Ben Kronberg on his new Comedy Central special, and why he left Denver
Ben Kronberg could be the most successful comic to come out of the Denver comedy scene recently. Crafting Mitch Hedberg- style micro-jokes, delivered with a creepy dead-pan stare, Kronberg has developed a style all his own that's gaining some national recognition. After showcasing on Comedy Central's Live at Gotham series, as well as being picked up by John Oliver's New York Stand Up Show, he recently landed his very own Comedy Central half-hour special. The performance will be recorded March 1 at Boston's Royal Theater and will air sometime this summer. Chatting with Kronberg via phone on Super Bowl Sunday, we talked with the Colorado native about how sports ruin comedy shows, why regional comedy scenes are banding together, and why some Denver comedians may want to consider moving away.
Westword: How you been, man? Are you out on the road?
Ben Kronberg: No, at I'm home in Brooklyn. I'm about to go to this open mic I host every Sunday, but I don't know if anyone's going to show up.
Because of the Super Bowl?
Yeah. This isn't San Francisco or Baltimore -- those cities will close down for the Super Bowl. Comedy always gets bullied around by sports. Or at least competing with it. Every comedy show I've ever done there's always a sports event in the same town.
That's something that musicians don't typically have to deal with.
There's definitely an overlap between comedy fans and sports fans. Even comedians themselves are usually big sports fans. I'm not much of a sports guy myself. I wanted to play volleyball in high school but there were no guys teams.
Very exciting news about the Comedy Central special. What does this mean to you, both personally and professionally?
I've been trying to get on Comedy Central's radar for about five years now. I lived in L.A. for a couple years before I moved to New York, and that was when I was exposed to Comedy Central. I showcased for their series Live at Gotham, and I felt like I had a good set at the time, I had a good manager, I'd been on Jimmy Kimmel, I'd done festivals, so I thought this showcase was just a formality, then I'll get a special.
But that didn't happen. More time passed, multiple showcases, a few other Comedy Central things, and after being in New York for two years, I get this John Oliver thing, and that was the first real notice I got from Comedy Central. So then I heard through the grapevine that they were looking at tapes for half-hour specials, so I shot one and submitted it. It was the first time I submitted for a half hour, so I wasn't expecting anything, but then my agent called me and said, "Guess what?"
Coming up in the early days of the Denver comedy scene, how much did those years doing shows here help you develop the style and material you have today?
The scene where you start, those first shows that you do, those habits that you build, generally are the foundation that's going to propel you forward. Even if your style changes. Having Denver to perform in was the thing, it was what changed comedy from this theoretical idea-land to actual, physical, real-world. Whatever that means.
The Squire and Comedy Works were big for me. Open mics gave me the opportunity to do whatever I wanted, and Comedy Works was the tangible thing that told me, "You could do this for a living. This doesn't have to be a hobby, this can be a thing." And all the comedians I got to see there -- Troy Baxley, Rick Kerns -- without them there would be no Denver comedy scene. It was from them that all the other scenes developed.