The third High Plains Comedy Festival starts tonight in the Baker neighborhood. Festival founders Andy Juett and Adam Cayton-Holland have created the largest comedy festival in town, with talent ranging wildly from national to local heroes and activities from a standup brunch to highly inappropriate card games. "A lot of different looks, that’s a thriving comedy scene," says Juett.
High Plains will feature more than seventy comics, half of them coming from out of town. But the lineup includes about forty who either live in Denver now or did recently — and fans are looking forward to the return of the Denver Comedy Exodus comedians. That "exodus" began earlier this year, when some of the scene's heavy-hitters — including Andrew Orvedahl, Ben Roy, Kristin Rand, Troy Walker, Haley Driscoll and Chris Charpentier — moved to L.A. And soon Jim Hickox can be added to that list. The grand finale will be Sunday's show at the Paramount with Anthony Jeselnik, arguably the biggest name to grace the High Plains docket.
As with the first two editions, Illegal Pete's helps make High Plains possible. "Pete Turner and Virgil Dickerson are both champions of the music and comedy scene here," says Juett. Illegal Pete's has also been instrumental in another project that the busy Juett has going, Glenn Has Idea$. Juett released nine episodes of Glenn Has Idea$ over the past three weeks, with help from Matty O'Connor, Andrew Bueno and Cayton-Holland; the show features some amazing guest stars who will also be doing their thing at High Plains this weekend, including Orvedahl and Rory Scovel, among others. In advance of the festival's opening tonight, we sat down with Juett to talk about Glenn, the third fest and comedy in general.
Photo courtesy of High Plains Comedy Festival
Westword: Do you like being a comic in Denver, or are you plotting your escape?
Andy Juett: There are worse places for me to be stranded. Any role in shaping or growing the Denver comedy scene, of shaping and redefining what is possible, is what I want. Gentrification is a big deal, I mean, I totally understand the lack of excitement over unremarkable, cheaply built buildings. The resulting rents and cost of living make it even harder for those artists and comedians who are trying to make it in Denver. The city replaces itself every five years in terms of population.
For those who don't know, what is Sexpot Comedy, which you formed with Kayvan Khalatbari?
For me, Sexpot Comedy is born out of highlighting the Denver comedy scene, creating a community or further enhancing an industry that already exists, and creating an infrastructure. We always have the control and the purview and are willing to take risks. Somebody has to. The cool thing is, there are so many more comedy jobs. Not all of them pay the best. Hopefully, what Sexpot does is raise the bar on the amount of shows people can do in or outside the club. There has to be some sort of organization.
Who is Glenn, the character you play in your web series Glenn Has Idea$?
Glenn tangiblizes my skills. Glenn is the worst parts of middle-size or big business. He's interesting, hopefully, because he's simultaneously innovative and curious and even a little smart, but his main goal is to further his and Rick's well-being. Rick [played by Andrew Orvedahl] is in shambles. Glenn is an accumulation of the experience I've had in a lot of business on the media side.
You have some of your friends, fellow comedians, in High Plains as well as in your web series. Tell me about Rory Scovel's hilarious cameo in Glenn Has Idea$, episode 5.
Rory is pretty much my favorite comedian. To be able to square off with him on camera, with all the guests we have, is pretty exciting. I don’t take it lightly.
Glenn Has Idea$ is made up of nine episodes filmed in May 2014. Do you want to turn Glenn into a bigger network show?
For more than this show, the opportunities for sketch are already happening; I already have meetings with TBS, Comedy Central. In the past, the Nix brothers were the only people that comedy fans took seriously; Matty O'Connor and Andrew Bueno showed over time that they are also budding filmmakers and have different styles. Glenn Has idea$ is a showcase for O'Connor and Bueno — there's a lot of young filmmaking talent in Denver. They really worked their asses off.
Would you want to make a "pot" show, like under the Sexpot independent banner?
The combination of competency we've showed in making videos and comedy has made all of the big companies want to figure out that riddle. Some of those iterations of cannabis comedy will be great and some of them will be terrible; that's the reason we make the pitches now that are holding water. Denver Relief consulting puts Kayvan on the floor of legislation, growing cannabis as it becomes legal across the country. It also helps with a national kind of normalization.
Will you be bringing back MouthStepperz at High Plains?
Mouthstepperz will not be at High Plains. The only reason is because Robert Rutherford moved to San Diego. We have to get the music right. Actually, I would love to do a show or sketches on a show of the Mouthstepperz because it's so stupid.
Why does it seem like, in Denver, people don't want to pay for comedy?
I think the heritage of comedy is that people pay little or less than musicians; there's just a history of that. I think for a long time, comics have taken any stage time they can get in order to get better at it. To get to the paid shows, you need to work for free for a long time.
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Photo courtesy of High Plains Comedy Festival