Greg Baumhauer is synonymous with the Squire Lounge. Or more accurately, he’s synonymous with that East Colfax Avenue dive bar’s infamous comedy open-mic night, which Baumhauer hosted for six-plus years before taking a brief step out of the spotlight.
That didn’t last long. On Thursday, Aug. 15, the former Wrist Deep Productions and Grawlix troupe member will return to the Squire to record his first stand-up album. The show, which starts at 10 p.m., will include opening sets from Sam Tallent, Bobby Crane and “a very special guest, and by special, I mean retarded,” according to Baumhauer.
It’s a fitting choice for a venue, especially if you’ve ever seen Baumhauer perform, whether at marquee clubs like Denver’s Comedy Works or the dozens of open mics and regular showcases that now call Denver home.
His unapologetically harsh, wickedly funny persona recalls the firebrand musings of Doug Stanhope, minus the bulging-necked apoplexy.
Less immediate but no less important is his ability to hold his own on any stage, thanks to an intimidating facility with crowd work and his punchy wordplay. It’s not hard to see why so many of Denver’s up-and-coming comics look up to him (or perhaps they’re just scared he’s going to take them down a notch).
We caught up with Baumhauer in advance of his album recording to talk about the growth of Denver’s comedy scene, his favorite stories from the Squire’s notoriously rough but influential open-mic scene, and why he chose now to record his first album (hint: the times, they are a-changin’).
So: why record this album now? What’s in the timing?
Well, the reason I’m recording a CD now is that I like to do things three to four years too late, and when I was thinking about where I should record it, I obviously thought of Comedy Works or the Bug or Madison Square Garden, and then I was like, “Fuck that, my album HAS to be called ‘Greg Baumhauer: Live at the Squire Lounge.’ Then I heard that they’re renovating it in a couple weeks, so I was like, “Perfect, let’s do it now and send this skeezy whore out with a bang.” It only makes sense: the Squire was really the birthplace of the Denver comedy scene as we know it today. When you think of all the amazing comedians who came out of that room — Ben Kronberg, Adam Cayton-Holland, Troy Walker, Bobby Crane, Kevin O’Brian, myself — shit, even vets like Chuck Roy, Josh Blue and Louis Johnson would be there all the time fighting for that $25 bar tab. It really gave all of us a certain gunslinger kind of edge. “Squire Lounge: Meanest Mic in America.”
You’ve got tons of great stories from hosting the infamous Tuesday open mics there over the years. What’s one of your favorite?
One of my favorite stories from hosting the Squire is one night I got up and said, “Hey guys, give it up to the Squire, which was recently voted nicest bar… in Haiti.” And this huge gangsta-looking cat shouted, “Say something else about Haiti muthafucker, I dare you!” So I said, “What, are you from Haiti?” And he was like “Yeah,” which I replied with, “You’re not from Haiti, you’re waaay too fat to have AIDS,” and he went ballistic. He tried charging the stage, but everyone held him back and threw him out of the bar. The whole time he was yelling shit like, “I’m going to kill you muthafucker!” while threatening to shoot me, saying he was coming back. So after he left, everyone was like, “Dude, you need to get off stage and stay away from the windows. That guy’s going to shoot you.” And I was like, “No he’s not, and if he does come back, one of two things will happen: 1. He’ll shoot me, and I’ll die and become a comedy legend or 2. He’ll shoot me, and I’ll survive and become a comedy legend. So let him shoot me, I’d love to meet Anderson Cooper.”
What do you think of Denver’s comedy scene today vs. 5 years ago? What do you like/not like about its current form?
I think the comedy scene now is as good as it’s ever been. Tons of talent. Tons of quality stage time. My only real critique would be, I wish it was a little meaner. It’s lost a lot of that Colfax grittiness since I stopped doing the Squire, but then again, I’m kind of an asshole.
OK, time for some standard “Why So Serious?” questions: when was the last time you laughed so hard you cried, and why?
The last time I laughed so hard I cried was just a couple of weeks ago when Ben Kronberg was headlining the Deer Pile. When that guy is on point I don’t think there is anyone funnier. He’s a fucking genius. Maybe the funniest guy to ever come out of this scene.
What’s your current favorite joke (yours or someone else’s?)
My favorite joke right now has to be by this hilarious comic out Houston, Billy D. Washington. I hope I don’t butcher it, but it goes like this: “So I’m going to open a prosthetics store for ghetto women, and call it ‘Bitches Be Trippin.'”
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever felt bad laughing about?
I never feel bad about laughing. Ever. It’s an involuntary response you brain and body have to something you see or hear. It’s like feeling bad about sneezing — you can’t help it. With that being said, I do often feel bad about making people laugh at people with shall we say, “issues.” That was the one of things about the Squire that was hard for me. I have no problem making fun of new talent cunts, like whatever, welcome to comedy, it’s not nice. I do however feel bad when the new comic is mentally disabled, or just downright crazy. I remember one night this guy came up with a HUGE head injury scar and asked to go up, and of course I said yes, because it’s an open mic and everyone deserves a chance to eat shit. But in the back of my mind I was like “Goddamn it, this guy is going to go up and suck, and then I’m going have to make fun of him, because that’s why everyone is here, and if I go easy on him people will be pissed.” So of course he goes up, and it’s awful and awkward, and I go up after him and say, “Holy shit, I didn’t know Cabbage Patch made a Frankenstein doll,” and then hated myself the whole next day.
Who are your favorite up-and-comers, locally and/or nationally?
I think Jordan Doll is killing it. Christie Buchele, Timmi Lasley, Elliot Woosley are also kicking ass every time I see them. Nationally, I fucking love Sean Patton, Ron Funches, David Gborie and about a hundred others.
What’s your idea of a dream show in terms of lineup (with you being on it, of course)?
Me and Doug Stanhope.
What are three things every comic should do before they get on stage?
1. Put some goddamn pants on, this isn’t a fucking BBQ. So put some pants on and pretend you give a shit (obviously, this is only for the fellas).
2. Try not to get too drunk.
3. Take a shit, or as I like to call it “the pre-game shoot around.” Of the three, this one is the most important. Trust me.