Chris Baker on Childhood Nostalgia and Two Years of Cartoons & Comedy

Byron Graham
Chris Baker answers a Garfield phone
Cartoons & Comedy is a purely fun shows for crowds and performers alike, a rare glimpse into childhood from the safely ironic distance of years past. The show offers a way to bond over shared memories and laugh at the absurdity we used to innocently accept at face value, all leavened by cheap beer and sugary cereal. Keeping a comedy show going, particularly one that requires such elaborate pre-planning, is impressive feat; in its two short years, Cartoons & Comedy has changed time slots, venues and formats, while retaining its childlike bonhomie and essential spirit and presenting the nimble riffs of Denver's funniest locals and drop-ins from comedy nerd heroes like Ron Funches and Rory Scovel. At the helm of this monthly endeavor is Chris Baker, who hustles his cherubic ass off cutting together a video package of old cartoons, wrestling videos and '80s toy commercials, and booking a lineup of quick-witted comics every month. In advance of the second-anniversary show on January 29, Westword caught up with Baker at Fifty Two 80s, a local retail outlet and archivist of half-forgotten treasures from childhood, to discuss the enduring appeal of nostalgia and coked-out wrestlers.

See also: Denver Sexpot Comedy Awards

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Steve Rannazzisi on Fantasy Football and Ridiculous Passions

Steve Rannazzisi is best-known to fans as the long-suffering Kevin MacArthur on FXX's The League, but he's also a prolific standup comedian. Touring the country regularly, Rannazzisi has seen his career progress from humble beginnings working the door at the infamous Comedy Store in Los Angeles to performing on Conan, @Mindnight and the Comedy Central Roast of James Franco. We caught up with Rannazzisi in advance of his headlining engagement at Comedy Works to discuss fantasy football fans, putting a new hour together, and why people's passion for the ridiculous is a recipe for comedy.

See also: Ari Shaffir on His New Show, Death Threats, Shroomfest 2015 and Colorado Bro-Dudes

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Podcast Profiles: Whiskey & Cigarettes, a Podcast About Podcasts

Categories: Comedy, Interviews

Ryan Brackin
(from left) Jake Becker, Jake Browne and Zac Maas
Podcasts are in tune with the democratized spirit of Internet media; anyone with a microphone and a computer can offer their listeners unlimited hours of recordings, usually for free. Limited only by their imaginations, podcasters have a freedom of expression unrestricted by commerce, censorship or geography. Several great podcasts have blossomed in Denver's flourishing arts community; here to celebrate them is Podcast Profiles, a series documenting the efforts of local podcasters and spotlighting the peculiar personalities behind them.

Whiskey & Cigarettes is a podcast about podcasts, and much funnier than that glib description would suggest. Hosted by the local brain trust behind the Comics Against Civility comedy game show -- Jake Becker, Zac Maas and Jake Browne -- the podcast has evolved over the years. What began as an unfocused, booze-soaked marathon of podcast clips and quips has sharpened into a more purposeful format boasting funnier episodes and attracting some high-profile guests. In advance of the Comics Against Civility round with Browne and Maas at Spruce Tap House at 7 p.m. Saturday, January 24, we caught up with the Whiskey & Cigarettes crew to discuss how the show has changed and their favorite guests.

See also: Podcast Profiles: Haley Driscoll and Christie Buchele Get Personal on Empty Girlfriend

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Edith Weiss on 5 Lesbians Eating Quiche, Charlie Hebdo and the Terrors of Standup

Categories: Comedy, Theater

Emily Paton Davies and Lindsey Pierce in 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche.
"It's one of the funniest things I've ever read. It's joyous, a little outrageous." Edith Weiss is talking about 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche, the play she's directing that will open Friday January 23 at the Avenue Theater -- and she knows all about funny: She made her living as a standup comic for years.

Her career began in the late '80s at George McKelvey's Comedy Club, where she was part of an improv group. "George wanted us to open the show, which means you also do standup, so I got a lot of stage time," Weiss remembers. "That's really important for a comic. I ended up going on Star Search; I did military tours to the Balkans, Japan and Korea in the '90s. Standup is the scariest thing I've ever done, really terrifying. You wrote it. You performed it. When you work for the military you're not supposed to do religion, sex or politics, which doesn't really leave much."

