By Show and Tell
By Bree Davies
By Bree Davies
By Cory Casciato
By Emilie Johnson
By Robin Edwards
By Bree Davis
By Josiah M. Hesse
Roy met Cayton-Holland and Orvedahl when all three were in the infancy of their standup careers, and they instantly bonded as friends while also challenging each other as artists. "When they first start, most comics are awful," says Cayton-Holland. "But Ben clearly had something going for him. Even in those early days, he was really talented."
"The first time I saw him, I was like, 'Wow, this guy is definitely not joking around,'" remembers T.J. Miller, a Denver native who has gone on to achieve large success with his own Comedy Central show and assorted Hollywood films. "I remember thinking, 'Oh, great, another guy covered in tattoos, entering comedy just to bitch about everything, wanting to be the next Bill Hicks.' But then as I listened to him, I was like, 'Wow, he's really funny.' He has a different cadence to how he delivers material."
"I was sitting and watching in awe," recalls local comic Kevin O'Brien. "His material and energy blew me away. All of the comics on the show watched Ben, and we were loving every minute of his set. He had just gotten back from seeing his family in Maine, so everything felt very raw. He unleashed this ten-minute bit about how you should move away from your family and craft your own identity. At the end he had an analogy about when cells in the body clump together like families, they create a tumor, and that essentially family can be a cancer. When he finished, I remember thinking that Ben could do a one-man show in a theater with honest, insightful and hilarious material like that."
But quick success and heavy drinking made for a dangerous combination. "All that went to my head," remembers Roy. "I became an awful person. If you have someone with a damaged ego and then you soak it in success, it becomes this fat, ugly blob. I became an awful person and did shitty things."
Roy was still suffering from anxiety attacks and depression, and he used alcohol to self-medicate. His night would often begin with a few beers before he left the house, and when he was out with friends at a bar or a comedy club before a show, someone would inevitably order him a shot of whiskey, which would be followed by several more beers and shots. Over the course of a night, Roy would consume, on average, about four or five shots and ten to fourteen beers. But he could still perform.
"Ben's the type of comic that could be on heroin and would still show up and deliver interesting, intelligent stuff," Cayton-Holland says.
There were signs that Roy's lifestyle was getting in the way of his new life, though. "Chuck Roy and Josh Blue used to have a show called 'Bobo and Blue,' and one night Chuck was like, 'Let's let the new guy host, and we'll get him drunk!'" Roy remembers. "And I just got annihilated on stage. There was a woman in the crowd, and I just said the most awful shit to her. It wasn't even funny — it was personal, making fun of her weight. Real shitty. Crowds don't like to see someone, even if it's a novelty, wasted on stage."
Blackouts were becoming frequent, with Roy waking up in odd positions on his living-room sofa, half naked and unsure how he got there. "You ever have to check your online bank statement in the morning to find out all the different places you went the night before?" Roy asked while performing at Red Rocks in 2010. "You're like, 'Holy shit, I was at nine different bars last night! I was at a 24 Hour Fitness at 3:30 in the morning! I took a fucking spin class?'"
On his 2012 comedy album, I Got Demons, Roy recounts a night of murky excess, this one ending with him waking up in a jail cell: "Waking up in jail out of a blackout and having no idea how you got there is like your drunk self getting your sober self a present. Except when you open it up, inside it's a badger." After being brought before the judge and pleading not guilty to charges of disturbing the peace and assault, Roy feels home free, until the "Harvard-educated" judge recites a transcript of the defendant's un-remembered exploits: "Mr. Roy, you told officer Garcia at 1:41 a.m. on Market Street that you would 'fuckstart her face if she didn't shut her yapper.'"
In March 2005, Roy became a father when Allen gave birth to their son, Milo. Three years later, Allen left her job at Comedy Works to start her own photography business, and the two were married soon after. While Roy was financially secure, having landed a new job as a sales rep for Netquote, he was still drinking heavily, and his emotions and behavior could spin out of control into unpredictable realms of either vulnerability and affection or explosive rage and intense criticism.
One day he was walking through an airport terminal in Reno, on his way to a gig, when he collapsed with chest pains and heart palpitations. Diagnosing him with a panic disorder, Roy's doctor offered him a prescription for Xanax to take the edge off. Roy's response became another bit on his comedy album. "Take the edge off? What are you, my coke dealer?" he asks, then adds that since one of the drug's side effects can include erectile dysfunction, he did some research and learned that cardio exercise can be used to treat a panic disorder. With this new information, he confronts his doctor, asking why he hadn't recommended jogging in the first place. "Well, I didn't think you'd do it," the doctor says, to which Roy responds, "Doc, I'm a 32-year-old male — if you tell me you're going to give me something that will make my dick stop working, I'll run anywhere you fucking want me to! You can have my car keys, because I'm running home right now!"