Getting stoned with comedian Chris Charpentier
Chris Charpentier of the stand-up comedy team Fine Gentleman's Club
Few conversations reach the caliber of weirdness as ones that involve marijuana, entertainers and a tape recorder. And now that Amendment 64 has turned the ritual of pot-smoking into as normal a social custom as Sunday afternoon football, we at Westword have begun spending time with our favorite Denver musicians and comedians in various states of red-eyed giggliness.
Chris Charpentier of Fine Gentleman's Club has one of the greatest appreciations for cannabis in the Denver comedy scene. While many standups are having children and only smoking on the weekends as a post-performance come-down, Charpentier remains a 24-hour party person, enjoying the mind-zapping creative rush of being truly blitzed while standing before a crowd of expectant faces.
Westword: Do you ever smoke weed before you go on stage?
I do it pretty much every time. I just always smoke a lot of weed, so it's nothing unusual for me. It's just my normal state. I work for H&L Architecture and never smoke before or during work, but all the rest of the time. Yeah, being stoned at work can be a nightmare, but I imagine it's a whole other animal when you're performing on stage.
The more seasoned that you are, the easier it is. When I first started I wouldn't go up nearly as high as I do now. I wouldn't have been nearly as confident; I didn't have as much material to fall back on. Now I have so much material memorized where, if things slow down, I can pick it back up -- hopefully -- with those jokes.
I performed at the Narrators about a month ago and made a solemn oath to myself not to get high the whole day leading up to the event. For me, it seemed like all confidence would fly out the window if I attempted that stoned.
I have found I'm in the minority on this, even among people who smoke weed. [Greg] Baumhauer is a good example of this. He's a guy who likes to party, but will stop smoking weed four or five hours before his shows. Just to clear his mind? I don't know. It doesn't bother me.
I wonder if that's related to the material he does. His style is geared toward controversy, so he actively brings a lot of hate upon himself when he's on stage. Which is probably like Pop Rocks and Coke inside your skull when you're stoned.
He may need to be a little more sharp on stage than most. Whereas I could do my stuff laying down, so it doesn't matter.
Would you rather have hair for fingernails, or fingernails for hair?
Boy, that's a tough one. I think I'm going to have to go with hair for fingernails. That would be a cooler oddity and not so much of a freak show. People wouldn't notice from far away. True, but you'd have a hard time appearing masculine with those long, feathery tassels hanging from the tips of your fingers.
Well, how long do they have to be? I'd probably keep it real short, like a crew-cut. High and tight. That's manly.
Who do you think would win in a fight between Charles Bukowski and the Big Lebowski?
Well...the Big Lebowski, like, the one in the wheelchair?
Well, to make it a fair fight, lets say it's Bukowski when he had tuberculosis and lost all that weight.
I'm going to go with TB Bukowski.The Big Lebowski was kind of a puss; all he did was yell a lot.
But he's got a motor on that wheelchair. If he got some momentum, he could do some damage.
If he got a head of steam on him, sure. I wouldn't want to stand in front of him. But you could just step to the side, punch him in the face. Even with tuberculosis. Right? What do you think?
Well, there are different schools of thought on this. I tend to remain in the middle, not be partisan....
What Denver comedy venues are you more comfortable in being stoned while performing on stage?
Deer Pile, for sure. I'm more comfortable there in general than any place. With Comedy Works, I'm the least comfortable being stoned on stage. You have to be careful there. That's your future and your money, so you don't want to be stupid with that. You play more by the rules there.
How do you think that affects your performance? Not the marijuana -- the idea of having career on the brain when you're trying to be creative?
It's good. It's pressure. It can go either way: You'll either do even better from the pressure, or it'll break you. I imagine having the rest of the Fine Gentlemen is a helpful support system in those moments.
It definitely is, without a doubt. If you don't want to do a show one night, you don't even bring it up, because there are three other guys who do want to do the show. And then just hanging out with each other, talking about whether you're making progress or not, it gives you perspective. Because sometimes you're doing the same thing for six months in a row. Even if you're doing new material, you're still doing the same shows, not making any money. You start to wonder if you're making any progress at all.
If Colfax and Broadway had a baby, what type of disability would it have?
There would be some severe bipolar issues there. It would be like the six-fingered man from Princess Bride. He's smooth, he's suave, but he's sadistic. And he's got extra fingers. Yeah, he had a black heart. Remember that torture chamber he built? The Machine. Not to 50!
Recent polls show that one-fifth of Americans cannot locate the US on a world map. Why are our children so fat?
Hmm, that's a great question. First of all I'm going to go ahead and say it has something to do with sports. Sports are making our children fat.
What's your opinion on the European economic crisis?
We're all fucked.... Actually, I don't know anything about it. It was Greece that fucked everything up, right?
Sort of. They're the worst of it. They're like the crypts.
Well I think that maybe Greece and Texas should secede from their unions. And form together.
In the middle of the Pacific?
See, you are up on things. Maybe they could meet up with that island of floating plastic.
It'll be the new Australia! That's where we'll send everybody who's not quite right.
And everything will be made of plastic, like a McDonald's Playplace floating in the middle of the ocean. Then we can send all of the children there and we'll have our own paradise all to ourselves, like in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
If you could choose, how would you like to die?
I'd like to say in my sleep--
--but that's boring...
Exactly. So here are my three honest answers. 1.) In my sleep, peacefully, with my family around me.
Why is your family in bed with you?
Uh, I don't want them to be in bed with me physically. Oh, so not just die-in-your-sleep randomly.
No, I want to be ill and just fade peacefully.
But why would you want to be ill? You can die any way you want, why be sick?
Can I finish, please?
So that's number one. Two: I think I'd like to do the Hunter S. Thompson thing: just when I get tired, finish it. When my body gives out and I just don't want to do it any more. I'm pretty sure that's how it's going to happen. And Three: If I know I'm going to die, it would be pretty rad to rent a Ferrari and do a high speed chase, just straight into the Grand Canyon. Like Thelma and Louise?
Yeah. Then whose hand will you be holding in this romantic doomsday scenario?
A bag of money that I stole.
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