When Greg Baumhauer, Ben Kronberg and Adam Cayton-Holland, otherwise known as Wrist Deep Productions, started their open-mike comedy night on Tuesdays at the Squire Lounge (1800 East Colfax Avenue) in 2004, Baumhauer thought it would last three months. Instead, it lasted for seven and a half years — far outpacing any running comedy show in Denver, he says. But Baumhauer and crew recently decided to throw in the towel, and they hosted their last comedy night this week.
"I think it's run its course," Baumhauer says. "I think we've done as much as we can with the Squire. Being that big of an asshole is exhausting. We probably ended more careers before they ever got started than any other show around. We've crushed enough dreams."
Crushing dreams helped the Squire night earn a reputation as the meanest open mike in America; Baumhauer says even twenty-year comedy vets, some of whom had TV specials, were afraid to sign on. "If you're going to start being a comedian, you might as well get ready for a whole bunch of disappointment," Baumhauer explains. "No matter how big you get, it's right around the corner. I just think it's a great place to prepare yourself for anything that can happen. It's like comedy boot camp. If I can deal with some cracked-out tranny hooker heckling me, I can deal with some drunk chick from Cherry Creek."
When Baumhauer started, he recalls, the night was "like a normal, shitty kind of open mike. It was just comedians and maybe some poor girlfriend who hadn't figured out that she should probably stay home during those kind of shows." When Baumhauer started being mean to comedians, that's when things really started to click, he says. Baumhauer made at least one girl heckler break down and cry, and he also pissed people off to the point where they threw stuff at him, charged the stage or even threatened him with gun violence. "There's also the story about Kronberg and the supposed gun getting pulled out," Baumhauer says. "It turns out there really was no gun, but everyone thought there was. It made it into a book by John Wenzel. I remember one month where three out of the four weeks someone threw a full drink at my head. One was on election night, when Obama won."
As for the night's longevity, Baumhauer considers it a celebration of Colfax culture — and credits the fact that the Squire gathering was mean-spirited, especially for the new comedians. "Denver loves to hate a little bit," he observes.
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But over the years, Baumhauer says, the event started turning into a hipster scene night rather than just a comedy night. "It was the fucking Lipgloss of jokes instead of a comedy show," he says. "There would be fifty or sixty hipsters in there, and nobody's listening to the comedy at all. The only time anyone would stop and listen was when I was going to go up there and make fun of somebody, but they didn't even get a chance."
For now, Baumhauer says he plans on taking a break so that he can refocus, let his liver heal a bit and maybe give his conscience the week off.
Club scout: Although the Facebook page for Rockaway Tavern (2036 Broadway) says the venue's last show was at the end of November, owner Kris Sieger insists that the place isn't closed (he says his former soundman had administrative control over the Facebook page). Sieger, who opened the bar in July 2010 with former 15th Street Tavern owner Myke Martinez and 3 Kings Tavern owner Jim Norris, is now running the space by himself, since the other two are no longer involved. And while there's definitely a grindcore fest with ten bands happening on Saturday, December 17, after that things will be up in the air, he says. "Things could change," Sieger explains. "I'm looking for potential investors and might even be open to selling the place. I put a lot of my heart and soul into it. I'd love to see it flourish some day."
SingSing (1735 19th Street), the long-running dueling piano bar, is slated to close at the end of the year, with Howl at the Moon, which has fourteen locations nationwide, scheduled to move into the space in early 2012, says Michael Yates, the latter's national marketing director.