Andrew Orvedahl: 2012 MasterMind award winner

Andrew Orvedahl doesn't worry much about what he wears on stage.

"I usually just try to make sure my clothes are clean," says the Denver-area comedian and performer. With a two-year-old at home, that's not always easy, so as long as he can find something stain-free — and a clean pair of sneakers — Orvedahl is good.

"Comedy is an undervalued art, in my opinion," he says. "A lot of people assume that comics just walk up to the mike and start bullshitting." But coming up with jokes that are successful and well-timed "takes a lot of work and a lot of practice," he explains. "It's just like slam poetry or acting, but most people don't think of it that way."

Orvedahl, a graduate of Heritage High School, has been making people laugh for nearly a decade, working stages all over Denver and across the country. He spent two years in Los Angeles but decided to return to Denver two and a half years ago with his wife and infant daughter. "It's so much easier to live in Denver with a little baby," he says. And to build a following — not just for his standup act (Orvedahl's home club is the Comedy Works downtown), but also for other spoken-word performances.

When he was in L.A., Orvedahl worked on ways to share longer stories on stage rather than just jokes. "I like a good story, hearing one, telling one. But there were some I couldn't tell in my standup act because they were too long or not funny enough," he recalls. So he began to host a series of live storytelling nights. In 2010, he brought the show, called "The Narrators," home to Denver, where it now runs monthly at Paris Wine Bar and typically includes writers, comedians, musicians and other creative types telling true tales based around a particular theme. "I like doing standup, going for the jokes. But it's also nice to tell a good story and not worry about whether it is funny or not," he explains.

Still, making people laugh remains his biggest goal, and Orvedahl is involved in a couple of other projects that do just that. One of those, the Grawlix, is a live comedy show and online series that he does with longtime cohorts Ben Roy and Adam Cayton-Holland. The three comics spent last weekend in Los Angeles pitching the show to cable networks, hoping to land a regular series that they could make in Denver. The funnymen also plan to take the show on the road — to Seattle, Portland, New York and L.A. — this year.

But keeping Denver as a home base is important. "Without sounding braggy, Denver is known for having one of the best comedy scenes outside New York, Chicago and L.A.," Overdahl says. "We have a lot of great clubs for a city of our size." As the comedy scene has exploded over the past four years, he says he's been lucky to grow with it — to the point that he can almost make a living from it. Almost. "It's my main source of income, and I'd say I make a part-time living off it," he says. "It's feast or famine."

But he plans to press on, feeding the scene and helping it grow. "I started doing standup comedy because my roommate then, Ravi Zupa (another Westword MasterMind), kept badgering me to try it. But like most people, I didn't like public speaking, so I put it off," he says. "But after I tried it, it was really addicting."

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes