While the surge in popularity of the Denver comedy scene can be mostly attributed to the catalogue of top class talent in the city, a lot of that talent wouldn't be reaching as wide an audience without Sexy Pizza's Kayvan Khalatbari.
The marijuana activist and Denver Relief MMJ dispensary founder has been utilizing the success of his ever-expanding restaurant chain, Sexy Pizza, to give a financial leg up to countless podcasts, shows and festivals in Denver's booming chuckle industry.
A few months ago, Khalatbari even started opening Sexy Pizza's doors as a literal home to his invite-only stand up show, Sexpot Comedy, which will soon find an additional home in a third Sexy Pizza location, slated to open January 1, 2014, in Jefferson Park.
"I'm really hoping to have another outlet for the Sexpot Comedy shows, which we hope will increase the buzz enough to allow us to support a larger venue for these events," Khalatbari says, adding that he's "still scouting locations" for a possible full-time comedy comedy club of his own.
"I really want this to be the final Sexy Pizza location to house Sexpot as it is now," he continues. "But for the moment I think it will be great to have two small venues on opposite sides of downtown to continue having these shows until the energy and interest is there to get into a larger venue, where I believe we can do some pretty amazing things -- especially with social use cannabis sales coming down the pipe."
Currently, Sexpot Comedy has been allowing marijuana to be freely smoked (though never served) in the restaurant while the comedy is being performed, giving the space a surreal DIY feel, while still looking like an average stop-and-go restaurant.
After pushing for marijuana legalization for years -- in 2006, he dressed up like a chicken and challenged then-Denver mayor John Hickenlooper to a debate and referred to him as "Chickenlooper" -- Khalatbari has continued the fight post-Amendment 64, arguing that pot smokers should be allowed to toke up in public places.
"We're telling countless people around the world they can come to Colorado and purchase cannabis legally, but we're not providing them with a place to consume legally," he argues. "The new regulations have banned clubs and cafes and most hotels aren't jumping on board any time soon. What we will be left with is thousands of people around the city and state consuming marijuana on the 16th Street Mall, in parks, in public in general.
"Now, do I personally have an issue with that? Hell no," he continues. "But it's going to create a nuisance for others, and consumption cafes will need to be presented as an option to finally treat cannabis as alcohol -- which is what Amendment 64 was really about. When that happens cannabis, comedy and pizza will make some magic."
In addition to sponsoring the Narrators, Whiskey & Cigarettes, These Things Matter, the Unicorn podcasts, the Too Much Funstival, Lucha Libre, Propaganda, Governor Jack, the High Plains, and Denver Improv festivals, Khalatbari plans "to add two new nonprofit groups to the list of Sexy beneficiaries," including the Colorado Youth Symphony Orchestra, and the Harm Reduction Action Center."
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For more comedy commentary, follow me on Twitter at @JosiahMHesse.