Between global pandemics, disastrous political leadership and the ever-deepening sense of dread that pervades modern life on planet Earth, the world seems to be in dire need of saving.
While Denver-based comics Adam Cayton-Holland, Ben Roy and Andrew Orvedahl of the Grawlix can't solve climate change or cure coronavirus, the trio — never call them a troupe — finds lots of levity on the path to incremental improvement on their new podcast The Grawlix Saves the World. Redoubling their collective commitment to the Mile High City after the premature cancellation of Those Who Can't, the Grawlix three have added a weekly audio podcast to their busy calendar, which includes Roy, Orvedahl and Cayton-Holland's individual standup careers, various side projects and monthly live show at the Bug Theatre.
Westword caught up with the Grawlix boys via email to discuss joining the Starburns Audio podcast network, taking social media breaks, and other ways they've used this creative endeavor to improve their lives.
Westword: How did the three of you settle on the name The Grawlix Saves the World, and how does the title reflect the premise of the podcast?
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Adam Cayton Holland: We actually scrapped a few ideas before we landed on this concept for The Grawlix Saves the World. Initially we were doing one that was a little goofier, with us kind of playing versions of ourselves — I suppose like we did on Those Who Can't, or in our Grawlix web series back in the day. It was very self-referential and absurd, and it incorporated a lot of our live Grawlix show. It was definitely really funny, but it just didn't feel right.
Then Ben called me one day and was kind of like, "This concept feels too difficult. How about a podcast where we try to improve ourselves?"
As soon as he said it, I was like, yeah, that's it. Andrew loved the idea as well. Immediately, we came up with tons of episode ideas. And it just felt like a good usage of our time.
We're all busy dudes with kids and everything, so we kind of thought, if we're going to take time out of our lives to work on this podcast, in addition to all the other stuff all of us have going on, let's really make it worth our while. Let's work on being better people and putting some good out into the world.
Et voilà: The Grawlix Saves the World was born! Each episode, we do a challenge to improve ourselves — stop social media, stop saying "like" so much, work on our love lives, etc. Honestly, we're all as depressed at the state of the world as anyone. You feel really powerless watching the planet crumble on a daily basis, so our goal with this podcast is to improve our little corner of the world with the hope that that intention and mindset sort of ripples outward. And why not throw some standup into the mix as well? That's what we do, after all. So we play clips from our live show in between the setup of the challenge and the results of the challenge.
Aside from a few gleeful digressions into riffs and roasts, GSTW is more focused and structured than your typical three-dudes-sitting-around-and-chatting-aimlessly format. How much do you have to re-orient the conversation, and how much content gets cut from each episode?
Ben Roy: I wish I could say that there was some concerted effort to do that, but it just sort of happens naturally. Truthfully, this is how a lot of our conversations go down in real life. We rib each other, get completely absurd, and ultimately come back to the earnestness of whatever we were discussing. And that's what we wanted with this podcast. We wanted people to feel like they're there with us, to feel like they can engage in these super-simple challenges as well. There is, however, a lot of editing, because we do love going off on tangents at times. [producer] Ron [Doyle] kills it at pulling us back in. He also really has a great sense of what should stay and what can go.
You'll be releasing these on a weekly basis, right? How many recorded episodes do you have banked so far?
Andrew Orvedahl: Episodes will be released biweekly, and on the off weeks, there will be bonus content on our Patreon. There's a ton of funny stuff every episode, but we are hard-core about editing down to about an hour. Hopefully people will support the Patreon and get to hear this extended/deleted stuff. We will also have bonus episodes in their entirety (like an episode of Boi Crazy!) as well as video segments, etc. Lots of stuff. As for banked episodes, I believe we have nine in the bank.
How did your partnership with Sklarboro Country and Starburns Audio come together?
Adam Cayton-Holland: We kind of shopped a few episodes around. Reached out to various friends who have podcasts on other networks. But when the Sklar Bros. expressed interest, we jumped at the opportunity. We've been friends with those guys for so long and are such fans of them — they played the Doctors Green on Those Who Can't — and they just got what we were doing immediately. We didn't have to explain it to them or sell them on the concept; they were just totally on board immediately. It's always better to work with friends, so we're really excited about the partnership. Starburns Audio has some great podcasts on there, and we're kind of under the Sklars' umbrella within Starburn, like an imprint on a record label type of thing.
What role does producer Ron Doyle play in the recording and release process?
Ben Roy: Truthfully, Ron does the majority of the work. From helping organize and schedule upcoming challenges, to audio, to video and photo production for our Patreon, to editing the final product; he's a regular boy wonder. And he's not too hard on the eyes, amiright or amiright? Seriously, it's been a blast doing this with him. He's organized, knowledgeable and easy going. We're super-stoked he's been taking this journey with us.
Do you think you'll ever have guests on the show, or will you remain primarily concerned with the Grawlix members and your respective paths to self-improvement?
Andrew Orvedahl: The format of the regular show will probably just be the three of us unless a challenge warrants a special guest (for example, we play Dungeons & Dragons and have Aaron Urist be the Dungeon Master). When we do live episodes, we will have guest comics doing standup and perhaps participating in the challenge as well.
You've been recording the show since August; what kind of effects have the challenges put forth by each episode had on your lives?
Adam Cayton-Holland: Honestly, I've incorporated a bunch of the stuff into my life. I've been pretty obsessive about cutting my social media time down since that episode. We did one where we can't say "um or like" while speaking, and if we did, we smacked the shit out of each other on the hand with a spatula. I find myself monitoring not saying those things. I don't want to give away too many challenges coming in later episodes, but some stay with you more than others.
Now, on to the episode: Why would you define the Grawlix as a "trio" rather than a "troupe?"
Ben Roy: This is easy! I'll take it. We would NEVER define the Grawlix as a troupe, because none of us can play the flute. I think we've been very clear on this point since the jump. Never ask again!!!!!!!!
Do you foresee yourselves taking any more social media breaks in the future?
Andrew Orvedahl: I'll probably have a permanent break coming up soon when I throw my phone into a lake and walk into the woods. But for reals, I hope I make these breaks a regular thing. Speaking for myself, social media does way more harm than good.
Who did the theme music and Atlas-like poster art for the show?
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Adam Cayton-Holland: The music is by Chuck Coffey, who is in the band SPELLS with Ben. Chuck did the theme song for Those Who Can't, as well. His stuff is so incredible. He just absolutely nails it, and really creates a great vibe for the podcast. All hail Charlie Continental! The artwork for the podcast is by Chris Fairbanks, a hilarious comic buddy of ours, and a very talented artist, to boot.
Anything else you guys want to plug before we wrap up the interview?
Ben Roy: I'm recording my fourth album at Comedy Works Downtown March 22 and 23. SPELLS also celebrated the release of our new album on February 29 at Streets on Colfax with Drakulas. Also check out my podcast 97.9 The Rat Race on all platforms.
Check out Starburns Audio each Tuesday for new episodes of The Grawlix Saves the World. The next live show is scheduled for Saturday, March 28, at the Bug Theatre. Visit nightout.com for tickets, $12 to $15, and further details. Please check ahead to ensure the event is still happening.