The Grawlix's five best comedy shorts
For nearly two years the Nix Brothers and The Grawlix comedy team have been producing mind-burstingly good short films for the web that also screen each month at the Grawlix's Bug Theatre comedy show. With a trio of hyper-real characters that play off each other with a juvenile cruelty and self-debasement, the web series takes a conceptual cue from The Office. It acts as a faux-documentary profiling three goofball comics from Denver -- while also slipping in a few episodes of random weirdness that have nothing to do with anything.
As these comics close the chapter tonight with their season finale episode -- which will be screened at the Bug Theatre at 10 p.m. -- we thought we'd take a look back at our favorite moments in the Grawlix catalogue, reviewing all the childish cruelty these three monsters have inflicted on each other over the years.
5. Miller Time
When "Yogi Bear 3D's T.J. Miller" returns to Denver to perform at Grawlix, he insists that show's comedy producers keep up with him in a bacchanal of hard drugs and 3.2 beer. But the Hollywood prodigal son hadn't expected a drunken confrontation with Adam Cayton-Holland, who calls Miller a hypocrite for claiming Mile High pride when everyone knows he became famous after he left. This leads to a "Denver-Off," where the two natives spar with each other in a boxing ring of civic pride.
4. Misery Loves Company
Showcasing Ben Roy's keen sense of madness and Andrew Orvedahl's impeccable ability to fuck things up, "Misery Loves Company" takes a weirdly sadistic turn into Stephen King territory (Roy's home-state macabre master) when Cayton-Holland contracts the flu with his time-bomb buddy, the two of them slipping into a game of torture-the-mouse while their comedy teammate Orvedahl screws up a Hollywood meeting by suggesting they want to do a horror film. "How are we going to do a horror film?" Cayton-Holland asks when he returns, while tied to a bed after nearly losing his legs to a sledge-hammer-wielding Roy.
3. Open Mic
Rarely do the Grawlix have any kind of conceptual angle to their skits, but "Open Mic" takes on a provocative fourth-wall commentary that identifies the line between on-stage comedian and real-life human being. Following Roy's refusal to be recorded by his ex-wife, the boom-operator (played by actual wife Crystal Allen), Roy takes to carrying a stage mic with him everywhere he goes, claiming he's now "always on" as a comedian.
When Cayton-Holland tries the same thing, hanging out at the Denver Bicycle Cafe with mic in hand and behaving as though he's performing standup, he gets a sobering P.C. slap in the face. After he calls Roy and Orvedahl a couple of "faggots," Cayton-Holland is kicked out of the cafe, while protesting that "no, that wasn't me saying faggot. I know it's a hateful term. That was the comedian character saying it."
Continue reading for our two top picks.
2. The Rare North American Adam Cayton-Holland Bird
Taking an aesthetic cue from Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic (which took a cue from Jacques Cousteau's documentary films), this anthropological study of Cayton-Holland as a tactless specimen who can't seem to find a mating partner ranks as one of Grawlix' most inventive pieces of storytelling. To be fair, a good amount of credit should go to the Nix Brothers and Premium Beat, for creating an almost-sleazy Grindhouse feel to an otherwise academically styled film, making the audience feel blandly (and awkwardly) aroused while watching Cayton-Holland humiliate himself time and again before the female species.
1. Team Building
Not only does this rank as the best short Grawlix has put together, it's one of the best pieces of sketch comedy I've ever seen. It has that rare ability to create tension through boring an audience for the first two minutes, while somehow leaving them inexplicably engaged -- only to spring some left-turn madness on them in the third act. Whether it was intentional or not, the bit is reminiscent of Will Ferrell's "Wake Up & Smile" skit on Saturday Night Live, but retains its own unique pace and imaginative level of human debasement. With guest stars Rory Scovel, Sean Patton and a few members of Ladyface and the Fine Gentleman's Club, this manically primal three minutes showcase a wide net of Denver/L.A. talent, letting the world know just what kind of weirdos we have to offer.
Grawlix begins at 10 p.m. Friday, April 26 at the Bug Theatre, 2654 Navajo Street. Click here for more information.
For more comedy commentary, follow me on Twitter at @JosiahMHesse.
Get the Arts and Theater Newsletter
Weekly information keeping you in the know when it comes to the art and theater scene. Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events.