Chuck Roy is a bear of a comedian. He has appeared on the Ralphie May Filthy Animal Tour and Louie Anderson Presents. In the late 1990s, he achieved unexpected Hollywood success with an appearance on Will & Grace. Chuck teaches comedy at the Community College of Denver and privately through Comedy101.ChuckRoy.com, an online school for stand-up comedy. He has the ambitious goal to change the world with laughter.
Listen to Episode #41 here
Chuck Roy Is A Bear Of A Comedian
Our guest is Chuck Roy. Chuck is a Bear of a Comedian. He’s appeared on the Ralphie May Filthy Animal Tour and Louie Anderson Presents. In the late 1990s, he achieved unexpected Hollywood success with an appearance on Will and Grace. Chuck teaches comedy at the Community College of Denver and privately through Comedy101.ChuckRoy.com, an online school for standup comedy. He has the ambitious goal to change the world with laughter. Welcome, Chuck.
Thank you. That’s so nice.
They’re all true words.
I’m familiar with your work. I’m honored to meet and hang out with you and chat.
I’ve seen you on stage. We haven’t spent much time chatting though. If you weren’t working as a comedian or as an instructor of comedians, what would you be doing?
I’d be in the Senate.
Which one? The State Senate?
The Federal, of course. I probably would have swung the bat already at running for president, elbow deep in presidential politics as a Republican. A gay Republican, which is you can imagine, it’s extremely difficult and I’m glad I made life choices to get out of that world.
You have a joke about you and 26 gay Republicans.
That came from Ralphie May Filthy Animal Tour and playing down in Denver. I had a boyfriend who got his first real job and started paying his first real taxes. I came home one day and he was like, “Babe, what are taxes?” That’s when I got to know another gay Republican. I would do that joke here in Denver and some people would be upset over the fact that I’m a gay Republican. I would tease them about being from Boulder and that Liberal people are very closed-minded. They want you to be open-minded as long as you agree with them.
[bctt tweet=”If you take one step back and broaden your view, you can find a way to include more of the audience on your comedy. ” via=”no”]
That’s probably the biggest laugh line of the joke.
I’m glad it’s personally true. If there are people who are offended, I mean offense comedically and with all sense of humor. It’s a piece of my life. Before I came out of the closet, I was working for a congressman running. I was part of his political action committee in New Hampshire where it’s presidential politics elbow deep. I was coming out of the closet and really had to make life choices. I was flunking out of school. I was drinking. I was very scared of what life meant. I realized that doesn’t change me that much and I knew it didn’t change my politics much from where they were. I’m a person who believes in equal rights. I know that’s weird to hear out of a Republican but it’s not in my history. There were plenty of Republicans who believed in equality.
Lincoln for example.
Everyone hates that one but even Goldwater and certainly Reagan failed in that area for an actor. He could have done a lot better. If you’re a gay person in Eastern Europe, if you live in East Germany and fly a pride flag, that is a freedom you were not allowed when I was a kid. The world has changed a lot. My politics haven’t changed that much. To move into the world of comedy, I certainly met a lot of people who tried to convince me I was otherwise. People tried to convince me not to be gay on stage. Others said, “You do whatever you want but this Republican thing is out of control.” Others would be like, “Don’t live in New Hampshire. You have to move to Boston.” I grew up near Robert Frost Farm, the road less traveled. This is the one I’ve been on for a long time. I like it. It leads me to places like this. I’m one to stick to my guns. I certainly know how to change my mind. I voted Obama, I hope that calms the Liberal half of the audience down, like a lot. I like to bring that stuff to the stage. It wasn’t easy and it’s been a long process of learning how to talk about the real me, which is generally often unacceptable to polite society. To polite society, generally we’re in a barroom and I’m telling dick jokes. I don’t know what you’re all upset about. This isn’t a megachurch.
This is one of many reasons why I wanted you to be on. I want to get elbow deep. You said that twice now.
