Denver stand-up comedian Ben Roy is one of the most energetic and naturally funny comics in the local comedy scene. Roy has been performing solo on comedy stages since 2004 and more recently began performing as a third of The Grawlix, an alternative comedy trio that also includes Adam Clayton-Holland and Andrew Orvedahl, producing a monthly live comedy show and a web series. Roy, whose hilarious new comedy album, "I Got Demons," just came out this month, chatted with The Huffington Post about being funny in Mile High City.
Editor's Note: Some readers may find language in this interview objectionable.
How long have you been living and performing in Denver?
I've been living in Denver on and off now since '99. So 13 years this August. But I didn't actually start doing comedy until early 2004.
What is the Denver comedy scene like?
Fertile. Moist. Insatiable. It's a great scene. I think we're more than holding our own on a national level. There are great shows every night at a wide variety of venues. Fine Gentleman's Club at the Deer Pile, Ladyface, The Grawlix, Chris Miller's show at VooDoo Comedy Playhouse, Kinga's Lounge, etc. Too many to mention. The great part about it as well is there seems to be a collective drive now to push everyone. I think people realized that if everyone gets out and puts their back into it, this shit pile will move a lot faster.
When did you start doing stand-up?
I started doing stand-up in 2004 at 24 years old. I actually started a bit late for the comedy world. Actually my first show went really well. Really, my first six or seven sets went really well. As I've said in previous interviews, I really didn't start to struggle until about six or eight months in. That's when I started to question who I was on stage. Then it got mean spirited and awkward.
What drew you to stand-up comedy?
Actually, the thought of doing stand-up never crossed my mind. I was into theater and improv in high school, but I quit that the minute I graduated. I fucking hated actors -- and improv actors were better -- but my heart wasn't into it. I have always been into music. I've been in 16 or 17 bands since the age of 16. I tried to make that work, but it's so fucking hard to get three to five equally driven folks together. You have to let go of ego when creating. Unfortunately, ego is what powers great musicians.
I stumbled into stand-up. My wife, who I met in Maine in 2001, moved back out here to Colorado with me and she got a job working the door at Comedy Works. Truthfully, I tried to talk her out of it. She kept trying to tell me how awesome it would be. I kept trying to convince her it would not be awesome and that stand-up was nerdy. Then I started hanging with the staff and partying with them and a manager convinced me to try their "New Talent" night. I wish I could say I had "beloved" bits from that time, but I don't. Honestly, I drank too much, acted like a giant shithead and after a year and a half, had largely quit doing it. It fed a very negative part of me at that time.
What was the moment that you knew you wanted to pursue this as a career?
I realized I wanted to do it after joining the Wrist Deep Crew. Greg Baumhauer, Adam Cayton-Holland and Jim Hickox had a great show and I realized I didn't have to be, or act, or do things a certain way. They also pushed me to write more. That's when I started to realize I could make this into whatever shape I wanted to. I had been looking at it the wrong way. I was listening to people tell me I had to be on the road in South Dakota, or Wyoming, at biker bars or bullshit like that. That killed my soul for a bit. I opted to just not do any of that anymore, and focus on making what I wanted to see.
How did your family react to the news that this was going to be your career?
Since day one my parents have supported me. My mother comes from a very loud, very vocal French family. I got that side from her. Great people who love to party. My mother was always into the idea of me being an actor or comedian.
My father was a theater nerd in high school and college. He's always thought it was really cool. In fact, when I was invited to the Montreal Comedy festival, he's who I gave my buddy pass to. I was the only comic who brought their dad. But, fuck it, I spent too much time being ashamed of my family. I'm pretty proud of them now.
My brother, he's like my best friend. We're both busy so we don't talk as much as I'd like, but he's always been a champion for me. Whether in music, comedy, or life in general. I think I could start cutting people up and he'd want to keep parts of their bodies to remember my work by. He's super supportive.
How does generating material for your stand-up shows work?
