Longform

The Fine Gentleman's Club is having Too Much Fun

Page 3 of 7

As Baumhauer says this, Crane's voice rings out from the back of the bar, where he's performing his third set of the night: "The difference between a rich kid and a poor kid is what they mean when they ask the question, 'Do you know who my father is?'"

It takes a good ten seconds before the entire crowd begins laughing.

**********

Sam Tallent has been known to compare standup comedy to wrestling, explaining that "it's you against another guy, which is the audience, and you have to best them." But Nathan Lund is the Fine Gentleman's Club's real professional-wrestling aficionado.

Tonight the husky 31-year-old is delivering a comedy commentary at Lucha Libre & Laughs at the Oriental Theater. Combining standup comedy and pro wrestling may seem bizarre on the surface, but the two aren't all that different: Both are steeped in villainy; both involve stage characters and prearranged dramas that require a suspension of belief; both are dependent on rhythm and invoke heckling from the audience. And both were forever altered by Andy Kaufman.

After riffing on Brokeback Billy delivering a power bomb to Kiki Rose, then Fuerza Chicanana laying a cross-body block on Delta Junior, Lund retires to the alley behind the Oriental to smoke more weed and reminisce about meeting Bobby Crane at the Squire.

"That was about five years ago," he recalls. Lund had just moved to town with his girlfriend, who was working on Barack Obama's first presidential campaign; back in his home town of Las Vegas, he'd been performing standup for a few years. And he was surprised by the growing interest in comedy he found in Denver.

"There was a good scene at that time, but it got better," Lund remembers. "Suddenly you could go and find a mic most every night. And when that started to happen, Bobby and I started hanging out more and more. Usually I wouldn't say more than 'Good set' to a comic at an open mic, but after hearing someone really good — like Bobby — I'd be like, 'Man, that was really fucking good,' and I'd tell them why. He had a real creative spark."

While Lund had enjoyed performing in Vegas, in Denver he felt challenged to step up his game, making every show count and building a reputation for himself. And he quickly found like-minded entertainers who had no interest in a Plan B outside of performing.

"All I want to do is comedy," says Lund, who took a job as a manager at the Mayan Theatre, then quit in order to free up his nights for performing. "It sucks having a job you don't want. You have to either get comfortable with the situation you're in, or you have to change it. I haven't had a day job in a year, and I haven't regretted it once."

Of the members of the Fine Gentleman's Club, only Charpentier still has a day job, at a local architecture firm. Lund had completed his bachelor's degree in psychology by the time he got into comedy, while Crane and Tallent both dropped out of school once they knew there was a possibility of making a living in standup. "I moved into Mouth House after I quit my job," Lund says, referring to a riff-raff punk house in Five Points that often hosts comedy and rock shows. "I split a room with Sam for $150 a month, and when we weren't staying with our girlfriends, we'd have to share a bed."

The comedy lifestyle is not always pretty. Plump eyesores like Sam Kinison and Zach Galifianakis have achieved pinup status, and Lund often prides himself on his grizzled, Bukowski-like appearance of drunken dishevelment and extra weight. But as he notes later during the night's comedy set, this image can come with its own random moments of judgment from unlikely sources.

"I ended up downtown the other night and got made fun of by a homeless guy. He was, like, ten-homeless on a scale of one to ten. And he was getting arrested. I was like, 'Oh, shit, look at this guy.' But then he looked at me and his eyes lit up, and he started laughing and said, 'Lordy, lordy, look who's 240.' And I'm like, 'Hey, wait, I'm not supposed to make you feel better about your life.' I saw him and I thought, 'Well, at least I'm not that guy.' But he saw me and was like, 'Well, I may be ten-homeless and getting arrested, but at least I'm not that guy.' What am I supposed to do with that?"

Chris Charpentier is leaning against a refrigerator packed with row upon row of green apples with the name "Ed" written on them in magic marker.

At 5' 5", Charpentier is the antithesis of Tallent and his imposing frame, but his smug wink at comic Kristin Rand exudes a charm and confidence that belies his bantam stature. And, like Lund, he's always the first to mock his physical shortcomings.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Josiah Hesse