No question, 2012 was the year of the comedian in Denver. A lifelong fan of standup, I've had the pleasure of reporting on some amazing shows this year -- and I'm sharing some of the high points here.
Still, I'm sure there's a vast ocean of talent that slipped past me in 2012; feel free to remind me what I might have missed -- and what to watch out for next year -- in the comments section.
See also: Eleven memorable lines from the Laugh Track Comedy Festival Andrew Orvedahl and Adam Cayton-Holland to record comedy albums at the Bug Theatre Too Much Funstival comedians on how the Denver scene has changed
5) The return of Bobby Valentino and the Mexican Fuck Machine
After local Colfax comedian/golem Greg Baumhauer resurrected his Bobby Valentino character for a few weeks, I caught the alter-ego perform his sinister lounge act one night at Deer Pile. Hosting a variety of local comic talent, Valentino repeatedly introduced a shy, good-natured man who remained at his side, seated at a piano: "Let's hear it one more time for the Mexican Fuck Machine, ladies and gentleman." Not only was the man not Mexican, but it was never entirely clear if he was in on the joke: He'd just nod and smile awkwardly, then noodle the piano a bit. The confusion felt by the audience led to a perfect kind of comic tension, winding everyone up before the next comic came on to set them loose. Not only is Baumhauer/Valentino a well-seasoned host, but he killed toward the end of the night when pointing to Rawlitix host Onus Spears and said, "Ladies and gentleman, the ghost of Ben Kronberg's future."
4) Ben Roy encourages marriage abandonment
After the crowd sat through some almost chuckle-worthy comics that were the furniture that came with the show at Comedy Works South, Ben Roy murdered with a just-off-the-road performance fit for a comedy special. After hitting hard with some material on snobby bicyclists, regrettable tattoos and blockading his family indoors during his black-out drinking days, Roy briefly lightened the mood by explaining how wonderful his eleven-year marriage now is, replete with blow jobs and mutual understanding about baseball.
Then he turned on the audience with this: "If you're miserable with the people you're living with, why the fuck are you with them? ... You're all laughing in here, but statistically, there's a lot of you in here that are miserable. Now we get to play my favorite game: Look and guess! You know who you are, you can smile through this, but you know. You're sitting under these flickering lights and you're just praying for a stroke."
After letting the tension marinate for a while, pointing out a few likely candidates in the crowd, Ben Roy encouraged these poor souls to "go home, grab that bag that's in the top of your closet, pull it down, stuff everything you own into it and FUCKING LEAVE! LEAVE! RUN! YOUR LIVES ARE ALMOST OVER! BE FUCKING HAPPY!"
Thankfully, this and other bits of dark awkwardness were released this year on Ben Roy's standup album, I Got Demons.
3) Adam Cayton-Holland stalks bird-watchers at the Bug
When former Westword scribe Adam Cayton-Holland recorded his as-yet-unreleased album at the Bug earlier this month, he treated the audience to a reading of a tense e-mail exchange he'd had with the Museum of Natural History in New York. After he'd pressed them to be allowed behind the scenes in order to see their display of the rare ivory-billed woodpecker, they responded with increasingly terse formal letters explaining that only members of the museum are allowed to see the bird.
"Why don't you just let me see the ivory-billed woodpecker?" Cayton-Holland demanded. "Is this because I'm Jewish? And if that's the case, how did you figure out I was Jewish? My last name doesn't sound Jewish. Is it because my giant Jew nose kept accidentally typing money signs or something in this e-mail?... You're a racist, hoarding dickhead."
By this point, the museum had stopped returning Cayton-Holland's e-mails, but he pressed on, undiscouraged. Now writing as "Adam's sister," one message explained that her brother was heavily medicated and terminally ill, and the possibility of seeing the bird was the only thing that raised his spirits and kept him holding on.
When no response was received, Cayton-Holland fired off this final message: "Hey, Tom, forget Adam's request, we found him hanging in the basement this morning. In place of a suicide note, he had just drawn a picture of an ivory-billed woodpecker. Just thought you'd like to know."
2) A very serious debate of showers vs. baths at Vine St. Pub
During the second anniversary of Kevin O'Brien's monthly comedy debate night, Arguments and Grievances, Chris Charpentier attempted to oust Elliot Woolsey on why showers are the civilized man's sex chamber. Ultimately, Woolsey won the night with the Nazi card.
While this was probably the most arbitrary topic of the evening, it aroused the most spirited debate. With Woolsey making a case for soaking in a warm tub, Charpentier maintained that baths are just a process of marinating in your own filth, insisting that showers are ultimately sexier and more civilized:
Chris Charpentier: You ever try and masturbate in the shower? It's fun, it's easy, it's why we shower. You ever try and masturbate in the bathtub, dudes? It's loud, it's messy, it's nowhere near clean. I don't want to be gross, but it just sits on top! Whereas sex in a shower is great, you wash your arms with their arms, you wash torso with torso. You ever take a bath with someone? You're both in very unflattering positions the whole time, and there's a 100 percent chance that someone's toe is going up someone's butthole. You ready for that step in the relationship? You should have just taken a shower.
Elliott Woolsey: Sex in the shower is terrible. With the water cascading down her body, you ever try going down on your girlfriend in the shower? It's like being water-boarded, don't do it.... Terrible things happen in showers. I know it's uncomfortable, but you guys, how are we going to talk about showers without bringing up the Holocaust? They weren't sent to the baths. Baths were for Romans, who were having a great fucking time until showers came along and killed six million people. I don't know why Chris [Charpentier] hates Jews, but a vote for showers is a vote for Hitler.
Winner: Elliot Woolsey
1) Sam Tallent's sexual frustration involving cats
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Next year will be a good one for comedy albums. Last fall I caught a few top-shelf standup shows that are set to be released on record (read: actual vinyl) sometime next spring. One particular event that stands out was last Halloween, when all four members of the Fine Gentleman's Club descended on the Comedy Works to record their album for Hot Congress Records. After Sam Tallent explained how he accidentally became the face of an anti-rape whistle campaign, he segued into a rant about women's contradictory positions toward men and cats. "If I'd known that women wanted emotionally distant loners that crap in the box in the corner, I never would've changed a thing about myself. . . . Why is it that when cats poop in a box full of sand, the ladies go crazy, but when I poop in a box full of sand, I have to leave the park? It's the cats that should be kicked out -- my taxes pay for that park."