Comedy shows come and go all the time, often whimpering out of existence after a few ignominious months of effort. So when a show reaches its second anniversary, it's truly something to celebrate. At Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret on Sunday, July 27, comedy fans can toast the longevity of Propaganda!, named Best Comedy Night in the Best of Denver 2014. Propaganda! excels thanks to host/producer Matt Monroe's savvy booking, which puts a roster of enviable headliners in Lannie's classy setting month after month -- for free. The lineup Sunday features out-of-towners Raj Silverman and Brandie Posey along with local favorites Chris Charpentier, Adrian Mesa, Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald and headliner Adam Cayton-Holland. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the free showcase. In celebration this milestone, Westword caught up with Monroe to talk about the highlights of the past two years and how his commitment to Propaganda! would surprise his exes.
Westword: What's the Propaganda! origin story?
Matt Monroe: Prior to Propaganda!,I had run a short-lived open-mic/showcase at The Hornet. It was called "Keep Calm" and the catch was that it was catered towards really short jokes/sets. Set times were only three minutes long, and the focus was for everyone to write and bring shorter material. It was an idea I had: to give the scene something different from the regular open mics. On a more selfish basis, it also forced me to write shorter material, as I had found myself writing really wordy jokes that I wasn't good enough to pull off in my first year of standup. The crowd would vote on three winners, who would perform the following week doing regular feature sets along with a headliner I booked to fill out the show. It was kind of a bummer that the Hornet decided to stop doing it after a few months, as everyone including me really seemed to enjoy the format. Shortly after that show had run its course, I went out to L.A. to do some shows and was sort of blown away by the caliber of independently run shows that I got to perform on. It inspired me when I got back to find a venue and do something similar to those shows, as well as Too Much Fun! and The Grawlix.
Why the name Propaganda!?
Honestly, I've just always liked the word. I felt like it fit in terms of standup because that's essentially what standup is. It's someone with a biased point of view, trying to convince you that they are right about something -- usually their own butt.
How has Lannie's been as a venue? How did you get started with them
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Lannie's has been absolutely incredible. I honestly couldn't ask for a better venue, staff, and management to work with. When I approached them with this idea, they were initially very hesitant. They had tried a few iterations of a stand-up comedy show over the years that had failed for various reasons, so I had to make it incredibly appealing for them to give it a chance. I had to offer to be their tech person and stage manager in addition to the host, producer and marketing person. Basically, I had to make them an offer they couldn't refuse. They agreed and gave me a three-month test run, and it's worked out thus far.
Who are some highlights that stand out from past lineups?
We've been really fortunate to have a lot of incredible out-of-town guests. To name a few: Sean Patton, Kyle Kinane, Rory Scovel, Beth Stelling, Kate Berlant, Ron Funches, Ian Karmel, John Roy. Not to mention all the Denver folks who make the shows so robust. Troy Walker, Kristin Rand, The Grawlix, The Fine Gents, Steve McGrew, Elliot Woolsey, Adrian Mesa, Brad Galli, Brian Hocker, Jordan Doll, etc. Honestly, there are too many to name in two years, but I can say that of the 23 shows we've done, I'm proud of all 23.
How are you able to book guests like Ron Funches, Kyle Kinane and Sean Patton month after month?
I'm very lucky that I get to work closely with The Grawlix. Their show is the last Friday of every month, and Propaganda! is the last Sunday. That allows the guests they bring in to stay a couple extra days in town and get to do some other great shows as well. Denver is unique in that it affords touring comics the resources to come to town and do a variety of independent shows in a three-to-five day period and make some money while doing it.
What are you excited about for the second-year anniversary show?
I had a piece of art commissioned that will be the new backdrop of the stage that I'm particularly excited to unveil, but mostly I'm just excited that I've committed to something for two years. Most of my ex-girlfriends would be surprised.
Anything else you want to mention before we wrap up?
I really just want to say thanks to everyone who has helped make it possible. First and foremost, Lannie Garrett for taking the chance. Kayvan Khalatbari and Sexy Pizza for their unwavering support. Brad Galli for filling in for me when I'm out of town. The Grawlix guys and the Fine Gents for assisting with bookings. I want to thank every comic that has performed, and Denver for being so supportive of comedy and the arts in general. I'm constantly amazed that there are so many great shows around town, and there always seems to be a smart and hip audience to watch. We're spoiled.
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Follow Byron Graham on twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words.