Everybody Loves Ben Roy: Denver comics weigh in on their longtime colleague
A longtime admirer of Ben Roy's standup comedy, O'Brien hosts the monthly Arguments and Grievances comedy debate show at Vine Street Pub the third Sunday of every month.
Westword: What do you remember about the first time you saw Ben's act?
Kevin O'Brien: The first time I saw Ben perform outside of an open mic was right after he got sober in the summer of 2010. Bobby Crane was running a monthly show in Boulder at the Southern Sun Pub at the time and Ben was the headliner. To say the show was poorly attended would be an understatement. At one point the comics outnumbered the audience. After five or so of us ate it, Ben went up to close out the show. I remember sitting and watching in awe. His material and energy blew me away. All of the comics on the show watched Ben and we were loving every minute of his set. Unfortunately, the table of Boulderites that made up the "audience" found their game of Scrabble more interesting. Ben finished his time in a fury and then essentially stormed off the stage. I wanted to tell him how incredible of a performer he was, but he was too pissed about the lack of response from the "audience."
What bits of his stand out to you?
I remember when I saw him do his bit about family for the first time at Grawlix. If it wasn't already established that Ben was operating on a higher plane than most of us, it was apparent that night. He had just gotten back from seeing his family in Maine so everything felt very raw. He unleashed this ten-minute bit about how you should move away from your family and craft your own identity. At the end he had an analogy about when cells in the body clump together like families they create a tumor and that essentially family can be a cancer. When he finished I remember thinking that Ben could do a one man show in a theater with honest, insightful, and hilarious material like that.
Do you think Ben is intentionally offensive?
I think offensive isn't the right word for what Ben does. Sure, some things he says may be shocking to squares or people who enjoy "good, clean fun." But I think Ben does what we should all aspire to do as comics, challenge boundaries. One of Ben's most popular jokes involves cuddling with his wife because she swallows. There is nothing offensive about a man calling out short-sighted husbands that complain about their relationships and then explaining why he loves his wife. The graphic details he uses may be off putting to some, but what he says resonates because we can relate to his point of view. There might be a lot of talk of cum and "German shepard thrusting," but the joke is pro-women.
What are your thoughts about being too drunk on stage?
There are few things more frustrating as a comic and fan than watching someone talented let their recreational habits get in the way of that talent. Some guys like Stanhope can drink heavily on stage and still blow it up. Most others can't. Ultimately, the most important thing is, can you do your time and make people laugh?