It’s Jimmy Dunn’s expression. He wrote a lot of my jokes when I was a kid, he’s very big influence. He is a super comedian out of New Hampshire; one of ten other New Hampshire comedians.
Is it a surgery?
“You get elbow deep into a box of coco puffs,” is his line. It means your hand is all the way into the box. To go elbow deep on an issue means I’m going all the way down at the bottom of the box.
It’s better than balls deep, which you don’t want to say in polite company.
I wasn’t sure if this is eventually broadcasted on a radio station, there are sensitive people listening. There are people who love comedy and they’re very fun. There are probably also academics listening.
You’re giving me too much credit for my audience.
I’m not sure who they could be. You come up when researching comedy. You’re one of the top things that people find, your academic articles and such. I’ve quoted you for papers, research and had to figure out how am I going to meet with this person?
Then he goes to your contact page and fills out form.
It was serendipitous. I’m not a grammar teacher, I’m not sure what that word means. Oftentimes, I guess.
This has an E rating. I don’t always interview comics. A lot of my guests are comics because they meet the criteria of funny people. I have other funny people of different backgrounds and so on. I had a podcast released with my funniest student in the London Business School Dubai Program. He’s a Saudi Arabian supply chain expert. While I was in Dubai, I interviewed a former Black Hawk pilot instructor. He also leans right as you might guess also. I want a diversity of opinions, shapes, sizes, orientations, everything. That’s one of the goals that I have. You still have to be funny. I won’t compromise on funny for any other purpose but there’s no way that straight white men have funny locked up so we know that.
Sometimes I don’t think they get it because it still goes on to that. A lot of writing rooms are full of straight white educated. They’ve got a Harvard degree, they’re Harvard types. I don’t know how you sit in a room full of white straight people and go, “No problem.” There was a day where I showed up at a holiday party for a corporate event and perform. It was for a retail chain and it was their district managers and such, 100 people in the count. There were 98 men and 94 to 96 were white. I brought it up. It got uncomfortable but I wasn’t going to not bring it up and I made fun of them for it. I was like, “I don’t know how you walk into this room and be like normal.” Nobody raises a flag. Nobody goes, “We’re definitely doing it wrong.” It had to be 2005 or 2006 and you’d be like, “There’s an internet, you can Google these people of other backgrounds.”
I had one of my colleagues, Stefanie Johnson, on and she’s an expert in diversity and inclusion. The business case is clear that that’s not good. There’s no way that they reflect their customers. You know that there are mistakes. It’s bad for business.
For business politics, it might have been a winning attitude. The fact that they were stunned that I was bringing it up or mocking them, affected their real alpha male thing, which becomes the most difficult part at a corporate event. They’re all in their alpha zone and stand-up comedy is a lot about being the one alpha in the room, leading the rest of the people on a journey of laughter. When they think they’re superior to you, you’ve got a work to do. I don’t mind adding onto the pile like, “We’re going to have to dig out of this being a bunch of white guys and then being mad at me for mentioning it.”
I find myself sometimes thinking good comedy as an art form. As someone who studies comedy, I also find myself drawn into paying attention to artists more generally. Your comment about digging yourself in is an interesting one. I was watching this documentary, It Might Get Loud. It’s three guitarists of three different generations: Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. Jack White is by far the most interesting person in the documentary. Jimmy Page and The Edge, they’re great guitarists but they’re not charismatic, they’re not Bono. They’re not a front man in that way. Jack White is and he’s also a singer too. He’s got that thing. He talks about creating challenges for himself onstage. He plays a plastic shitty guitar sometimes like one of his guitars. He talks about moving further away from the mic so he has to hustle over there. He’s careful about not planning jokes or things that he says to make the creative work more challenging and to see more art come out of it. This is something you do on purpose.