I get called a rant comic a lot, but I would say I'm more along the lines of monologist. I usually will think of an idea randomly and then start tearing it apart in my head. I try to be as honest with myself. Am I mad about it? Why am I not mad about it? I just question all parts of it. Then I write out or recite what I'm going to say. It's pretty well planned. I do improv on stage, but it's usually between bits or just on various thoughts throughout it. My rants tend to be so long that throughout it, I'm working to remember them, so it comes off like I'm riffing.
You were featured in the book "Mock Stars" which calls what you and many other great comics do as "indie comedy." What is indie comedy and how does it differ from more mainstream comedy?
I think indie comedy is just a term for the ethos. Putting on your own shows, working music venues, and material that is considered a little out there for mainstream comedy clubs. I don't reject or embrace it. I'm a comic. I work clubs and outside venues. I like all clubs. I think the label has created animosity between different groups within the stand-up world. If everyone could just get back to appreciating funny, we'd be a lot better off.
What's one of the worst times you have ever "bombed" on stage?
I did a 45-year class reunion. There were a ton of angry, wealthy, 60-somethings hanging out yammering about leaner times and their chronic bursitis. There was no stage. I was just given a wireless mic and room to pace in front of the buffet. I had to do a 20-minute set and they paid me first. Big mistake on their part. I did exactly 20 minutes, which happened to fall in the middle of a joke. I didn't care, the minute I had completed my obligation, I walked out. I didn't finish my thought. Those people fucking hated me. Some people think "comic" and they think "clown." And to a certain extent, I guess we are. But some clowns just make balloon clits and squirt urine out their flower.
How did The Grawlix come about?
The Orange Cat, our old venue for our previous show, Los Comicos Superhilariosos, had been sold. We'd been doing that show for five years. We just decided that rather than continue with the same name and same ideas, it was best to kill it and start fresh. New name. New goals.
How does the show process work for you guys?
The live show is well planned. Our intro is half scripted, half improv. We write our own sets. And I, like Andrew and Adam, always try new material on that show. When I step on stage for the Grawlix, we have so many return people, I bring something new. Even if it doesn't hit. It's hard and nerve-racking, but at least the audience doesn't have to eat the same material. I'd rather have people think I'm losing my edge than not show up because they know what they're going to get.
The web series is scripted up until we film. We all collectively come up with ideas and then write episodes that we've opted to tackle. We have an outline and dialogue, but once we get around each other, we all just start playing off each other and tossing out new ideas. It maintains the shape, but the texture will often be much different. We have a blast doing these, and the Nix Bros. get it. They're a blast to do this with. That process of filming one five-to-nine minute episode generally takes two or three days. Then the editing, color and audio can take another couple of weeks.
Is there going to be a Grawlix TV show sometime soon?
[Laughs] A little while back, a producer (from a show that shall remain unnamed) saw the web series and wanted to help us prep it for development. We wrote a pilot and shopped it around. There are some things we're working on right now and we'll certainly keep you posted. Now, get off our fucking backs HuffPo. Can't a guy wear a short skirt and get out of an exotic car at a posh nightclub without having you guys try to get a snapshot of a clit-slip when the dress slides up around my hips. JESUS!!!
Who are your five favorite comics or the comics that have most influenced you and why?
I'm a comedy ingoramus. Because I didn't grow up listening or absorbing the craft, I'm still learning who is who and what is what. As of right now, I love Bill Burr. But mostly I enjoy people we see regularly at festivals or at shows we book. I'm a huge fan of Rory Scovel, Kyle Kinane, Sean Patton, Kate Berlant. I just like seeing new people that are coming up. I'm also a closet Kevin Hart fan. Although, I guess it's not closeted so much now.
Any tips for comedians just starting out in stand-up?
Be you. If you're looking for stand-up to fill some sort of emotional cup for you, quit now. To be happy, you have to figure out who you are and what you want first. Then move forward. People are going to try and tell you it has to be done this way or that. Take it as advice. The best thing you can do is feel good about the choices you've made. Otherwise you're going to spend everyday and night looking over your shoulder. But that's just my opinion. Don't even listen to that if you don't want to.
Watch The Grawlix below:
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