Brent Gill, a boisterous paragon of the Denver comedy scene for close to a decade, has been delighting area stoners and milfs alike with his raunchy jokes. While some of Gill's efforts, such as the now-defunct Marijuana Radio or the stage name "Brent the Great," have gone the way of the black rhino, his ongoing standup shows are alive and thriving. The Boulder Comedy Show Sunday at the Bohemian Biergarten brings national headliners along with Denver's best chuckle merchants through the comedy-starved town every week, packing the house. And now Gill's monthly news-commentary panel show InFauxmation has taken up residence in the prestigious Comedy Works South, after traveling to such far-flung destinations as Toronto. The show, which is an inventive mix of standup, improv and satire, is a great example of what Denver comedy can accomplish when good ideas have support. In advance of his upcoming gigs, we caught up with Gill to discuss his plans, the local scene, and why so many weird stories come out of Florida.
Westword: So, what’s the lineup for the April 28 InFauxmation show?
Brent Gill: Sam Tallent double-booked, but we have Aaron Urist, Nancy Norton and Jordan Doll doing a character.
Have you had characters on InFauxmation before?
Yeah. It’s really fun to do because I do a character that mixes in with the story. Last time, Jordan Doll did a character —he does characters so well. There was this story about how they found a suspicious bag on the subway and had to call in the bomb squad to investigate. Turns out it was a bag with like a thousand condoms. So Jordan’s character was Billy Joel Sunglasses, head of the New York Metro lost-and-found department. One time we did a story about a lady who lived in Wal-Mart and Chris Charpentier went up in character as her son. It’s a weird way to bring in something different character-wise. But it always relates to news of some sort.
Where do you find the weird stories to comment on?
A lot of the stuff is like second-page news. I’ll go to Buzzfeed, I’ll go to Gawker, or to the “Weird News” section of Huffpo. It’s all real stuff and it’s all fucking weird stuff. This month we’re doing a story about a lady who stabbed her roommate because she refused to stop listening to the Eagles. That’ll be pretty fun. There’s a Nigerian couple in the U.K. who had a white baby. Like African-African.
Was there some kind of switcheroo at the hospital?
No. They’ve done DNA tests and everything. Scientists are just fucking baffled. It’s either a mutation that had lain dormant in the wife or... it’s like a blond-haired, blue-eyed-like Aryan baby. It’s kind of weird. One of my other favorite ones is there was this group of Christian, body-building swingers...
Already a good story.
Oh, it’s fucking great. They have this wife-swapping website and they’re just old, tan, leather-skinned folks from Florida whose daughter hosts and runs their swinging site for them.
I like weird stuff like that. Occasionally it’ll get a little offensive. I did the Air Asia crash like two days after it happened.
Did people in the audience tense up a little?
It got a little tight, yeah. Well, I showed the footage of it, like on repeat.
I think that was my mistake. I remember thinking, “I should pause this and just kill the joke real quick.” God bless the comics, they really tried to pull it out of the crowd. So yeah. I try to stay away from stuff that’s going to piss people off. So stuff like ISIS and the war. But I don’t want to be too much like Chelsea Lately and just do pop-culture stuff either. That’s why I like doing those second-page news stories.
More local stories that wouldn’t necessarily get picked up by the mainstream media?
When I did the show in Canada, in Toronto, there were reports of this threesome that happened on a trolley car in the middle of the day, so we talked about that. I do try to pick local stuff when I can, especially stuff like that.
I bet a lot of those stranger-than-fiction stories come from Florida.
I was just about to say that! We’re starting a segment this time and we’ll continue it from here on out called “This week in Florida.” I’ve got three stories —the Eagles chick stabbing happened in Florida, there’s one lady who drowned an eight-month-old puppy in the airport because they wouldn’t let her fly with it. So she drowns it in the fucking bathroom and then gets on a plane and flies away.
Jesus Christ. That’s so awful.
It’s real bad. Florida’s so fucked up.
I don’t know what it is about Florida. I actually kind of like it there, but it really is just a basin for all the strangest people in the country.
There was a dude who got arrested four times by getting caught fucking inflatable pool toys. He fucked an inflatable pumpkin, I can’t remember the second one, and he fucked the same floaty raft twice. Two separate times.
They were someone else’s?
Yeah, they were someone else’s and he was doing it in public.
Okay, so that’s where the crime comes in. If he’d bought his own raft, it would be a victimless crime. It’s gross and weird, but live and let live. If you want to fuck an inflatable thing, buy one and fuck it until it pops. But don’t terrorize someone else’s pool toys. That element takes it from harmless to disturbing.
You can fuck whatever you want. The picture of the guy was like another punchline. That’s why the show could never be a podcast. Originally, that’s what I had planned —for the show to be podcast. As I kept doing it, I realized that it was too visually oriented. The dude who fucked those pool toys was wearing a shirt that said, “I’m currently out of my mind, please leave a message.” Seeing the mugshots is so funny.