There are artistic reasons for it. My personal background is I started performing comedy in 1992. By 1994, I realized I was going to talk about who I was the same way with my other peers. A few years in, I started at twenty. It’s got to be February of 1992 or mid-January was the primary. I was clerking for the congressmen. Flunked out by May of that year, had quit politics probably by February. I ended up onstage by June. I’ve called the comedy club. I’m on stage by July and loving it. It kept really into exploring what it is because those laughs are amazing, and I need to know more, how to be a part of that? The comedy clubs in Boston and there was a theater district. It was romantic. There were five major comedy clubs. They were closing. They were all owned by the mob. The backstage, the environment was just exciting to a young twenty-something. You’re on stage and creating laughter to sometimes sold-out audiences and sometimes nobody. It was something I wanted to chase.
[bctt tweet=”What you want is for people to really feel like they’ve got the value of what they purchased. ” via=”no”]
Also having those principles from the politics, I was going to stand my ground. If other people could talk about dating their girlfriend, I could talk about dating a boyfriend. Flash forward to maybe 2012 is when I finally was able to first comfortably do that. You would lose audiences. If I wanted to do that type of material, then I was also pre-selecting long before the show that there was potentially going to be an argument or a disruption. The crowd going from laughing with me to dead silence and going, “Is this really happening?” I had to learn how to win over every one of those moments and keep it within my moral guidelines. I was not going to do one of those acts where a person with a stereotype goes, “I’m a stereotype. Being the stereotype is difficult. You can’t believe how hard it is to be the stereotype.”
People have bigger challenges than I’ve ever had in my life. There are villages with no water since the day I was born. That’s a tough life, walking three hours to go get dirty water. When you keep the world in perspective you go, “Being a gay comedian will be difficult. It’s not going to be easy like some of my other peers but it will be worthwhile when I conquer it artistically.” You mentioned Ralph’s movie or the one before it, Louie Anderson Presents. Those were two movies where I was booked specifically because they had seen me do dating jokes without introducing the stereotype or trying to get permission from the audience to be gay. I was trying to deliver a dating joke like anybody else. They were smart. They’re leaders in comedy. They totally figured out what I was doing at a moment and said, “We’ve got to put you in this movie. You’ve got to do your jokes.”
Now, I’m in the world of teaching and that’s something I try to teach to our students, “You’ve got to be you as an artist. You’ve got to distinguish yourself as an artist. It’s got to be funny, original and then distinguished.” If you’re opening for a headliner, you’re opening for Jim Jefferies, you want him to show up early and watch your set from a hidden spot in the back rooms not because they’re worried of what you’re covering or if you’re going to blow them off the stage they’re going, “I want to see what that Bear is up to. He made me laugh before. I’m glad he’s on the show again. I need to see the new stuff because it’s going to make me laugh more than others.” That’s the real secret to the art of comedy. Had anyone told me that on day one, it would have cut out a few years.
What I heard you essentially say is growing up in the world of politics, which is adversarial oftentimes, especially when it comes to elections. Pre-election, it’s quite adversarial and even post-election. That idea that you are willing to potentially create an adversary in your audience or at least come in conflict with your audience is something that you feel more comfortable probably than the average comedian, whether it being making people uncomfortable talking about your dating life or calling lefties close-minded.
It’s calling out those stereotypes or those common things people think, “All liberals are open-minded.” Follow me in my life and come to parties where I’m pushed into a corner by several people. Young women holding Chardonnay and in a circle around me going, “You can’t be a gay Republican.” You go, “Ladies, I’m 6’3”, I’m 300 pounds but you had me cornered and I need you to be aware of that. In the spirit of trying to tell me I need to be a Democrat, you’ve surrounded me. You’re using a lot of techniques that I’m totally against. That’s why I’m not a populace.” Populism in an extreme form is people cornering somebody going, “You better believe just like us.” My audience, they don’t have a politics. They might have one collectively, I’ve never measured it but the sensibility is you let people be people. Conversely, if a gay act opens for me and looks at the audience and says stuff like, “You’re straight people,” my crowd will lose their minds. They’re like, “Do not label me. He doesn’t take a label. We don’t take a label. You have no idea.”