See also:
Best Director 2012 -- Edith Weiss

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Ari Shaffir on His New Show, Death Threats, Shroomfest 2015 and Colorado Bro-Dudes

To the untrained eye, Ari Shaffir looks like an overnight success. Hot off the heels of his latest one-hour special Paid Regular, which aired January 16 on Comedy Central, Shaffir has a new series, This Is Not Happening, premiering on the January 22. The taste-making network will also be distributing and showing reruns of Shaffir's first hour, Passive Aggressive. Despite the confluence of successes, Shaffir has been quietly plugging away at his act for years, generating web content like his video series "The Amazing Racist" and steadfastly recording the popular podcast The Skeptic Tank week after week. With all that, Shaffir will be in town at the end of the month to headline at the downtown Comedy Works, his favorite club. We recently caught up with Shaffir to discuss his new special, offending audiences and his love of psilocybin mushrooms.

See also: Adam Cayton-Holland a Big Winner at the 2014 Denver Comedy Awards

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Adam Cayton-Holland a Big Winner at the 2014 Denver Comedy Awards

Categories: Comedy

Scott Lentz
2014 Denver Comedy Awards at 3 Kings Tavern
Sexpot Comedy honored the Mile High City's funniest people at the 2014 Denver Comedy Awards at 3 Kings Tavern on January 17. The big winner? Former Westword staffer Adam Cayton-Holland, who was honored not just as the Comic of the Year, but for his podcast, his website, the comedy festival he co-founded and the comedy night he's part of. Keep reading for the rest of the awards.

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Podcast Profile of Adam Cayton-Holland and My Dining Room Table

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Andy Juett on the Denver Comedy Awards and Sexpot Comedy's Move to 3 Kings Tavern

Categories: Comedy

Sexpot Comedy's Andy Juett and Kayvan Khalatbari.
Sexpot Comedy founders Andy Juett and Kayvan Khalatbari know first-hand how hard the members of Denver's close-knit comedy community work throughout the year, building their own careers and helping one another along the way. And the duo thinks that throwing the first annual Denver Comedy Awards is a great way to get all of Denver's funniest folks together in one room to celebrate another year of raising the local comedy bar. In advance of the ceremony, which takes place Saturday, January 17, at 3 Kings Tavern (voting ends at midnight tonight), we caught up with Juett for the following interview.

See also: Denver Comedy Awards

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Terri Barton Gregg on Deacon Gray and "Kick Cancer in the Throat," a Benefit Tomorrow

One of the blessings of a career in standup is being part of the small but fiercely loyal community of comics sharing the same journey. When one of our own is down, the shock reverberates through the scene and comedians scramble to help out. So when Deacon Gray, new talent coordinator at Comedy Works and de facto mentor to Denver's fledgling standups, was diagnosed with cancer, comics were eager to give anything back to the man who inspires us to try harder. Shepherding these efforts is Terri Barton Gregg, who organizes countless benefit shows and fundraisers through her company, Hold Please Productions. We caught up with Gregg to discuss Deacon and "Kick Cancer in the Throat," a benefit show on January 9 at Jake's, and in the process learned the meaning of several Yiddish words.

See also: The Ten Best Comedy Events in Denver in January

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Buntport Theater Revives an Audience Favorite About Tommy Lee Jones

Hannah Duggan plays Jane, Jones's waitress
By popular demand, Buntport Theater Company is bringing back Tommy Lee Jones Goes to Opera Alone after two years off the stage. Like every Buntport production, this show was a collaborative creation by all six members of the company. The idea for the show was inspired by a sighting of Jones standing alone in the ticket line of the Santa Fe Opera.

See also: Review: Forbidden Broadway Proves the Show Must Go On -- Hilariously!

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The Five Best Comedy Specials of 2014

Yes, 2014 was a strange year for comedy, marred by scandal, controversy and the tragic loss of legendary talents. New comics seized the spotlight, blossoming into full-fledged stardom on the strength of career-best showcases, while others saw their acclaim diminish. Frankly, it made us shudder to see the lead-in photo of Bill Cosby from last year's list: Fittingly, Hannibal Buress, the comedian who launched a thousand think-pieces by refusing to remain silent about the accusations against Cosby, had a banner year. And then there were the specials: Whittling them down to the five best omits some fine hours of comedy: Specials like Patton Oswalt's Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time and Jim Gaffigan's Obsessed are worth seeking out, but lack the distinction of their finest work. Meanwhile, performers like Nick Offerman and Wyatt Cenac, whose American Ham and Brooklyn were released last year, seemed to merely coast off the goodwill of their TV careers, experimenting with interesting formats but mostly stumbling through laugh-free hours. All of the comedians listed here, however, are at the top of their respective games, turning in their funniest work yet.

See also: Ten Best Comedy Specials of 2013

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