Strippers and standup comedians have more in common than it would seem at first blush. Both performers take to the stage -- usually alone -- trying to evoke a reaction from an audience full of creeps they'd avoid in other circumstances. Bridging the gap between these two disparate art forms -- in much the same way that cocaine did in the '80s -- is a comedian and host of "Ball Bustin' Bingo."
Less of a Drag Queen than a Drag Empress, Mona Lott seized upon the idea of having comedians and strippers share the stage in "a game of strip poker that uses jokes instead of cards." The show, called "Stripped Down Standup" has been packing the house with crowds of over 200. The next one takes place Wednesday, December 3 at the Denver Improv. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $7.50 on the Denver Improv website.
Turn the page to hear more from Mona.
Westword: Where did you get the idea for stripped down standup?
Mona Lott: Well I had been doing my Drag Queen Bingo Show, "Ball Bustin' Bingo" for some time and I have the audience come up to play games in the show, like "strip bingo". So I had been thinking about how to make a stand up comedy show into a game and sitting at work one day the idea just hit me. I called my partner and he says, "Brilliant. If you tell anyone, I'll kill you in your sleep!" He was so worried that someone would steal the idea from me.
When did you move over to the Denver Improv? How have the shows there gone so far?
Well we did the first two at The VooDoo Comedy Playhouse but then there was a scheduling mishap and my show got bumped, so I submitted to The Denver Improv and they booked the show right away. In fact they booked it for the same night that I had already promoted at VooDoo so I didn't have to rebook any of the comics or strippers we just changed the venue. The first show had over 200 people and Amy and her crew there are amazing!! She has been so supportive and the crew there is so professional and easy to work with.
Have the venues given you any trouble or have they mostly been receptive so far?
No, the venues have all been very receptive. Everyone loves the basic premise of the show.
So the format of the show dictates that standups have to strip if their joke bombs and the strippers have to remove an article of clothing for each joke that hits. Have the audiences ever stifled or faked laughter for more prurient than sincere reasons?
Of course and that's part of the fun. I even tell the audience in the beginning that they can control the show by laughing or not. It really gives the show an interactive vibe and lets the audience be more than just spectators. But the comics are all so funny that the audience is usually laughing. Of course when I book hotties like Jill Tasei or Abby Alt or Heather Snow, there are definitely audience members rooting for the comic to bomb!
What have you heard from the comedians and strippers who've performed on the show?
Everybody who has done this show has commented to me about how much fun it is. One comic told me it was the most fun she had ever had on stage. It's also very challenging for the comics, it can throw your timing off and really forces you to be in the moment and to react to whatever is happening at any time. Several of the comics have told me that they love being stretched that way.
What's your role in the show as host? Do you go in for the strip-joker challenge like the other comics?
I did compete against a stripper on the very first show. Dylan Rush, a former Chippendale, lost his clothes against me. But it seems to work better for me to not actually compete but to just host. So I open the show and then I'm working the audience during each comics set and calling for who has to strip after each joke. Sometimes I give the comic a win even when the audience doesn't laugh, just because I like the joke, but like I tell them, this is my show I can do what I want!!
Do you have anything else coming up on the horizon that you'd like to promote?
I'm actually working with a pretty well known comic on the East Coast. He has a morning show on I heart radio and together we are hoping to take the show to Vegas and out on some cruise ships. He has a "Lott" of connections that I couldn't even dream of at this point and I'm excited to see just how big this show can get.
Follow Byron Graham on twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.