I learned this in a comedy club that I played for years. The wait staff asked me if I had noticed the swingers there, something had happened to them. That’s when I put together two things that we had swingers who sat near the front row pretty routinely. It was common knowledge for a long time and it never came up. Nobody felt the need to gossip about them and I do not care. It made me change my dating material to reach everybody as opposed to talking to straight people on dates and gay people on dates. You look out to the audience and you think, “I can make some guesses here but I best not try to land my guesses is true unless that’s comedically where I want to go to.” I ought to when I’m generally saying, “I thank you for coming out here tonight.” Thanking the people who do all the planning. There’s no need to assume a gender or the quantity of people in their date night or even if it’s a romantic date night. Sometimes couples getting together with brothers-in-law, sisters and other friends, there’s nothing romantic involved about it. It gets set on a calendar and it’s a date night. I broadened it all the way out to there and thinking about how do I want to address the crowd. Let them be on their night and we meet in the middle like I’m in the middle of my night too.
Certainly, that dating status is irrelevant to their laughs in a sense. They’re there for laughs, primarily.
Nothing will make me stop laughing at a straight comedian who talks to the whole audience as if they’re on a straight date. I check out. I’m like, “It isn’t ‘96 anymore.” Acknowledge that those people have other worlds here. We bicker too over the menu or we got upset about parking or not. We get mad about not having a choice ever or always having to make the choice. If you take one step back and broaden your view, you can find a way to include more of the audience on your comedy. The real source of the comedy is the frustration and parking, it’s certainly not the gender or the stereotype behind it.
Everybody has a parking problem. There are a bunch of things that you’ve already mentioned that I wanted to ask you about. You said you’re 6’3”, 320 pounds. I said you’re a Bear of a Comedian, that has multiple meanings. Explain to people, 6’3”, 320 pounds and you’ve got a beard, you’ve got a big bushy hair.
Kenny Rogers knocked up in Oak Ridge Boy was an old school joke of mine. I have a hoodie on that says BEAR. Sometimes for an audience if I need to whack them over the head, I’m like, “Bear is a big fat gay guy.” I point at each of the letters and they have to figure out. It’s classic misdirection. I’m doing the acronym for what a bear might be. Oftentimes a bear is a big fat gay guy and that would definitely being me. I have a lot of empathy for people who are straight. There are mothers who call their littlest one a bear. That’s another place where you’ll hear the term and then big dudes who are fury, drive trucks and live in Minnetonka can be called bear by their wife. When people hear my material, I want them to acknowledge that, “There are gay bears but that doesn’t mean everybody who is big, fat and with a beard is a gay bear.” There are lots of different bears.
Every big fat gay man is a bear but not every big hairy man is gay.
My brother-in-law is Big Ray and that’s the nickname for him. I remember having a cab driver in Buffalo named Bear.
You probably owned the same sweatshirt.
This one’s custom fancy.
Do you sell that? Do you sell merchandise?
No, I have some t-shirts. I tried doing merchandise but there’s too much with sales taxes. As I read it, you’ve got to charge taxes in their town and in yours. There was that big Supreme Court case about it. It turns out at the level I sell, there’s legally almost no reason for me to file for the two tax licenses. When it’s Wayfair they should. You can see the politics.
I was going to say that we’re about to head into Republican talking points.
Globally, it’s zero taxes across the board. They need to increase my customer base. I have comedians from Nigeria who reach out and comedians from India who reach out. On my website, I’m only selling comedy classes in the States. I don’t want to have to figure out international taxes, while I try to figure out something broad as how to teach comedy online. I have probably twenty Nigerian comedian friends who follow my videos and blog I used to keep. Sometimes I would put out YouTube videos on how to write a joke. In the cases of international students, they can translate it. They can also put closed caption in their language. I study things like universal design. On campus I’m learning how to teach comedy to a variety of learners and abilities. When it comes to things like taxes I’m like, “That’s got to take some time.”
