A 25-year stage veteran and recent Denver transplant, Mitch Fatel is christening his new home town with his third standup special — the first since 2009's Mitch Fatel Is Magical — which tapes over the September 6 to 8 weekend at Comedy Works South.
He's appeared on shows like Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Premium Blend and Comedy Central Presents, but Fatel is at his most undeniably electrifying in a live setting. Winner of the Best Comedian trophy at the 2006 Aspen Comedy Festival, Fatel is a welcome addition to an already thriving comedy scene.
Witness Fatel shooting his latest hour and have your laughter recorded for posterity at 7:15 and 9:45 p.m. on September 7 to 8, or take in a dry-run performance at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 6.
Westword caught up with Fatel via email to discuss his decision to make Colorado home, and the standup specials that inspired him to pick up the mic in the first place.
Westword: After growing up and starting your career in New York, you decided to relocate to Denver last year. What inspired that move?
Mitch Fatel: I'm running from a drug cartel. Sorry, just started watching season two of Ozark. The real truth is not that exciting, but it is kind of sweet. Fifteen years ago I was a super-successful comedian, and one week I happened to be performing in Denver. I was offered a last-minute one-nighter at a college in Golden, CO, and accepted. I rented a car and drove to the gig, never knowing that soon I would have a thought that would change my life. Driving to Golden, toward mountains that were leaving me breathless, I suddenly had a thought I had never had in my life. I thought, “I could live here one day.” It was almost jarring to have this thought, because I had been born in NYC and had never wanted to live anywhere else. It may sound overly romantic, but it called to me. I just felt “home” much more than I ever had in New York. Years later I met my wife, Jessica, and when we began to plan out our life and family, we both agreed we wouldn’t want to spend our lives in N.Y. “Have you ever wanted to live anywhere else?," she asked me. Next thing I know, I’m being asked, "After growing up and starting your career in New York, you decided to relocate to Denver last year. What inspired that move?"
What do you think makes Denver's comedy scene so appealing?
First, Wende Curtis, owner of Comedy Works. There are few clubs I’ve worked in my life where the owner is so invested in the clubs and the comedians. When an owner doesn’t just care about the bottom line but actually cares about the quality and art of comedy, it can’t help but thrive. In addition to this, I think that Denver has a nice mix of the grit of NY and the laid-back feel of Los Angeles. This mix brings both a sarcasm and cynicism needed for good comedy but also a sense of camaraderie that makes it an incredibly supportive scene. I knew the comics here were funny, but I was shocked by the sense of support and almost family-like attachments that comics had for each other. I can tell you N.Y. or L.A. don’t have anything even close.
Do you have a title for the new hour yet?
Yes, I’m calling it “I’m very funny.” No one I’ve met yet likes that title, for the record, but it’s important to me.
What's the significance of the name?
Funny you should ask. When I was thirteen years old, I saw my first standup comedy show. I remember seeing the comedian come out and do the usual hack opening, asking everyone how they were doing, having married people clap their hands, all that same old shit. At thirteen I had already seen this 500 times, and I actually got upset, thinking that this comedian was wasting this valuable opportunity to be different and unique. I thought to myself, “How funny would it be if a comedian just came out and instead of asking how everyone was doing just simply said, "Hi, I’m very funny." Years later, when I started doing standup, I did exactly that and have never stopped. This special is my ode to that young boy who watched that show and gave me this idea that I’ve used throughout my career.
Do you know which media outlet is going to air the special?
The one that has the most money! Honestly, that’s a lie. I mean, I like money and would probably sell to the highest bidder, but the reason I decided to produce my own special this time was to keep creative control. My last special sucked butt, and I think it was because I lost creative control and then lost myself. For this special I spoke it over with a bunch of smart people who told me it’s a great time for comedy because there are so many outlets and they all need content. The writing seemed on the wall to me, and so after it’s done, we’ll see if hopefully there’s the interest we expect and if that doesn’t work I’ll release it on my own and if that doesn’t work, I’ll sell heroin for Marty Byrd (sorry, Ozark, again).
What are some of the themes and topics you address in this current hour?
I have a whole new life. My special is basically about my sexy, crazy, dirty, brilliant wife. I never thought I’d be married, and if I got married I never thought it would be to an incredibly smart ex-stripper. If that doesn’t give you a new hour, nothing will. I’ve been with her nine years now. After my last special, which was eight years ago and, as I may have mentioned, sucked butt, I made the oath to myself to never again rush a special. I put in eight years to write and polish this new act so it wouldn’t be just a rehash of a lot of old crap, which is what too many comics have been doing lately. About a year ago I was on stage, killing (thank you very much), and a thought came to me: “It’s ready.”
Which prominent specials throughout history have been the most influential on your own comedy?
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The three specials that immediately come to mind — not in any particular order — are Rodney Dangerfield's Ninth Annual Young Comedians Special with Sam Kinison, Eddie Murphy’s Delirious and Steve Martin's 1979 comedy special. All of these were different, shocking and innovative, but above all, funny as shit.
Do you have any other projects coming up on the horizon or anything else you want to mention before we wrap up the interview?
After the special wraps up, I’m going to focus on two other passions. One is my new show I’ve been doing called Mitch Fatel’s Naughty and Nice Showcase, which showcases the best clean and dirty jokes of Colorado comedians. The next one I do will be Sunday, October 7, at Comedy Works Downtown. I’m going to make a pilot of it and try to sell it. I’m also starting something called a podcast. I don’t think your readers have heard of this “podcast” thing, but believe me, I think it’s going to be big. The only problem is not enough people will be doing them. My podcast is called “PUNCH-lines,” and the first episode will be released on October 1. It’s a psychological podcast about the similarities between MMA fighters and comedians, and I promise you it will change the world. Actually it won’t change anything, but it may be fun to listen to when you’re getting your cavities filled.
Mitch Fatel headlines Comedy Works South from September 6 to 8; visit the Comedy Works box-office page to buy tickets, $16 to $24, and learn more.