| Comedy |

Daniel Reskin on Space Owl Alliance, High Plains and Casa de Haha

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Daniel Reskin, a transplant from Miami, relocated to Denver with little but solid material and a few connections; he quickly ingratiated himself with the local performance scene. (An underacknowledged benefit of new residents is that they find opportunity where locals see only wreckage.) Space Owl Alliance, Reskin's new comedy/music hybrid showcase, is a massive undertaking, combining seven bands and sixteen comedians with food, crafts and live art installations — and it's coming to Capitol Hill this weekend.

While longtime Denver residents know that the original hippie-fied Quixote's True Blue welcomed the local standup community, there hadn't been a regular joke show at 314 East 13th Avenue since the venue became Bender's Tavern. After a tie-dyed makeover that turned it into the latest in a string of Quixote's locations, it's still more likely to host jam bands than standup these days. But the clever layout and stiff drinks create one of the very few environments in the city where comedy and music performances can peacefully coexist — and a perfect spot for Space Owl.

Westword recently caught up with Reskin to discuss his upcoming Space Owl showcase, his Denver Open Media talk show Casa de Haha, and the High Plains Comedy Festival

Westword: You started out doing standup in Miami. How did you first become aware of Denver, and how would you compare the two scenes?

Daniel Reskin: I heard whispers of Denver's greatness from another Miami comedian who moved here, Adrian Mesa. I visited him during the first High Plains Comedy Festival in 2013 and was floored by a comedy scene both creative and professional, warm and industrious. I'd been doing comedy for seven years at that point, and the constant conversation was New York or Los Angeles: Both are great, both are terrible, both are smothered in humans. I chose Denver, like a reverse LeBron that nobody cared about.

Miami's art scene is next-level, but it's not a comedy town. The quality rises and crashes like our waves. I still think about why, and the short answer is that talent has no incentive to stay. Nothing is built, castles are washed away. I appreciate starting out there; I met lifelong friends and had much-needed room to grow and experiment. But, damn, Denver is on another level. 

What is the Space Owl Alliance? What's in store for those who attend?

A one-evening music and comedy festival, 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., long enough for a tidy mushroom trip – that's convenience! Live art, crafts and food. The driving force behind the night is my favorite Miami band, Telekinetic Walrus. They are genre-defying intergalactic hip-hop with an unreal live show. They handled the music, I booked the comedy. I'm hosting four full comedy shows every hour from 9 p.m. to midnight. Headliners are Jordan Wieleba, Janae Burris, Adrian Mesa and Brent Gill, with twelve other local heroes.

Do you think there's a certain alchemy required to make a comedy/music hybrid show work? In my experience, unless the show-runners consult with a comedian, most of them are well-intentioned disasters.

You're being kind. Some true shitshows have come from people shoving a comedian before a band. (Are you ready to CONSIDER?!) Music and comedy are NOT chocolate and peanut butter. It's more like chocolate and chipotle peppers. The right balance can be delicious and unique, but there are a lot of ways it can go wrong. Quixote's is a great multi-room venue, so comedy will have its own place to flourish while music plays just far enough away.

How about Casa de Haha? Can you describe what that is to our uninitiated readers?

Casa de Haha is a new comedy talk show on Denver public access. It's the evolution of my first show of the same name, a standup showcase in Miami that ran for over seven years. It became a podcast while I tinkered with what makes a quality show, playing with theme nights like characters, fake talent shows and pets on stage. I did two late-night-style specials but never had the support or resources to do something regular. Until...

How did your partnership with Denver Open Media begin? What are your impressions after working there?

I was booked for their First Friday show — a monthly showcase that manages to balance music and comedy nicely — and won a raffle for a basic membership. I started taking classes and learned how to push all the fancy buttons that make TV. Now I have access to their studios, equipment and community staff to create and experiment more.

If the first Space Owl goes well, is it possible that it will be a recurring showcase?

Most definitely. And probably if it's a sparkling failure, too. Telekinetic Walrus love Colorado, and I'm whispering to them to think about staying for a while, as they're a great fit here.

Do you have any shows coming up in the next two to three weeks that you want to plug here?

I like to think of Space Owl as a festival warm-up for the High Plains Comedy Festival in two weeks. High Plains was my first taste of Denver, and I'm proud to be a part of it this year.

The Space Owl Alliance show runs from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, August 13, at Quixote's True Blue, 314 East 13th Avenue.  Pre-sale tickets cost $7 plus fees from Brown Paper Tickets. (In the interest of full disclosure, Reskin asked me to perform on the showcase after we finished this Q&A.)

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