It’s lower. It’s on the back burner.
Better to put out free content that international people can access and learn from than trying to worry about affordability in Nigeria. We did the math. It’s $400 a year in standard of living. He didn’t want to not pay for courses. We figured out if he paid $0.75 that was pretty comparable. You’ve got to figure out how to do a promo code for Nigerians to be able to buy at their price.
[bctt tweet=”The jokes have to be clever and funny and working at the best of your ability” via=”no”]
If I have any Nigerian guests, you can message me privately for those.
He had sent a bunch of memes that he was struggling with. He was trying to do memes like I was doing and encouraging other people to do. On my end, the task was to determine his comedy and where it was failing. He said he was offending people too much and he wanted to figure out how to not.
Too much of a violation.
There was a joke about a dad having gone off to hunt and come back with nothing. That was making people in his neighborhood a little pissed. Starvation is not funny to people who have friends who were starving. It’s also like, that must be right where the button must be pushed as a proper comedian. If that’s where the steam needs relieving, you’ve got to go there.
That’s where the puzzle is to be solved.
I didn’t want to shy away from that. I wanted to figure out how I can coach this guy to find the line. I have to learn his culture and then what will his culture laugh in? I’m not trying to generate a Denver laugh. I need a Nigerian laugh.
I had seen you perform but the other reason why I wanted to bring you on was because I stumbled across one of your videos. I wasn’t aware that you were working as a comedy instructor. We’ll get into how you got into this but I want to talk about that video. The video was about reversals.
How to write comedy, it’s called The Reverse. It’s over 10,000 hits on YouTube and it was a homework assignment for the Teaching Learning Center at the Community College of Denver. Most colleges have a teaching-coaching center. There are a variety of names for it, most often something like Teaching Learning Center.
Ours is like FTEP, the Faculty Teaching Excellence Program. I’ve taken a bunch of these classes.
The day I started teaching, Ralphie May Filthy Animal Tour came out the first day of class. I was touring and had a last comic standing audition within the first few weeks of teaching. That’s not my life normally but stepping on planes and bouncing from gigs to things and then back. I missed my orientation because of a gig. I logged in at the school. If you’re not in a college, then there’s a system you log into and found where my course was. My third or fourth time logging in there was this little red light and I don’t like red lights. That’s not a good thing. I was trying to figure out how I was going to teach and there was this light going like, “You’re not doing something.” I clicked on the red light. I wasn’t doing my homework in Effective Learning Course that everybody had been enrolled.
You are on brand for a comedian.
It’s totally where I needed. Even my boss said, “That’s why we have you doing this. If you have to miss an orientation to tour, we’ll catch you up.” I checked in on this online class and my hero, Jen Ferguson, works for the Teaching Learning Center. It was a course designed to effective teaching. It was done in the online method and she makes these great learning videos that are slow narrations of a PowerPoint and I love them. I’d come home from teaching, have dinner, watched the video and then get into the lesson. While I’m having dinner and such I need to decompress, watching a five-minute or twenty-minute video was a great way to convert my head into the world of, “I have to take this class and do some assignments. What on Earth is going on?” From there I followed her courses into one called Online Basics. The premise of that one was how to organize your online course show and creating a video was the big takeaway.
I was excited to be able to finally make a video that matches what my students in the class were learning. I created The Comedy Reversed to match Melvin Helitzer’s, Comedy Writing Secrets, which is a book. It’s a yellow with a red writing and three editions. They get more in academic as Helitzer is gone and there’s some academic butchering it, making it more about what academics need to know about teaching or comedy. Either way, this is supposed to be at the top of a module, an overview of the chapter and a basic teaching of the lesson. I uploaded it to YouTube. I was excited to do that and thought, “I would get 20 or 30 hits.” If you take an online math class and it’s a YouTube video in there, you go and you see that it has 25 hits in six semesters with 100 students. Nobody’s watching it to know that mine or know How to Write a Joke is 15,000 or closer to 20,000 views. It’s telling me who the audience is. Once a year I look at the Google Analytics and learn a little bit more. That stuff freaks me out. If I wanted to be popular, I’d live in Los Angeles.
