Soon Roy was running eight miles a day during his lunch breaks, for a total of fifty miles a week. Today he weighs ninety pounds less than he did before he took up jogging. "I never exercised when I was a kid, because I never wanted to be a jock," Roy says, while keeping a steady trot around City Park. "I didn't want that stigma of being a meathead. But then I asked myself, 'Why am I letting the jocks take all the good stuff?' It's in our nature. Look at all the workout regimens — they simulate labor. We're like horses — we're happiest when we're moving a lot."

Roy's routine does include some meathead sentiments, though, the journalist running behind points out, including macho phrases like "Man up" and "Don't be a pussy."

"Yeah, there's probably some truth to that," he responds. "You don't hate what you don't have a passion about. In the end, we are what we hate most."

Ben Roy (right) with his wife, Crystal, and their son, Milo.
Ben Roy (right) with his wife, Crystal, and their son, Milo.
Andrew Orvedahl, Ben Roy and Adam Cayton-Holland are the men of The Grawlix.
Andrew Orvedahl, Ben Roy and Adam Cayton-Holland are the men of The Grawlix.

When humor can be made to alternate with melancholy, one has a success. But when the same things are funny and melancholic at the same time, it's just wonderful. — François Truffaut

About a year into his marriage, Roy began to get a sense of what a negative impact drinking was having on his behavior.

Allen had realized it long before. Shortly after Milo was born, Roy cheated on her one night while he was at a gig in Wyoming, an event he often brings up as one of the lowest points in their relationship. "Everybody wanted me to leave," she remembers. "And I considered it a few times. He would say these awful things to me [when drunk], and they would stick with me. And the next day I'd feel horrible, and he wouldn't remember what he said. Then gradually he would go back to the normal Ben that I love, and that's the person I stuck around for."

All this reached a boiling point on May 23, 2010, when the couple attended a dinner party with Allen's sister and her boyfriend. A small argument between Roy and the boyfriend escalated, with the fight briefly becoming physical before Roy stormed off. When Allen eventually returned home, she found her husband guzzling down glass after glass of straight vodka. "He started yelling in my face," she says. She wanted to walk out of the house, but her husband wouldn't let her. Roy pinned her down on the couch and was shouting angry, vodka-fumed words in her face when they suddenly noticed Milo standing in the doorway, awakened by the noise. "It was horrible," Allen remembers. "Milo was old enough to know what was going on. I basically told Ben I was done."

After spending the night with Hickox, a longtime friend and comedy collaborator, Roy called his wife the next morning, apologizing and promising to go into a treatment program. The program didn't last long — "It was near brainwashing, just garbage; a bunch of people who didn't want to be there. I found it be more negative than helpful," Roy says — but he and Allen went through a year of intense therapy, strengthening their marriage and working on the emotional issues that had been driving Roy to drink.

"I didn't stop drinking for comedy," Roy says. "There was a real fear that I was leaving a large, unhealthy impact on my son. Not that I don't think comedy isn't worth quitting drinking for."

Even though Roy didn't quit drinking for comedy, his changed demeanor on stage wasn't lost on his standup colleagues. "He was funny before, but he was unpredictable," remembers Orvedahl. "You never knew if you were getting red-hot Ben or drunk, unintelligibly angry Ben. Then I went away to L.A. for two years, and when I came back, he'd done the biggest 180 I've ever seen anyone do, in comedy or in life. He used to take his anger out on the audience, assaulting them, and now they're coming along with him on his rants. And it's electric. He's still powerful and angry on stage, but he's also being vulnerable, because he'll share personal things about his drinking or his sex life. So when you're in the audience, you feel like you're getting this honest, genuine experience."

A standup comedian will typically fall into one of two archetypes: You're either playing the villain, being a bombastic, powerfully insulting, politically incorrect maniac (Don Rickles, Lisa Lampanelli), or you're the self-deprecating loser who can't get a date and will probably die sexless and alone (Jon Stewart, Louis C.K.). But Roy has found a way to embody both of these archetypes, displaying his vulnerability by confessing his inferiority complexes while still retaining a powerful confidence that drives him to criticize social issues and cultural trends.

"People will hit him up on Facebook, confessing to him that they drink too much, asking him for advice," says Cayton-Holland. "Since he's doing so well and he's vocal about it, people come to him like a messiah. And he'll tell them, 'I don't know what the fuck I'm doing. Every day is a struggle for me.' I think that's why his comedy continues to work. He's not like, 'I'm sober, and you should be, too!' He's like, 'I'm sober, and every day is a nightmare!'"

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