So, how'd you come up with idea for Infauxmation?
Well, I knew that Comedy Works was looking for content — something besides standup — and I wanted a way to come up with a lot of new material and give the crowd something different. I wanted to get into the news because it's always going to be new material. Always. So it really became an exercise and a way for me to get better. To get away from the Daily Show and John Oliver aspect we focused on weird news and did it more panel-style. I like the format of Chelsea Lately. If you look at my show, visually, it's the same. Me on one side, here's the story that I toss up to a panel of comics and they knock it down. But we're growing into doing more skits and having pundits. A lot of people don't know it, but it's brand-new news for each show.
Can you give us a synopsis of how the show runs?
So the show starts, with me coming up to emcee for a little bit, and then each panelist/ comic does about seven minutes. Then I come up to explain the show and run through a few examples. Then we go in and do about two or three stories, with the third or fourth story leading up to a special guest character. This time we're going to have our Florida section. Then we'll end with a game where I read a story and show a photo and the comics are challenged to come up with the headline.
Have you incorporated any material you generated at InFauxmation into your regular act?
Yes, a little bit. A lot of it is time-sensitive, though; it wouldn't work anymore if I kept telling a joke about a mall Santa Claus for months and months after Christmas.
When I had the Grawlix do it — not all three of them, but it was Sam Tallent, Adam Cayton-Holland and Andrew Orvedahl. I did eventually have Ben do it, and he was really nervous. We had to calm him down because he's so used to being in control, and this show makes it so you're kind of not in control. Anyway, that time there were like maybe 45 people in the audience, but it was a fucking killer show.
That's crazy and infuriating thing to me, that only 45 people came to that. People line up and gladly pay to see the Grawlix each month at standing-room-only shows, but here's an opportunity to see the same comics they know and love doing one-time-only material in a new setting, and everyone let it pass them by. I hate that about this scene. People just go to shows out of habit because they're used to it.
It's just what you do.
They've been going every month for like two years, since back when everyone still liked each other.
Ha, that's great.
It's not as if the Grawlix isn't a great show, and those guys are good about coming up with new material, but it's frustrating. There's so many other shows that could potentially be that good, but people won't try it because it hasn't already been going on forever.
It takes time. They got where they are by doing the same thing that I'm trying to follow every Sunday up in Boulder with the Bohemian Biergarten show; if you book a consistently good show long enough, people are going to come. How many places provide that type of content? I provide a good show every single week. Other than Too Much Fun!, I don't think there's another weekly show that comes close. A couple monthlies.
Let's see. The guys from the Agency are doing a different format but still running a great show every week.
You're right, I totally wasn't thinking about them.
Getting back to InFauxmation, it seems like a lot of work goes into finding the stories and preparing the show.
It's about sixteen hours of prep. I've got to find the articles, cut together the slideshow and write new material. Here's what I do: I take a screenshot of everything. I want it to be as real as possible, so I take a screenshot of the headline and the picture. I'll paraphrase the story with all the important funny details, and I try to build it like a joke. I want the slide to be funny because a lot of times there'll be a big laugh on the first point, or just on the picture and the headline. Which is exactly what I wanted.
Have you tinkered with the format at all?
I used to do the comedy at the end, to deal with the check drop. It was either Adam or Andrew, I think it was Andrew, actually, who said, "It's a lot easier to ignore one person on a mic than it is to ignore four people and a projector." So I changed it around and I put the comedy back up front like I used to do it. The sets went great and then during the panel I had no idea that the checks had even dropped. I didn't even notice. They were dead-on.
Have you thought about doing a video podcast or something?
I've thought about doing a Youtube channel. I've built one. I'm eventually going to build it into a whole video channel. I want to travel with the show more, too. They loved it in Toronto and I think I'm going to — this is very new, but whatever — I think I'm going to try and do one show every other month in New York.
Really? Do you have a venue in mind?
I think I'm going to try and do it at the Creek and the Cave.
That'd be dope. They'd be set up to do it pretty well in either room.
I have some ins there. Some important ins, and I think that would be a good place to start because they have a built-in fanbase. My goal is to do it every month or every other month. I'd need AV, because I have to have my laptop up there. I haven't talked to them about it yet; this just came up today. It's a great idea, but it's still just that. What I'd like to do is do a show in L.A. too, so every other month I'm on one of the coasts, but still doing the show in Denver every month. I pride myself on the fact that it's a new show every time, but I think it's be cool if I tried shit in Denver, and decided to the best stories again when I'm out there. Especially if it's something with a longer shelf-life. So that's my goal; it'd be a fucking awesome thing to do. InFauxmation coast to coast!
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The Boulder Comedy Show happens every Sunday at 7 p.m. sharp at the Bohemian Biergarten; tickets cost $3 at the door. InFauxmation begins at 7:30 p.m. April 28; tickets cost $12 on Comedy Works' website.
Follow Byron Graham on twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words.