I wasn’t intending to create popular videos but I did want to create quality videos that got the lesson across. I can see that people are rewinding, re-watching certain sections and such. Last I checked, there was someone from Vietnam who had watched it 300%. That means they’ve gone back and forth to watch it. That’s where I assume people are watching maybe in a closed caption in order to get English as a second language. Comedy is a higher level of English to try and get command of. The Comedy Reversed is essentially misdirection, the switcheroo, taking a person down one path and then going to the other side. It provides a couple of examples that are from the book. One of my own jokes from the great state of New Hampshire, the state motto is, “Live free or die.” I chose move and I’m taking you down one direction and then I’m pulling the reverse by going in the other way.
That was my first attempt at learning how to organize a video. I knew how to edit and that type of stuff. I knew how to create a PowerPoint but I had never considered until I saw one of those videos how effective that would be as a learning tool. Through further study, I brought up universal design. I know larger fonts so that people can really read them. In observing in life, you can see people watching videos on a bus. A video that has more text to it and larger text so that people can see it from a small cell phone.
Half of it has to be on mobile.
Obama was one of the first people to get that across in mass communication. You could see in his videos where key words would come up. A lot of my current videos, I try to do more of that. I want to be effective and address the variety of learning styles out there. To me, that reminds me when someone explained to me what universal design was. I remember being in an online discussion and saying, “That’s like working with Wanda Sykes, Tracy Morgan, Brian Regan or Kathleen Madigan.” Those are levels of craziness from Wanda Sykes being probably the most rational and Madigan. Brian is adorable and then Tracy, absolutely crazy. They’re all super geniuses of comedy. They’re good mentors. They know how to explain things, observe, and discuss. If we were to have them as a panel, I bet you they could spend an hour on their own learning difficulties. How they’ve conquered them, what professors or teachers in their life have helped them conquer. To understand that’s beneficial to comedy, if we put stuff out there not as a law or even as a rule but as, “Here’s a suggestion or a potential definition of these terms and explanation.” The application and innovation, how do you do those steps? For teacher nerds, it’s Bloom’s taxonomy. Start with knowledge and a lot of my newer content is built in that manner. Explain the definition and then they try to get the comprehension, then the application and then some assessment innovation followed by a final evaluation.
Sounds like you’ve thought more about this than I have. When Joel Warner and I worked on The Humor Code, we interviewed this guy out in LA, Howard Dean. He does a stand-up comedy course and used this linguist model of script reversal as a way to teach people how to write jokes and thinking about jokes. We sat in one of the classes where he was teaching how to riff, how to work with an audience and talk to an audience. It is fun. It’s interesting that a lot of comics chafe at the idea that you might take a class to learn this stuff. I know the classroom experiences aren’t always the best way to learn but they can often be a useful way, at the very least a supplementary way. I’ve always believed like the Benign Violation Theory is not meant to be used to teach people to be funny. It’s an explanation of what is funny. I believe that it could be used to cut the learning curve.
This reversal idea is interesting because I’ve been writing about it. I don’t know if you know Vally D, she was from Boulder. She lives in Boston. She has this great tweet, “Do you ever think about how nice it would be to leave your phone at home, take a nice long walk and get run over by a car?” It’s solid comedy. I have another one I found from Tim Lee. Tim’s a comedian out in California and says, “Been off caffeine for three months. Do I miss it? Yes, but do I miss the nervousness, insomnia and heart palpitations? Yes, I do.” Those are nice reversals. What’s interesting is when you start looking for them in comedy, you find them everywhere. It’s Comedy 101.
