Kevin Fitzgerald Performs at Denver Comedy Works for St. Paddy's Day | Westword

Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald Blends Humor and Heritage at Comedy Works for St. Paddy's Day

From comedian to veterinarian to conservationist, what can't this contemporary renaissance man do?
Feel the luck of the Irish at Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald's March 17 Comedy Works headliner.
Feel the luck of the Irish at Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald's March 17 Comedy Works headliner. Courtesy of Crystal Allen
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"The Irish are storytellers," says Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald.

And the seasoned comedian and veterinarian is ready to share many raucous stories of his own during his St. Patrick's Day show at Comedy Works, where he'll bring a heavy dose of Irish cheer for a holiday celebration that he promises will be jam-packed with "jokes reflecting Irish-ness and our rhythm."

Known for his appearances on Animal Planet’s popular Emergency Vets and E-Vet Interns, Fitzgerald, who grew up in Denver during the 1950s, says that comedy and storytelling are practically in his Irish Catholic family's DNA.

"In our family, you work your way up to the big table at Thanksgiving," he recalls, but if you couldn't tell a good story, "you could be 27 and working on your Ph.D. but be sitting at the kids' table."

"We all wanted to move to the big table because that’s where the stories are. In my family, you must be able to tell a story; that was a necessary skill. The worst thing my father could say was, ‘Man, that guy couldn’t tell a joke,’" he adds. "I tried to get closer to the table and hear what they were talking about. As I got older, the stories got a little wilder and funnier, and they would change over time to become a little bit more heroic."

Such animated family gatherings paved Fitzgerald's path toward entertainment, but his comedic style has likewise been shaped by the landscapes of Denver. While he's lived in other places, "I've always found my way back to Denver," he says, and that's because he's a "Colorado guy" through and through.

Fitz began his career in comedy by performing at Comedy Works' open mics in August 1986, and says his current approach to standup still incorporates many of the best practices he learned in those early sets. "At the Comedy Works, [then-owner] George McKelvey's comedy club, they only give you three minutes, so you wanted to get as many jokes in as you can," he recalls. "My comedy is still kind of a reflection of my open-mic style, where you're trying to jam in as many jokes as you can. It's like feeding baby birds: ‘Open up. Here's another!’ The main thing is that it should be fun and it should be in the moment. It's been fun for me, and I've done it for a long time."

He's grateful that while he was getting started in standup, he didn't have to depend on it for income. "My veterinary profession has been a gift — and also gives me a lot of great material and jokes," he says. "Not all my jokes are about [being a veterinarian], but I do have some good bits about it."
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Fitzgerald has worked at VCA Alameda East Veterinary Hospital for 41 years.
Courtesy of Comedy Works
Beyond the stage, he is a revered veterinarian who's worked at VCA Alameda East Veterinary Hospital for 41 years. His contributions to veterinary medicine extend internationally; he's lectured on topics ranging from toxicology to the care of exotic species, and his written work includes more than 150 scientific articles and numerous textbook chapters.

Fitzgerald's road to veterinarian school was not a straight one, however. After attending the University of Colorado Boulder on a swimming scholarship, he applied to veterinary school but was rejected. He'd been working as a bouncer on rock band tours for legendary promoters Barry Fey and Bill Graham in his undergrad years, so he began doing more security for such acts as Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, the Who, Parliament-Funkadelic and the Rolling Stones.

While continuing to work in security during the summers, he returned to CU to complete his master's and Ph.D. in comparative endocrinology, which he did in 1978. He received his veterinary degree from Colorado State University in 1983 and has worked at VCA Alameda ever since. In his spare time, he's also on the board of the Denver Zoo and has a local rattlesnake study he's been working on for 25 years.

Fitzgerald's latest endeavor has been his forthcoming book, It Started With a Turtle, which explores his diverse experiences in five acts. From his early days in Denver to his bouncer stories to his significant contributions to veterinary medicine, comedy and conservation, "the book is basically my Forrest Gump Colorado story," he says.

As Fitzgerald reflects on his career and the state of the world today, he offers a sobering yet hopeful perspective. "I'm old, and I’ve never seen this country more divided or polarized," he says. "It’s so mean-spirited and almost tribal. In these horrible times, we just have to make sure that nobody's scared and that we can be kind to each other.

"It's a long race. I tell kids that you don't know where you’ll end up, but if you stay true to yourself and never stop writing, you’ll get there," he continues. "Just keep trying different stuff and never stop. It's like I joke to the audience: 'I'm 72; that means in six or seven years I'll finally be old enough to run for president.'"

On St. Patrick's Day, Comedy Works Downtown will showcase more of Fitzgerald's signature zingers in full force, along with special guests including the Mike Highlanders, a pipe and drum group; Celtic Steps, an Irish dance troupe; and comedians Zac Maas, Brandt Tobler and Chris Voth, for an evening filled with laughter, a touch of green and bagpipes.

"I will riff on St. Patrick's Day," Fitzgerald teases, "saying things like, 'Black people get a month, sharks get a week, but what about the Irish? We only have one day!' This St. Paddy's Day is going to be a great show on my favorite stage in Denver."

Kevin Fitzgerald, 7 p.m. Sunday, March 17, Comedy Works Downtown, 1226 15th Street. Get tickets at
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