Main just recorded her debut standup album, Magpie, set for release on Blonde Medicine records, and after seven years of working the Portland comedy scene, recently moved to Denver. Westword caught up with Main to discuss launching the podcast amid personal tragedy, the merits of relocating to the Mile High City, and why she's afraid of horses.
Westword: You've been kicking around the idea for People Enjoying Terrible Accidents for a while now. What inspired the initial premise, and how did you move into the production stage?
Andie Main: The first time it popped into my head was when I was listening to My Favorite Murder, which, even though Karen Kilgariff is hilarious, seriously bummed me out. I was like, this is so stressful and morbid...and I asked myself, why wasn't I enjoying this? And I realized it was the human-on-human violence, and then I wondered what would make me enjoy a true-crime podcast, and I realized it would be if animals were murdering people. I love schadenfreude — it's my favorite type of comedy — and I think we can all get behind the plight of an animal who has to deal with a dumbass human interfering with their habitat. The first time I recorded it was in Portland, with local comics Hunter Donaldson and Becky Braunstein. It was great, but Hunter didn't want to make fun of people who have been murdered (bless his heart), and so we just didn't have the same vision, since that's explicitly what I wanted to do. I let it simmer for a moment, mainly because I had to reinvent my life. Shortly after I recorded that EP, I traveled to Denver to explore a new scene, and by doing so realized that i needed to leave my home town and move here if I wanted to get any better at comedy. Denver really does have the best scene in the world.
The first actual episode was recorded in June, with my friend Mike Brunken and his twelve-year-old kid, Ariah, on Father's Day. It was a tragic day to record on, since the only reason i was in town was to bury my sister Katie, who had died from cancer at the age of forty. I don't know why I put myself through recording a podcast right after that. I feel kind of guilty about it for some reason, but I know she would've loved it. And the more I've developed this theme, I've realized that a major component of it is that humans have a long way to go in regard to accepting their mortality, and we are totally out of balance with nature — so I guess I was able to direct my mourning into creating art that was a testament to this issue...which makes it healthy, I guess?
The first episode just dropped, but I know you've been steadily working on the show since the High Plains Comedy Festival. How many episodes do you have in the bank?
Seven! I've got a great mix of Portland and Denver talent in there, too. We have upcoming episodes with some PDX folks like Simpsons writer and showrunner Bill Oakley (who worked on the Simpsons during the golden years, seasons three through nine) and civil-rights activist Gregory McKelvey, plus I recorded episodes with L.A.-based comics/heroes Kyle Kinane and Jackie Kashian, and I've got local heartthrobs like Adam Cayton- Holland, John Novosad, Mike Stanley, Elliot Wooley and Matt Cobos. We've covered Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man, a brutal chimp attack, birds, hunting accidents, zebras, Black Fish (the orca that murdered people at SeaWorld) and dogs. Matt's and my episode about dogs is probably my favorite so far; he was such a great guest that I am keeping him on as an occasional co-host. Like, he just says yes to every terrible joke and makes it worse. We were literally cry-laughing about all of the awful jokes we were making. He's my favorite idiot I've ever met.
What is Carlos Madrid's role in the production process, and how did your partnership begin?
Carlos and I met at the last Bridgetown (Portland's version of High Plains, which ended in 2017). I don't remember meeting him, but he reintroduced himself to me at a Grawlix show and mentioned the podcast studio, and I was like, "Oh, yeah, I was gonna do this fuckin' pod. Looks like I've met the right people to get it done. Fuck, that was easy!" Carlos literally does everything else. He learned new code and a bunch of other stuff I don't even understand when he tells me about it. I make the pod, he makes it happen. It's a great partnership.
What are the advantages of recording at Mutiny?
Mutiny is everything I miss about Portland in one store. It's nerdy and dangerous. The central location is great to take advantage of when we don't record at my condo in Lakewood. Every time I walk in there, I smell the books and see the radical art and I'm like, "Oh, this is home."
What compelled you to leave Portland and move to Denver? How would you compare the local comedy scene to the one in your former home town?
