Everybody Loves Ben Roy: Denver comics weigh in on their longtime colleague
Ben Roy, the subject of this week's cover story, has worked hard to establish himself as a unique voice in the growing Denver comedy scene. We recently spoke with several local comics who have a relationship with Roy both on and off the stage, some of whom were there at the germination of Denver's underground comedy scene, telling rough jokes to the Colfax drunks of Lion's Lair. Keep reading to hear what Jim Hickox, Adam Cayton-Holland, Kevin O'Brien and Andrew Orvedahl have to say about this celebrated comedian, who will be performing at his monthly Grawlix show this Friday, February 22 at the Bug Theatre.
- Andrew Orvedahl and Adam Cayton-Holland to record comedy albums at the Bug Theatre
- Ben Kronberg on his new Comedy Central special, and why he left Denver
- Lewis Black on socialism, Louis C.K. and the new NRA app
A longtime friend and collaborator of Ben Roy (The Grawlix), Adam Cayton-Holland recalls first meeting Roy in the now defunct Red Room, and watching him grow as a comedian and a person.
Westword: What do you remember about the first time you met Ben?
Adam Cayton-Holland: It was at a bar that was called the Red Room at the time. He was waiting for someone, I was waiting for someone, and we just struck up a conversation the way two heterosexual males never do. He told me he was a comic, and I wasn't yet a comic but thought it was really cool. I'd been doing some comedy writing and he said I should go to an open mic at Lion's Lair, and that changed my life.
Ben Roy hadn't been doing comedy very long at that point, right?
No. And now that I know him so well it's really fucking funny that he would've called himself a standup comic. Because it was like, no, you're not, you've been doing it for six months! But I love that he said that.
Is it that a comic needs to wait a period of time before he knows if he's any good, or if he wants to continue doing it?
Absolutely. You know, dress for the job you want and all that, but it wasn't until I started declaring it on my taxes that I called myself a comedian.
What do you remember about his early attempts at standup?
When they first start, most comics are awful. I think Ben was clearly quite talented, even in those early days. I thought he had a rockstar vibe, he was like an angry minister, leading people from the stage. He was also pretty volatile, too. I remember the second or third time I saw him, he was super-drunk and he yelled at the host and made a scene, and I was like, "Whoa, okay, keep an eye on this one."
How long was it between then and when he started working with you guys?
Probably about two years. I got to know him real well, and then he started doing shows with us at Los Comicos. When Andrew [Orvedahl] moved to Los Angeles, we had a big hole in our roster, and we asked Ben to fill it, and that's when the shows started to get real good. They were good before, but Ben certainly brought something special.
He was still drinking heavily at that time;did that get in the way of working with him?
Not really, he was always professional on stage. Maybe he had a stupid open mic, he'd unravel, scream at the audience and storm out, but at Los Comicos or a booked show, he was always hilarious on stage. He kept it together. And his drinking could lead him to dizzying heights, he could be transcendently funny. But then he'd always reach a point where he'd turn and it'd be like, now the Hulk's coming out.
So it never really affected his comedy, but then afterward the ugly side would come out. And it'd be like, "Okay, Ben, we're not hanging out anymore."
There are polarizing viewpoints on being a parent and a comedian: Some argue it can kill your career, while others see comics like Louis C.K. and think it's the best source of material. Do you think being a dad has helped or hurt Ben Roy as a comedian?
I think it certainly had a grounding affect on him. Ben was always a really good comic. And he's always been a really good dad, and I think he gets some interesting material from it. He sees things through a fucked-up lens. But I think Ben's the type of comic who could be on heroin and still show up and deliver interesting, intelligent stuff. His comedy lens is always placed over whatever he's doing.