Stephen Agyei, who developed his comedy in Denver, considers it his civic duty to tell jokes about the booty. Sneaking sharp cultural insight into silly bits about public breastfeeding and the foibles of his African family, Agyei numbers among the brilliant locals who've moved to Los Angeles to parlay their comedic skills into a showbiz career.
As he prepares to record his first standup comedy album, Agyei is returning to the city that raised him. Join the crowd — and have your laugh recorded for posterity — when a perennial favorite of the Mile High comedy scene attempts to lay his hard-earned hour down on wax in a single take.
Westword caught up with Agyei via email ahead of his big debut to discuss getting ready for the album, the relative merits of Los Angeles, and his roles on the upcoming season of BoJack Horseman.
Westword: What inspired you to record your first album now, and what are your plans for releasing it?
I just think it's the right time. That's what inspired me, honestly. I've always wanted to do it after seeing people like the Grawlix record their albums. And now it just feels like it's time. I started writing more material, and it doesn't exactly fit the old hour, so I figured I should record it and move forward. There's some material that'll be on the album that's transitional between the old hour and the new, which I like.
What have you been doing to prepare? Have you been able to run through the hour a few times?
I've been doing variations of this hour for a while, so preparation hasn't been too difficult. More of revisiting some jokes and deciding whether or not I want them on the album, but the meat of it has been there for some time. I'm running it in Hawaii tonight and a couple times in Denver before Saturday for any final touches.
What qualities make the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse an ideal setting to record your album?
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The thing that I like about Voodoo is how intimate it is. It's a smaller venue, and I wanted to experiment with it, because I don't think anyone has yet, recording-wise, and I like the feel of it. I love my home club Comedy Works, but Voodoo is just different. There's something untapped there, and I want to try it out.
Unlike a lot of albums and specials, this one will be recorded in a single take. What are the additional pressures of performing without the possibility of a do-over?
Pressure is if I blow it, then I get to walk right outside into traffic — kidding! There could be pressure of messing up, but I don't think of it like that. I'm walking into it like any other show, and my goal is to make it special for those people on that night. If I do that, everything else will take care of itself. And sometimes mistakes are good. Nothing will ever be as perfect as we want it to be, so I just want to create and let it be.
You live in Los Angeles now, but like a lot of Colorado comics, you come home all the time. Why do you think the scene here remains such a lifeline for comics who move away?
Probably because of the amount of stage time, and the culture of the scene. Sometimes you get so run down doing all of the other things the industry demands that you forget to just have fun, which is why we started doing comedy in the first place. Denver is a place that reminds you that comedy is fun, and so it acts like a recharging station for us.
Be honest: Which city do you prefer?
New York. Seriously, if I get an opportunity good enough, I'll be there, for sure. I love the stage time in Denver, but I've learned so much in L.A. and gotten a lot of opportunity just being there. Denver is home, but L.A. might take the cake.
Do you feel compelled to begin working on another hour now that you've captured this one for posterity?
I actually started working on a new hour naturally, and I started noticing the new material is a little different than what I'm going to record. So I wouldn't say I was compelled, but, yeah, I'm working on it.
Do you have any other big projects or shows to plug coming up on the horizon?
I'm working on a few things. I wrote a short film that we're looking to produce, which is really fun. I also got the opportunity to do some voiceover on season six of Bojack Horseman, so that's cool.
How did that come together, and what role are you playing?
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It's three different roles in one episode. Randomly, the casting director saw me at a show and talked to me after my set. A couple months later, I woke up to an email from her giving me three roles. That's the most "Hollywood" thing that's ever happened to me. Unless I cut out, then that will be the most Hollywood thing that's happened to me.
Okay, finally, do you have a name for the album planned?
Yes. It's Poppycock.