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"Oh, I love vodka," Roy said one night at last summer's Laugh Track Comedy Festival in Denver. "But I can't drink vodka anymore. That shit's the key that opens up the door to where I keep all my baggage. I don't know why comedians always talk about alcoholism like it's wicked fun. They're always like, 'Yo, you ever been so wasted...?' and then cue fun party story. They never follow it up with real alcoholic shit. They never say, 'Yo, you ever been so wasted that when you go to the bathroom in the morning there be blood in the bowl?' Or 'Yo, you ever been so wasted you go home and push the couch in front of the door so your wife and your five-year-old kid can't leave the apartment?'
"But also, everyone wants to paint sobriety like it's this grand fucking thing," he went on. "I'm sober and I'm still one miserable motherfucker. Some people have found enlightenment, but that's because their lives were a cup of diarrhea, so anything that isn't huffing trucker cock in the handicap stall of a Stuckey's for Klonopin seems like an enlightening experience.... But for most of us, when we stop drinking, we think we're going to feel better. But nope, all you did was take the liquid earmuffs off, and now your demons are way fucking louder. They're like, 'Really, you're wearing tight pants at 33, you know your Dad had a house at 27?' My inner dialogue is so much fucking louder now, it's ridiculous. I hate what I'm saying to you right now. How the fuck is that possible? Every time I go to write a joke on a piece of paper, it's like me putting on a record, spinning my favorite self-hating classics. Like this one: 'Everything You Write Is Shit,' by Shame-Shame and the Go-Nowheres. Being sober is not the answer."
After performing together for a few years, Roy, Cayton-Holland and Orvedahl formed the Grawlix, a comedy team that hosts shows at the Bug Theatre. Every month, they present a new installment in their comedy short-film series, along with performances by a variety of local and national standup talents. Last June, Amazon gave $50,000 to the Grawlix to film a pilot for a new TV series written by and starring the trio. Titled Those Who Can't, the series takes place in a Denver school, with three inept teachers played by Orvedahl (the lovably dim-witted gym teacher), Cayton-Holland (the more collected yet equally frustrated and susceptibly cynical straight man) and Roy (the idealistic, emotionally unpredictable history teacher). In the pilot, Roy locks his students in the classroom, role-playing the labor struggles of the Industrial Revolution by not allowing bathroom breaks, putting one student, "Boss Man," with all the money and comfort at one end of the room, and placing the other children in the opposite cramped, hot corner, a sign reading "Working Man" hanging above their heads.
Apart from the meteoric success of the Grawlix, Roy has been on his own fast trajectory, signing his standup career over to Apostle Management, the company founded by Denis Leary and Jim Serpico. In the summer of 2010, just two months after he stopped drinking, he performed in the "New Faces" division of the Montreal Just for Laughs Comedy Festival — the comedy equivalent of Coachella or Lollapalooza. He's currently pitching a pilot for a TV drama he's written, this one about a high-school addictions counselor in central Maine who works with troubled teens. There's also his podcast, Voiceless. And his latest band, Spells. And the running.
And his son. Even in his drinking days, Roy was a good father, his friends say. "That kid doesn't have a father, that kid has Ben Roy," says Hickox. "Watching him with Milo is heartwarming. You can see his tenderness; it's just spilling out of him. He's very dedicated."
"He's always been an awesome father," says Allen. "He rarely drank around Milo — only a few times when he came home late at night, and then it would be an issue. He is so great with him. They're both taking martial-arts classes right now, and it's the cutest thing. He does more things with him than I do. He teaches him how to box, takes him to the art museum and the park. They have a really great relationship."
As dedicated as Roy is to raising his son, he maintains that being a parent isn't the time-consuming, soul-destroying affair that many people make it out to be, saying he finds plenty of time to write and perform comedy while maintaining a close relationship with Milo. "After they get past a certain age, being a parent isn't that hard," he explains. "It's an emotionally difficult job, but I think parents like to overstate how hard the job is. They use it to justify the other aspects of their lives that they're letting go. They let their bodies go, their relationships go. Your kid is owed seeing you successful and happy. Give them something to strive for. Don't be a fucking lump on a couch. Don't live for your kids; let your kids live for you. Your kids should want to be like you."
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