Why So Serious, Bryan Cook?By John Wenzel | May 30th, 2013 | No Comments »
The Denver comedy scene has warmly embraced Bryan Cook over the last few years as he’s performed at weekly and monthly showcases from the Grawlix and Fine Gentleman’s Club troupes.
And while the Seattle-turned-L.A. comic has been making the usual Mile High comedy rounds on his latest visit, he’ll also reprise his popular “Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction” show with an appearance at the Bug Theatre on Thursday, May 30, followed by a set at the Grawlix at the same venue on Friday, May 31.
The Thursday show takes 10 of Denver’s best comics (Mara Wiles, Andrew Orvedahl, Jordan Doll, Jim Hickox, Kristin Rand, etc.) and asks them to compose erotic stories based on audience suggestions or the performers’ whims.
It is, in Cook’s own words, “really stupid,” but it’s made such a splash at comedy festivals and high-profile venues around the country (including L.A.’s Nerdist Theater) that it’s set to become Nerdist Industries’ latest podcast when it premieres on that network June 8.
We caught up with Cook via e-mail in advance.
So: give us a little background on yourself, age, hometown, how you ended up where you are, etc. Favorite color of toothpaste? Burritos or tacos? Dogs or cats that act like dogs? That kind of thing.
I’m fairly certain that I’m 35 (I don’t feel like doing math right now.) I hail from South Paris, Maine, which is a sincerely god-awful town where I haven’t set foot for over 12 years. I lived in Seattle from 2000-2012, where I started comedy, and moved to L.A. in October. I love it. If you’re reading this, and you “Hate L.A.,” I thank you. Stay where you are. The traffic is bad enough.
I like huge dogs, pork tacos, and Tom’s of Maine toothpaste. (Just kidding, that shit is made of road salt and quick lime.) I buy whatever toothpaste is on sale, and then ask a clerk to unlock the case where they keep THE DEODORANT because L.A. is weird and that’s how not-gentrified my neighborhood currently is. (I’m trying to change it by being white and paying too much in rent. Like, I tack on extra.)
What was your first time on stage like, and what made you want to come back?
My first time on stage would have been as a musician, and I was probably 10, and I don’t remember it (I drank heavily.) As a comic, I just remember the host of the first open mic I did was BLACKOUT DRUNK. I opened by saying I felt like I just showed up to rehab for the first time, and Bobby Brown was my sponsor. I’m VERY funny. (He was black.)
Walk us through your Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction show: How did it start, and how did it grow? What do you think the appeal of it is?
I started it in Seattle, but Portland really deserves the credit, because I only did it twice while I lived in Seattle and no one gave a shit. Portland has supported this show RABIDLY since the 2012 Bridgetown Comedy Fest, and every time I go back, we have insane crowds. It’s certainly the biggest thing I’ve created, and I’m far more proud of it than, say, the TV show I write for, where I am currently on strike because they pay us so little it is literally illegal.
I think the appeal is that it’s is a unique way to feature the talent of stand-up comics from all over the US. Also, fucking. A CEFF podcast will be out on the Nerdist Network in the next couple of weeks. I’ve been recording virtually every show for the past year (about 20) and each week, I will release a different round, from either the monthly L.A. show or one of the road shows (Denver, Portland, NYC, Austin, New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco, etc.)
As more regional comedy scenes emerge, thanks in part to the democratizing effects of technology, stand-up continues to become less about a handful of mainstream clubs and more about voice-heavy projects and online possibilities. Where do you think the scene (a nebulous term, I know) will be in a decade?
I hope people continue to SEEK OUT great live comedy, especially in comic-run rooms. Denver is insane, because you have the best of both worlds: a great club, as well as a bunch of successful comic-run rooms, all over town. A lot of cities aren’t lucky enough to have a club like Comedy Works, and it becomes even more important for people to find the coffee shop or bar that puts on the great shows.
Online, I’m hoping we see a lot more things like the Grawlix, who have not only built this amazing live show/local scene, but whose pilot is BY FAR the best from Amazon Studios. Any of the big players like Amazon, Netflix and YouTube are poised to be the next HBO. The networks sure aren’t getting comedy right. Have I blown Denver enough in that answer? It’s sincere. If I hated Denver, I’d tell you. I say I hate Seattle all the time.
What’s a joke you used to love to tell but now can’t stand?
I don’t know if I have any that I personally can’t stand, but there have certainly been some crowds that couldn’t. I think Denver was the only place I got a people to laugh at my bit about wanting to eat Natalie Portman’s baby’s placenta.
What’s your favorite joke of the moment?
“I’ve been married twice already. Any of you whores want to be my bronze?” –Matt Dwyer
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever felt bad laughing about?
Feeling bad about laughing has never really been in my “skill set.”
Which comics, past or present, do you admire or draw inspiration from?
Louis (C.K.) and Marc Maron are basically the reason I got into comedy. Those were the first guys I got obsessed with, due to their regular Conan appearances… Oh, god… TWENTY years ago? These days, Kyle Kinane is a fucking monster who makes me want to work harder every time I see him. Bill Burr, Dana Gould, Maria Bamford, and Baron Vaughn all regularly blow my mind… I could go on…
What are you favorite types of venues to play, and why?
If the crowd is good, I don’t really care. Any time you have the confluence of a great crowd in a room I’d want to hang out in anyway, that’s pretty amazing. A lot of comedy clubs aren’t exactly places you’d stop in for a drink, but a lot of bar shows and alternative rooms don’t always have the best crowds. When those two things line up, it’s perfect. Touring with Kinane was like that last summer. Doing weird, cool venues in front of killer crowds.
You seem to visit Denver pretty regularly. How did you first get in touch with the scene here?
(Adam) Cayton-Holland and I were on a show together about two years ago at Bridgetown, in an Eagles’ Lodge, and I ate shit like NEVER before (or since, thankfully.) Just crickets and floundering. We’ve been friends ever since. I guess he was impressed that I didn’t open a vein onstage, and invited me to do the Grawlix a few months later (I was in Denver for a wedding.) Now I’m hooked on that sweet, sweet Denver juice. Big shout-out to the Fine Gentleman’s Club as well, who have been super supportive of me and CEFF.
People like to describe comedy with any number of tortured metaphors (killing or dying on stage, crushing and being crushing, etc.) What’s your favorite way to think of it?
I just try not to “Orvedahl it.”
When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried, and why?
Ian Karmel, a Portland comic who is the undisputed king of Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction, wrote a piece about Criss Angel: Mindfreak that tore the fucking roof off. I was a mess.