I grew up in Portland and did comedy there for seven years. I had two successful shows I was producing, and was a paid regular at Helium Comedy Club, but I wasn't getting as much from the scene as I putting into it. There were some internal politics and outright bullying which was dividing people, and it was getting toxic. I wonder if it's because Portland is hyper-competitive about who's gonna be the next one to make it and move to L.A. I'm uncomfortable about competition. I think art and kindness matter more than cash and success. A real testament to the allure of Denver is how Adam Cayton-Holland could've moved to L.A. and made it, but he was like, "Fuck that, I can make it here at home."
So after a couple projects failed, things that I spent countless hours on, I was getting extremely depressed — like to a dangerous level — and had planned a trip out here just to refresh myself...and walked away knowing that this was gonna be my new home. For better or worse, Denver [comedy] doesn't have the same urge to call each other out for political incorrectness — which is great, because you can have a show like Thick Skin, which is designed to push buttons and leads to greater artistic freedom, but also can lead to some real dumbfuckery at open mics. I love Portland, and my friends from that scene are some of the funniest on the planet, but I just needed to do a radical change or else I would've turned to dust. I'm happier than I've ever been out here.
I know you recently recorded your first standup album. How did that come together, and when does the album come out?
I didn't know I had an hour until I did my going-away shows in Portland. I was like, "What if I did all of my jokes?" — and an hour later I had, and got standing ovations (because they were my going-away shows, not that I'm that brilliant), and I was like, "Well, fuck, now I have something new to work on." I'm the type of restless person where if I don't have something simmering, I feel like I'm wasting my life. So I moved out here in May, and by July was settled enough with my own place and a steady job where I could start planning new projects. I asked my friends who I should record with, and heard from several people it should be Dominic del Bene of Blonde Medicine records. He has a hand in producing SF Sketchfest, and knew of my work from repeated appearances there. He said yes with no hesitation.
Aside from going out every single night I could for the two months before we were set to record in Portland, I had two shows to run my hour through, and I walked away from them feeling pretty confident. The album was recorded at Kickstand Comedy Space in Portland, which was the same space I had tried standup for the first time in my life. The recordings went perfectly. The album is called Magpie, because when I knew I had to leave Portland, i got a tattoo of a magpie, which is a bird i became enamored by when I saw them out here. I got the tattoo as a promise to myself, like, "Hey, if you don't shake your life up, you'll see this tattoo on your arm forever and know that you seriously fucked up." The first one is in a position where it's taking off. I got the second one the same day I recorded my album, and it's in the landing position. The album-release party will be at SF Sketchfest in January, but I can't release any other details about it yet. I'm also plotting one in Portland, but nothing's been finalized yet.
Do you feel pressured to come up with a bunch of new material now?
Oh, God, yes. I am actually in the middle of a mild crisis about it. Not only am I trying to write new stuff for the sake of writing, I'm also torn about how my Portland-infused voice sounds in Denver. I never had to take conservative audience members into consideration in Portland. I do have politically neutral jokes. I have fifteen minutes that I could do in Colorado Springs, but I'd like to be able to write [jokes] that [are] so funny and so unique to my voice that I can be proud of them and they can work in any room AND get people riled up and excited — and so far all I have is five minutes about doing standup before an orgy in Portland. Don't think I'll get on TV with that one.
In light of all the animal-attack research you've done for the show, which species do you fear most?
The easy answer is humans, but to sincerely answer your question: Horses scare me. I think sharks are rad, and I'd be down to observe lions and tigers and bears in the wild, but even though I used to be a horse girl and drew them all the time and dreamed of one day having my own, when my dad actually got horses? You'd think I'd be the happiest girl in the world, but, man, those horses were dickheads. I got kicked, bitten, peed on, chased...fuck horses.
Have you managed to successfully roast someone into vegetarianism?
Ha ha, nope! Conceptually, I wanted to try and bully people and shame them, but I just don't get enough protein to be mean like that. In the moment, when I'm discussing vegetarianism with my omnivore guests, i enjoy them so much as my friends that I wouldn't want to say anything actually shitty. I did force Elliot Woolsey to try a Beyond Burger, which he reluctantly enjoyed, and I think that is how we are gonna successfully fight climate change — which is to not force people to give up their meat, but get them to enjoy the alternatives more frequently.
I just saved the planet. You're welcome.