Before I get into this I want to stress how much I LOVE stand up comedy. I love when its good and bad. I love to crush. I love when the audience laughs so hard you feel it vibrate your chest. I also love when it's bad. I love to bomb. I love to watch people bomb and I love doing it myself. It's the most human of all the experience and it's the best way to feel alive.
I have been doing stand up comedy since 2010. Comedy has become a sort of religion to me. I rely on comedy to provide for me more than any job I've ever had. I trust comedy more than my best friend, I've confided in comedy more than my therapist, and I certainly love comedy more than I have ever loved my favorite lovers. If comedy is my religion than bars are my church and I have gone to worship almost every night for the last 7 years.
Before I get carried away with the romanticism Joke telling, you should also know that I come from a family of recovered alcoholics. And I myself am constantly walking a tight rope between my calling in life which is stand up, and pull of the disease of alcoholism I know that I am genetically pre-disposed to have. I don't know a single comedian who hasn't had to wrestle with the threat of becoming an alcoholic.
They don't tell you how complicated your relationship with alcohol will become if you continue to pursue comedy. Half the time when you are new comic, you are paid in alcohol. And until you are person who people will pay to see based on your name, which may never happen, you are not a comedian, you are actually a very elaborate beer salesman. Selling a party and encouraging people to drink. Because after all, the more they drink, the more money the venue makes, and the more you get paid. People like to give shit to prop comics, people who might use a puppet or some other physical artifact to enhance their act. I would venture to say all comedians are prop comics. Take their beer away and most of their acts would change dramatically. For me, at its best alcohol, has provided some much needed liquid courage and at its worst has been the most abusive relationship in my life. Comedian James Fritz out of LA puts it best in his joke saying "people tell me I should quit drinking so I can focus more on my comedy, but that's like quitting the thing I love, to focus on the thing that's trying to kill me." This is to say, the line between alcohol and joke telling can become very blurry and it's unclear which is really hurting you and fulfilling you.
So now that I have set the groundwork, let me tell you a few stories about the thing I love and the thing that is trying to kill me.
The first time I ever got onstage was March 27th, 2010 at Shortys Bar in Greeley Colorado. I had gone to see a friend tell jokes the month before and I watched several men get onstage and tell jokes. They were all terrible and I thought to myself. I can do better. That being said, I decided that no matter how bad they were getting onstage and sharing their jokes with people was cooler than anything anyone else had done ever. The night before I went onstage the first time I didn't sleep, I was sooooo nervous when I got to the bar that night, but was relieved to learn that I could have unlimited free drinks for getting onstage. I had several. During my first set my hands shook and my voice cracked. It wasn't great but I never felt anything so great. I had several more drinks to celebrate. I ended up dropping and breaking a glass that night and eventually got cut off by the bartender.
I met every man I've loved in the last 7 years through doing comedy. But we've only ever shared our first kiss because of the courage I was given with alcohol. This isn't so much a story as it is a fun fact. I have a terrible habit of dating comedians so my relationship with comedy and alcohol has only grown more confusing. Luckily for me, I only find men attractive if they are funnier than me, and honestly, the more time goes on the harder it is to find men who are funnier than me.
There used to be a show in Denver where the best comic of the night would win a free beer. The host would also award the worst audience member with the "bag of human garbage" award. I once won best set and bag of human garbage award on the same night, I fell down during my set and spent remainder of my set laying on the Boche ball turf. I crushed my set, but missed work the next day because my anxiety was so high and I couldn't get my hands to stop shaking.
I remember one time being at a bar doing a show in Rawlins, Wyoming. It was barely a show, they didn't even have a regular microphone. I told my Jokes through a headset wearing a shirt that said "Denver’s Worst Person." It felt like I was giving the small crowd we had the worst ted talk ever. We did not have to pay for our drinks that night but the crowd was so small that we were afraid they wouldn't drink enough and thus the bar would not make enough $$ to pay us. So that night we let the audience buy all our drinks for us. I had to keep going to the bathroom to puke, so I didn't get to drunk in a strange place. But at the end of the night we got paid.
I met my friend Michael at the old 404 bar six years ago. I was one of the best comedians I ever saw or ever will see. And I watched for many years as he struggled with Comedy, drinking. alcoholism, and mental health. A few years ago, he started going to AA. I know this because he met my mother there. They used to play chess together after meetings and he would tell her how much he loved comedy and wanted to get his head right so he could focus on it more. I was at another bar for a comedy festival in New Orleans, two years ago when I got the call that Mike had fallen off the wagon and committed suicide. I got onstage that night with my friend Sam Tallent, and we told all Michaels jokes to a room full of strangers. When we got offstage we hugged and cried, and then we got drunk.
I first met my friend Jordan Wieleba at bar open mic on south Broadway. At that time Jordan was identifying as a man, and I didn't like him. He was drunk and an asshole. I was also at a bar show the first time I saw Jordan after she started identifying as a woman and began transitioning. I remember that night she was clutching her beer very nervously, but for the first time her jokes were genuine and good. It was clear that she was finally on the road to finding her voice. I continued to build a friendship with Jordan at different bars throughout this city after. Lions Lair, The Squire, Goosetown, Three Kings, Kingas, we built our friendship sitting on those barstools waiting to get up and tell jokes. We started doing a show together at the Bar El Charrito in April of last year. Jordan’s last show was our show the friday before she died. She had started to get sick but decided she would rather do jokes than stay home and rest. That night she had a few drinks and she had a great set. She ended up getting Bronchitis and died less than a week later of an asthma attack. I often wonder if she would have stayed home, rested and drank water instead of talking into a dirty mic and drinking beer all night if she would still be here. But I know the pull of comedy, and no comic I know would have missed a show for a cold.
Comedy has given me everything is this world that I love. I have friends who are family. I have confidence and a voice that allows me to love myself more than I ever thought I would. And I have a purpose in life that makes me truly happy. But like I said before comedy is my religion and bars are my churches and it is not hyperbole when I say that just like any religion being an extremist in the church of comedy can get you killed. That being said, tonight, after this very show, I will head over to a bar on Colfax where they are holding an open mic, I will order a beer and I will wait to tell a joke, and I will continue to pursue comedy, the thing I love more than anything in the world, and I will drink my beer and wonder how long it will be until comedy tries to kill me too.