. Sold my company. Got into comedy as a result.
What was your first time on stage?
It was at Comedy Works downtown. Jeff Singer, “Step Up Your Stand Up” and Montreal Comedy Festival producer, was doing a workshop. You had to have experience to attend the workshop, which I didn’t, so I did what we all would do, I lied. Which is a lesson for you kids. If you can’t make progress in life, then make some stuff up, and watch the doors come flying open.
I performed my first comedy act in front of Jeff, Ben Roy, and a room full of other comedians. It was thoroughly intimidating. Performing for your peers is always harder in comedy. Performing in front of comedians is like the worst and most scrutinized job interview you have ever had. Remember what that felt like? It sort of like that.
What brought you back?
I decided a month later to enter a contest at Comedy Works, which was my first time on stage with an audience. I won the contest, but only because I brought the most people to the show. Ever since then I have been addicted to it. Making that many people laugh is like having your first orgasm over and over again. It’s exhilarating.
When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?
I was catching up with an old friend recently and he reminded me of story that happened in our youth. The story is that when we were 13, I convinced him to masturbate with Icy Hot ’cause it made everything all warm like a vagina, and would make the experience that much better. He bought into my lies and tried it — with disastrous results. Have you ever had Icy Hot in your pee hole? Me either, but it looked like it really hurt! It was at my parents’ house too, so he ran inside naked with a boner and starting showering with the door wide open while he was screaming. My mom ran in cause she thought someone was hurt. It was awkward. When he told me that story I laughed ’til I cried, and I wee-wee’d a bit as well.