The social acceptance of cannabis has unsurprisingly led to more media attention, and we're not talking about from news outlets. Movies, sitcoms, cooking shows and reality TV are all trying to take advantage of our untapped love for weed, but those efforts have largely produced more corny failures than authentic successes.
Andy Juett, a former Colorado radio and TV executive turned comedian, has a unique view on pot's ascent in the comedy world. Known for various stints in Denver's comedy scene as recreational weed's footprint grew in the state, Juett is still partnering with various cannabis businesses on projects and incorporating the plant into his productions — though he recognizes the fine line between centering a show around cannabis and using it in bits to make entertainment more relatable.
Westword: How do you think comedy and mainstream media approach cannabis nowadays? I remember when it was mostly just Doug Benson and a few other people really embracing it, but now Netflix, HBO and Viceland all are.
Andy Juett: I think Doug Benson is still very much around. I've been on his podcasts, and I get a lot of recognition from just being on them a couple times. His shows are still very popular; he gets high three times a day on different Internet platforms and is still very popular. He capitalized on that.
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But we see it used so poorly and with such little education on some of these new streaming shows, which are
making an attempt to be cool through a cannabis cooking show without really saying much to the public. It's just like a bunch of friends eating at a Panera, but with some weed. There's been a lot of pretty lame attempts at that, but comedians are able to talk from experience, as a comedian and just as a person who smokes cannabis concurrent to their day jobs. Comedians are a little more crafty in incorporating that stuff, but like any other genre or bit, it can be hacked to death. And there is less shock and taboo around cannabis now. We're just some artists who smoke grass, and we don't want to work at McDonald's; we're gig-economy people. I can't imagine ever working at another job that tests for cannabis.
I think online and social media entertainers are better with cannabis than corporate media so far. There are some exceptions, but rarely. Some nameless show with a Ryan Seacrest-like host that cuts to a couple cannabis chefs is usually fake and terrible. Most people who like weed don't like it, and then middle America thinks that's what cannabis vernacular is, and they don't like it; I don't blame them.
Who do you think is approaching cannabis in a clever way right now?
There are bits that are very now. Dave, on FX and Hulu, is a good one. These comedians, rappers and actors, when they're smoking pot on camera and talking about it, it's natural and makes sense because these are people who smoke weed all the time. The show is also directed by Greg Mottola, who directed Superbad, and those guys know weed. There's that one episode where Dave gets sick, and he's at an art gallery, where he shares a joint with Young Thug, who's coughing and is saying he's sick. So Dave is paranoid the whole show about getting sick because he shared a joint, and it was hilarious.
As far as a cannabis show, though, I think Getting Doug With High on the Internet is fun, because you know Doug and the people doing it are pro-smokers, and those simple formats work because getting high and chatting with friends is the community you're trying to emulate. When you do it like a bloated reality show and there's no authenticity relative to the cannabis, then cannabis is just a variable piece, and it doesn't come off well. The dream is to host a show that is like @midnight, but with cannabis. Hosting a show, getting some friends together for funny tests and questions — but they're high. That'd be fun.
Do you use cannabis as part of your creative process? If so, how do you make sure that you don't depend on it as a creative tool?
Yeah, but I also think the illusion of inspiration from cannabis is pretty significant. At first it really helps with erasing inhibitions and taboos, and becoming more comfortable with yourself. Long periods of sobriety throughout the day where you have to be focused can be just as creative, if not more creative, and they have the added benefit of true focus. But let me just say this as someone who's smoked all morning today while editing: It can be easily wrapped up in process, depending on what the project is.
I had an epiphany once years ago that seems stupid now, but in 2011, during a monthly show we did called the Grapes of Rad, I was told by a fellow comedian that he didn't get high before shows because it made him anxious. And I was just like, "Oh, maybe that's why I feel insanely anxious all the time." So eventually you become aware of it and make changes, but if you're just in a high daze during your set, you won't be very good. You might think it's funny, but you're really just talking, high, in a room. There's no jokes, so you become the joke. If it's a part-trick format show for cannabis, and if it's run correctly, they're super fun. But if the producer doesn't know what type of a smoker a comedian is relative to how funny they are, it can get bad really quick.
As a cannabis user who probably has some sympathy for being overly stoned, but also a show producer who requires good performances to be successful, how do you approach a fellow comedian who's too baked to be funny?
I know from experience how that feels. Arguably, I'm the best person to know who's too high or who can handle weed before going on stage, but I have fucked up two or three times. Reggie Watts wanted edibles before the first High Plains Comedy festival, so as the host, I got him a giant basket of edibles — then I didn't see him for two days. So on the day of the show, I reach out to make sure he's all right, and he says he's totally fine. Then when it's time to go on stage, he put his hand on my shoulder and tells me "Dude, I am so fucking high." The show was oversold, and he went out and rocked it. His eyes were so big, and he ate just about everything in that basket. And he killed it.
How often do those types of situations happen behind the scenes at shows?
On another level, I've seen comedians who are blacked-out drunk, and kill. Some don't remember their sets and they're embarrassed by it, but they still make everyone laugh the whole time. As far as cannabis, yeah, I think there are a huge element of comedians who smoke all the time and forget pieces of their sets. That can also be part of the act, too, if used right.
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After working in L.A. and the media business for a while, do you see cannabis becoming a part of actual business meetings in the entertainment world? Instead of whiskey during a sit-down, are joints being served?
There are way more networking meetings where cannabis is either the central theme or very accepted. Magazine parties, adjacent parties to premieres and shows will have it, and it might not be officially sanctioned, but no one's mad about it being there. I haven't been to a lunch or dinner meeting where someone's lit up a joint, but I have had multiple meetings with decision makers in a one-on-one setting where we decide to work together over a joint.
At what point did you start seeing cannabis becoming a bigger factor in the entertainment world?
From a pure business standpoint, there's an opportunity. Cannabis companies can't advertise in a traditional manner because of federal law, so they'll take opportunities to sponsor concerts or comedy events, like the one I just did with LivWell on 4/20 to fund raise for local comedians and bands. They want interesting areas, because they can't be on TV and they're not supposed to be on the radio, so they can't make brands the same way. In art-driven spaces, they have more success than corporate-driven spaces. Seeing that, comedy and cannabis businesses sort of came together.