"None of us wanted to do a weekly show," admits Lund. "We wanted to do a monthly, but Sam was the one who said we should do it every week."
Other than open mics, there had never been a comedy show in Denver presenting fresh material every week. Even the most popular bands will only play two or three shows a month — anything more brings up concerns of oversaturation. And unlike musicians, comics can't get away with having "hits" in their repertoire; rarely do people want to see the same comedy act twice. So in committing to a weekly comedy show, the members of the Fine Gentleman's Club were challenged to come up with new material every seven days.
Tallent says that schedule has forced them to become better comedians. "These guys have gotten stronger and stronger — and they've made me a better comic," he explains. "Over the years we each have had to come up with a new ten minutes every week or we're going to bore our crowd. They press me to be better. And we get to collaborate on shit. If Charpie has an idea for a sketch, he can call me up and bounce it off me. It keeps you honest, having such great comics in your group."
The other three members are quick to credit Tallent. Beyond his amicable personality and his ambition to host a weekly show while still touring and performing around town, he also has a background in improv theater that helped shape the group's standup performance.
"We have all been influenced by him," Lund says. "We didn't know a lot about improv when we began doing standup, and he started there. It made him able to be super-comfortable on stage. You can get away with almost anything if you command the stage and exude an aura, or a feeling, of confidence. But at the same time, Sam will always devote part of his set to doing crowd work and showing a bit of vulnerability. So they know he's not just up there reciting jokes. He's showing them who he is and asking who they are — and people fucking love that."
"If you're doing improv right, you're not thinking; you're just reacting organically and honestly in the moment," says Tallent. "It's Michael Jordan in the zone, seven out of seven three-pointers in a row, or the pianist who blacks out during the concerto and wakes up to a standing ovation. It's that zen, that being in the middle of the moment and being okay with the moment."
On August 21, the Fine Gentleman's Club will release its debut live album on vinyl; it was recorded at Comedy Works last Halloween. The album was produced by local indie-rock collective Hot Congress, and while this marks the label's first venture into the comedy world, it's hardly the first overlap between rock music and comedy.
The Beatles were signed to what was then mostly a comedy label; Woody Allen and Joan Rivers performed on the same bill as Bob Dylan in Greenwich Village. Beyond those historical connections, though, the modern comedy explosion has been fueled by the combination of melody and humor. Patton Oswalt's standup tour/documentary The Comedians of Comedy became the blueprint for comics hitting up rock venues over comedy clubs while on the road. Some of Denver's best shows and releases come out of the Illegal Pete's-sponsored Greater Than Collective, which has both the Grawlix comics and several well-respected bands on its roster.
Musical comedy has also experienced its own revival, though instead of 1980s solo acts like "Weird Al" Yankovic, today's satirical songsmiths often come in pairs, like New Zealand's Flight of the Conchords, giddy sexpots Garfunkel and Oates, and Denver's Euro-trash duo Total Ghost.
If there's any consistent thread in modern comedy, it's collaboration. The digital revolution may have been a holocaust for music sales, but it was a virtual renaissance for humorists on podcasts, with small groups of comics geeking out over a buffet of topics fit for the appetites of the Internet. Unlike the solitary crafts of writing or painting, standup comedy has become a team sport in the 21st century, a dynamic that often leads to the kind of Dionysian revelry favored by the decadent world of rock and roll.
And revelry has always come easily to the members of the Fine Gentleman's Club.
The Club has plenty to celebrate. After the album release, the third annual Too Much Funstival will blast off on the last weekend of August; the four comics are still pulling together the lineup for their festival of shows. While the upcoming High Plains Festival — co-produced by Squire/Los Comicos/Grawlix stalwart Adam Cayton-Holland, on August 23 and 24 — will be Denver's first national comedy festival, Funstival has become a three-day monument to the union of rock music and standup comedy in the Denver entertainment scene. And then there are the weekly Too Much Fun shows, after which these jesters will lead their enchanted followers downstairs to City, O' City, accepting offers of drinks, conversation, marijuana and favorite comedy anecdotes from strangers.