With Joke Life, a documentary film chronicling the career trajectories of three generations of Denver comics, producer/ director Ben Overzet hopes to draw attention to this city's exploding comedy scene, celebrate three of the scene's most original voices, and document the every-day struggles of people trying to eke out a living by performing stand-up.
Overzet, a local filmmaker and self-described comedy nerd who produces Too Much Funcast, a weekly podcast from the Fine Gentleman's Club, has set up a Kickstarter fundraiser to complete his documentary project. We recently talked with Overzet about comedy fandom, his goals for Joke Life's Kickstarter campaign, and where he hopes to take his movie.
See also: - Everybody Loves Ben Roy: Denver comics weigh in on their longtime colleague - Five choice moments from Denver's standup comedy scene in 2012 - Sam Tallent talks about his comedy mixtape Joke Life, and his Fine Gentleman's Club
Westword: What made you decide that you wanted to make a documentary about the Denver comedy scene?
Ben Overzet: I've always been a real comedy nerd, but didn't think there was much of scene in Denver until I started working door staff at the Comedy Works downtown. I started to hear names like Ben Roy and Sam Tallent and began to realize that between the success of The Grawlix and a new weekly show at the Rockaway called "Too Much Fun," an "alt" comedy scene was expanding in Denver. Turnouts were increasing and people were starting to get really excited about what the Denver scene had to offer. Or at least I was.
Why did you focus on these three particular comedians -- Troy Baxley, Ben Roy and Sam Tallent -- and what do you think they represent about Denver comedy? Each of these guys has such a strong impact on the Denver scene. Without them, the scene wouldn't be what it is. They also make great characters on screen. They're genuine, and have all experienced similar issues being comedians in what is already a very difficult industry. At first I was only shooting with Ben and Sam, but after most interviews I had done, I started to hear Troy Baxley's name mentioned more and more amongst comics, and it was inevitable that he should/would become a part of this. I also thought it would be interesting to showcase the difference between three different generations/classes of comics with the age differences of Sam, Ben, and Troy.
How long have you been shooting? Our first night of shooting was at the Grawlix's one-year anniversary show in January of 2012. What are your goals for the Kickstarter campaign, and how do you plan to use the funds? The Kickstarter is needed to finish shooting the rest of the film, as well as all the post-production, festival submission and distribution costs. I would love to fly to Maine with Ben and give the viewers a feel for what it's like when he comes home and audiences flock to his sold-out shows to see him perform. That's just one of the many things we would be able to capture on camera if we had the resources to do so.
What are your plans for screening and/ or releasing this movie? We're going to try to hit the festival circuit with this first and see how that works out. Ideally, we'd also love to have it up on Netflix and Itunes in the near future.
What has been the highlight of shooting so far? The biggest highlight of shooting so far was going to New York with Sam and shooting with him for his appearance on The Chris Gethard show. Like I said before, I'm a huge comedy nerd, and getting to meet Chris Gethard -- a comedy hero of mine -- and to see Sam get to be a panelist on that show, was a real treat. Not to mention, we got to hang out with people like Scott Sharp, Brett Heicher and Ben Kronberg -- comics from Denver who moved to New York -- and got to see how New York-life was treating Denver comics. It was great to showcase for the documentary.
For more information, visit the Kickstarter page.
Full disclosure, I appear briefly in a few shots of the documentary. I'm in the background, applying Chapstick like an anxious weirdo.