Arts and Culture

How to get my job: Comedian

There are many jobs in this world. Some are so bizarre you probably don't know they exist; some you might have had no idea people actually make a living at. In an effort to highlight some of these jobs we've started a new series detailing the origins of people actually working in the field. First up is the comedian. We tapped local comic Andrew Orvedahl to help us better understand the process one goes through to start making money as a comedian, as well as the trials and tribulations that ensue. After the break Andrew gives us the low-down on what it takes to be funny in Denver.

Westword: Tell us a little about your history as a comic. Andrew Orvedahl: I've been performing stand-up comedy since May of 2003. I've been fortunate enough to tour all over the country, and work with some of the best comedians alive. Currently I'm devoting more time to other comedy mediums, like storytelling and sketches.

WW: Why did you want to become a comic? When did you know it was what you wanted to do? How long did it take to get to a degree of 'sustainability'? AA: A good pal pressured me into doing comedy. He told me to just try it once, so after three years I relented. After that I was hooked. I still have a day job for benefits and so I don't have to leave my newborn baby very often, but I guess once I realized I could headline a show, I could make a (little) living off of comedy.

WW: How would you recommend someone get a start in comedy? AA: I would recommend you just run and jump right in. If you wait until you think you're ready (or funny), you'll never do it. And if at first it seems like you suck, keep trying for a few months and visit as many different shows as you can. If you determine you do suck, have the self-awareness to give it up. You can only hammer a square peg into a round hole for so long.

WW: How do you feel about comics who quickly find a niche or a gag? Would you recommend it? AA: Well if your niche is telling jokes about heavy metal and that works, then good for you (and I'm jealous). But if your niche is telling racist jokes to hipsters, you're awful. As for gags, if you mean like smashing watermelons or magic, that's terrible. There's clearly a market for that kind of thing, but I'm a comedy purist. If your joke needs a Sean Connery impression, it's probably not a great joke.

WW: What's the best part of your job? AA: Making people laugh (obviously), but also being able to do a show and just show up, unlike a band who has to lug a thousand pounds of gear in and out. I just saunter in, blab a bit and then leave.

WW: How about the biggest misconception? AA: Probably that comedians are just making it all up on stage. People are usually surprised to find out that jokes are written and then practiced and whittled into material. Of course some stuff is just improvised on the spot, but the core is material. The other misconception is that it's always fun. It's fun 20 percent of the time. 60 percent of the time it feels like work and the other 20 percent of the time I think about finally getting a college degree.

WW: What was your best show in Denver? AA: My best show in Denver was the first Threople show I put on with two of my longtime friends. It was a lot of fun and personally inspiring. My favorite ongoing show was the now-defunct Los Comicos Super Hilariosos. It was a blast for several years, which is a real achievement.

WW: And the worst? AA: My worst show was probably at a fund-raiser for Balkan Folk Music. We went together like peanut butter and chopped glass.