Ian Edwards on Tangerine, Conan and New Year's Eve at Comedy Works

Ian Edwards is a multi-talented comedian, writer and producer who currently resides in Los Angeles. A true citizen of the world, Edwards was born in England and grew up primarily in Jamaica. After getting his start on the writing staff of the Keenan Ivory Wayans Show in the late '90s, Edwards went on to contribute to the writers' rooms of shows like Chocolate News, The Boondocks and Blackish, and graduated to supervising producer of the Adult Swim spin-off of Black Dynamite. His bizarre weekly podcast, The Preposterous Sessions, features Edwards and co-host Zara Mizrahi conducting in-depth interviews with outré personalities. Despite appearing on Punk'D and in the film Dealin' With Idiots, Edwards has always kept standup in the foreground. His most recent album, 100% Half-Assed, has the rare distinction of being the inaugural release from Team Coco Records. Westword recently caught up with Edwards to discuss his album's benediction from Conan O'Brien, confusion over his role in the film Tangerine, and the expectations facing a performer on New Year's Eve — when he'll be headlining at Comedy Works.

Westword: What's it like to do standup on New Year's Eve? Are the crowds noticeably different from other nights?

Ian Edwards: New Year's is different because people go out hoping the night will be special. This could be a good or bad thing. I just handle shows the same. I go out to have fun. I've been doing standup long enough to know I'll do a good job if I relax. I'm always ready for anything on New Year's, though, because people are extra-excited and may have consumed extra alcohol.

What's your history with Comedy Works?

My history with the Denver Comedy Works starts this weekend, but I've been told only positive things about it by Joe Rogan and every comic I've mentioned it to. I'm definitely down to revel in the experience of playing the club, and I'm anticipating mad fun.

What was your goal when you started The Preposterous Sessions podcast? What do you do to try and stand out in an oversaturated podcast marketplace?

Zara and I wanted to do something shocking and funny that an audience had to guess was real. We had a crazy guest, with outlandish points of views and solid convictions. We had the hooker who gave all the money she made to charity. She fucked for God. We had a black teenager who figured he qualified for Make-A-Wish because he lived in the hood and his life expectancy was eighteen. To him, he was no different from a white kid in the hospital with cancer: They were both probably gonna die, so he wanted his wish. We interviewed a terrorist cell in America that had to constantly abort missions to commit acts of terror because some American would shoot up a school or job and outdo what they were going to do. It was a funny show that sometimes made valid political points in an insane way.

You had a role in the 2015 indie darling
Tangerine. What was it like to participate in a full-length feature shot partly on an iPhone?

I didn't know it was a feature at the time. They saw me perform at the Comedy Store and asked if I wanted to be a part of their next film. At the time, I was open to act and still am. I showed up and did my scenes in one day. I didn't know what it was for, or what the rest of it was about. I just knew I didn't want to look bad. Once you record yourself on film, it's there forever, so i committed 100 percent. I found out the name of the film months later when Sean called to tell me it might go to Sundance. That's also when I found out it was a feature. I didn't know what it was about, who else was in it, or how much of a genius Sean and his crew are till I saw it on the big screen in Utah. I'm glad I was accidentally a part of it and that I didn't embarrass myself.

Who were your early influences? Did you have a lot of access to American standup as a kid?

My early influences are [Richard] Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Bill Cosby. I learned three styles of comedy growing up — British, Jamaican and American — that influence the way I shape the mathematical comedy equations in my mind. When I first started standup, I felt limited and found it tough to relate to an American audience, but now I love it, because being raised different forced me to come up with an original way to relate.

Your album 100% Half-Assed was the inaugural release on Conan O'Brien's Team Coco label. When did your professional relationship begin, and how did it feel to be anointed by the current elder statesman of late night?

Every comic's dream is to do late-night spots on television, and it was mine, also. Conan late-night spots legitimized me as a comic more to the industry, other comics, audiences and to family members who were about to give up. Being the first to have an album on his label is dope, because they could have asked anyone and they asked me. I can't be mad at that.

You've written for a string of TV shows over the years, most recently — unless the Internet has misled me yet again — for The Carmichaels on NBC. What are the challenges of creating an entire season of television from scratch?

It's not a crazy challenge if you have show runners who know what they're doing, are committed and the network respects. The Carmichaels has those ingredients, so it was great. You are in astronomical trouble if you don't have those things. I've been there and it ain't pretty. It's not a good feeling waiting on television death row to get canceled.

Anything else you'd like to mention before we wrap up?

Everyone have a happy new year, and stop watching the news, because it's horseshit! Come see me perform and I'll explain. 

Ian Edwards is headlining at the downtown Comedy Works all weekend long. Showtime is 8 p.m. on Wednesday, December 30, with all-ages New Year's Eve shows  at 6, 8 and 10 p.m.. The club is closed on January 1, but Edwards will be be back for two more shows on January 2, at 7:30 and 9:45 p.m.  Ticket prices vary; go to the Comedy Works' website to find out more and buy tickets.

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Byron Graham is a writer, comedian and gentleman thief from Denver. Co-host of Designated Drunkard: A Comedy Drinking Game, the deathless Lion's Lair open mic and the Mutiny Book Club podcast, Byron also writes about comedy for Westword. He cannot abide cowardice, and he's never been defeated in an open duel.
Contact: Byron Graham