Josh Blue on Dave Chapelle, Speaking Wolof and 108 Stitches
Josh Blue is a singular talent with an undeniable facility for hilarious riffs that he seems to casually toss off; he also has an uncanny ability to be instantly likable from the moment he grabs the mike. Blue has been a pillar of the Denver comedy scene for years; he broke out nationally when he won NBC's Last Comic Standing in 2006. Throughout his illustrious career, Blue has managed to mine his cerebral palsy for comedic gold; he doesn't shy away from challenging subjects, either. Blue is closing out a pretty stellar 2014 at the home club where he developed his skills. We caught up with Blue in advance of his holiday shows that start tomorrow at the downtown Comedy Works to discuss opening for Dave Chapelle, telling jokes in other languages and his first big film role in 108 Stitches.
Westword: So the last time I saw you, you were opening for Dave Chapelle. How did those shows go? Did you get to hang out with him at all afterward?
Josh Blue: Yeah, you know what, was it the last time he was in town or those October shows?
Whatever's the better story.
You can't go wrong with Chapelle, man. I had a phenomenal experience with him. I feel like our friendship reached a new level this last time he was in town -- he actually asked me what my last name was.
There you go.
I'm feeling pretty good. No, you know what, that dude's a badass. As I'm sure you saw at his show, he's the real deal. The fact that he asked me to open for him is pretty spectacular, you know?
Do you think you'd have a hard time getting back to standup if you took as long of a break from it as Chapelle did after his show?
You know what, man, when I started up, I'd just go. So I feel like if I took a break, I'd come back even stronger. I don't know that I could come back at his level, and I'd definitely have to rebuild some momentum. It's cool. We're buds now. We hang out. He spent a day after his show and just hung out in Denver. We went out to dinner. I invited Joe King from the Fray and we all got pizza. It was pretty cool, man. I can't say enough nice things about Chapelle. On and off stage, he's a remarkable human being.
You were instrumental in getting him to be on Too Much Fun that one time, right?
Yeah, I told him about it, and he was all about it. He said, "Yeah, that sounds like fun." He was doing pretty long sets. I love those guys at Too Much Fun, and then having Dave Chapelle walk in was too much fun. I thought people might die when he walked in.
It'll always be a nice feather in their cap, for sure. It'll be hard for them to top that for a secret guest, though.
Yeah, I don't know, maybe Obama.
If he came and did a set?
Yeah, man. Have you seen him do those...
White House Correspondents dinners? He roasted Donald Trump pretty good.
He's good dude.
So, are you still playing soccer with the U.S. Paralympic team?
You know what, man? I actually got cut last summer. But it was a hell of a ride, and I haven't exercised since.
Sorry to bring up a sore subject, then.
No, it's not a sore subject. It was an awesome experience, and I'm still part of the team -- not as a player, but they have me come into camps and work with them on a motivational level and kick around with them. We'll probably put out a YouTube video of me returning to camp kind of as a joke publicity stunt.
You speak a couple foreign languages. What's the language they speak in Senegal called?
Do you keep brushed up on your Wolof?
I do, actually. I was in Paris, where people didn't believe I was American because I speak French pretty fluently. I speak dirty African French. I saw a guy on the street in Paris and I just started rapping at him in Wolof and he kept stopping strangers and saying, "This guy speaks my language! This guy can speak my language very well!" It was pretty cool.
Do you think you'd be able to tell jokes in a language besides English? I know that I can be funny in French and in Wolof. I don't know that I could get the joke form, but I know I could respond with the right timing and the right words. In conversations I can make people laugh. I like to do my sets in French sometimes. I used to do that with Chuck Roy, actually, because Chuck speaks French. I used to do a bit where I would go on stage and I was his translator. I'd translate everything he said into French.
I didn't know that about Chuck Roy.
So, you're headlining the weekend at Comedy Works downtown. Do you have a preference for a particular location at this point?
I prefer the downtown club, to be real honest. That new club has really grown on me. It's still one of the best rooms in the country. I know the shows are going to rock either way, you know?
The south club's greenroom is fancier.
Yeah, you know, I prefer like a slimy corner where I can sit there and ooze. I don't need fancy shit. I'm a dirty comic. Again, let me tell you, Comedy Works South is one of the best clubs in the country, but it's up against the best in the country. Ask anybody, it's the downtown club.
Yeah, that's the consensus among everyone I've talked to. Headlining there is just a walk in the park to you these days, right?
Yeah, you know, I feel like standup is what I was put on this earth to do. I have a strange gift and I enjoy doing this and I've been cranking a lot of new material. I'm shooting to record a new album this year, or at least film it.
Your last special came out in 2012, right?
If you say so, man. I have all new material since that one, so I'm pretty ready to go, you know?
How do you generate so much material?
I'm at a point now where I am not afraid to try new things and just talk up there. And again, I'm just a random-shit magnet. I can't go outside without some crazy shit happening to me that doesn't happen to a lot of other people. In Paris, I was treated like an ape. People were scared of me. Dogs would bark at me and shit. It was crazy man. I had a girl inside of Notre Dame who clutched her boyfriend's arm and like, cowered away from me.
So when that shit happens, I just have fun with it. I'd pretend I was looking at stuff but also following them around a little bit and she freaked the fuck out. She ran out of Notre Dame. My life has such a weird juxtaposition where people either know who I am or they're like, "Who the fuck is that guy and why did they let him into Notre Dame?"
I don't know what it is about people being confronted with something that they don't understand right away that just completely removes their filter of politeness, you know?
I get it probably twice a day, easily. I feel like I'm very fortunate that I can take this shit and laugh at it, and have fun with it. What it does make me realize is that people who don't have the same point of view as me must really find it damaging to their morale, you know? I get like thirty messages a day from disabled people, like, "Thanks for letting people know we're not stupid," or whatever it is. Then there are those messages where it's just like, "Eat a dick, fag!"
Yeah, it's the Internet. If a comment thread goes over like thirty posts, someone's going to say "faggot." That's just how the Internet works.
They're just idiots.
Anything else you want to mention before we wrap up?
Oh yeah, I had a movie come out. It's called 108 Stitches. It's a baseball movie. I think it's on everything as far as downloading goes.
How did that come together?
These guys came to us and said, "Hey, we have a part for Josh if he wants it. He doesn't have to audition or anything." It's like Animal House meets Bull Durham. I was the pitcher, so obviously, it's a comedy. It's my biggest role in a movie I've had. I've got nothing but great feedback from the director and the other actors. I had several actors tell me I was stealing the movie, so that's cool.
Josh Blue takes the stage at Comedy Works downtown for an early show at 7:30 p.m. and a later show for the 18 and up crowd at 9:45 p.m. on Friday, December 19. Both Saturday shows have already sold out. There's also a 7 p.m. show on Sunday, December 21. Tickets are $25; visit ComedyWorks.com or call 303-595-3637 to buy them.
Follow Byron Graham on twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Denver, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.