It’s certainly Joke Writing 101. You can extend into the worlds of improvisation or your act outs. There’s definitely that misdirection. It’s a bride at a wedding pushing the cake into her groom space. She’s supposed to feed the groom. That’s an old joke. I was thinking all the way back to pull my finger. It’s like what were the cave people be doing for jokes? That classic misdirection of, “I’m sending you this way and something else is happening. It was unexpected.”
[bctt tweet=”If you’re going to be so against selling out that you’re contributing to the fact that waitresses and waiters get cut, you’re a jerk.” via=”no”]
You actually write down the steps that you should follow and questions you should ask in terms of seeing if you can flip a premise.
Those are techniques I definitely picked up from Helitzer. I was a kid and my friend, Jimmy Dunn, mentioned, “Read this book, Comedy Writing Secrets.” In the classic New England working-class sense, he’s like, “Don’t tell anybody, it’s a secret.” When I got the job teaching, I called him and said, “Guess what book?” He was like, “Helitzer.” The times had shifted. There’s no more in this era, you just don’t hide secrets anymore.
Jerry Seinfeld’s going to talk to the New York Times about how he writes jokes. People aren’t treating comedy like magic where magicians are still hiding.
I pity them. I understand why they might want to do that, but not all of us want to see the video of how it’s done. The next best magicians from Nigeria would be able to have access to a video, or I could put it that way. With teaching comedy, since day one of taking the job, I was aware of the tension and the counterculture to it. I took Louie Anderson’s bootcamp, I was invited to attend. There was a lot of internet brouhaha about Louie and Kyle Cease having a bootcamp. Doug Stanhope wrote a blog article trashing the whole idea of a bootcamp. He had less than half a sentence trashing, I don’t even think he approached trashing Louie Anderson and it showed the point of the people who were against teaching. One, he says he’s against teaching. Two, then he tells you how instruction happens in comedy. You have to buy drinks for a headliner and ask them questions, which is really convenient because I love to drink. I would like it if everybody who wanted advice buy me a drink. That’s not fair because I remember walking into the bootcamp and seeing a comedian who I would not ever spend the time of day talking to. They don’t have access to that.
That’s why you have straight white men who then teach straight white men who are comfortable being at a bar late at night and not walking home to a car specifically. That’s a huge issue.
I knew that it was the right thing to either take classes or even for someone like Louie to teach them. Then the workshop went this way. Louie talked for an hour, hour and a half and I’m learning everything. Then Kyle Cease would talk and I was at his skill level or above it. I would politely listen like any good human. Then back to Louie and I didn’t understand. I know how people were poo-pooing on the price. To see Louie can be $60 and $80 and $100 to watch him do material he’s working on. You’re getting to sit in a room with him and he’s talking for an hour and a half as opposed to 50 or 70 minutes. He’s talking three and four times during that day, six times during the two-day camp. He’s looking at your material and offering you advice. It comes at a price tag. It’s also really good for people to learn from their mentors. Since then I’ve been pretty much a pretty good advocate for teaching comedy. I have had some internet detractors take a swing at the bat at me. I think that’s adorable. I had to figure out how to tell gay jokes in New England and ‘94, teaching on the internet in 2018. I was dealing with bullies like, “You better be a funny bully because the funniest bullies in comedy are my peers and friends. Not too many of them have lined up.” It’s always some junior weight kid going like, “You can’t teach this stuff,” and it turns out they’re actively after information and they don’t want people giving information out to their competitors. I like open information.
You strike me as quite libertarian.
I’ve been down that road but I live in Denver where there are gorgeous parks and those are built by cities. For my politics, I’ll often tell people like, “Let’s just meet in the park and then we can discuss it,” because the person cutting that lawn and the person who’s thinking about that lawn, we probably owe them a retirement if they’re going to work for us for a long time. Do we owe them an exorbitant retirement? No, but we have to pay that bill and we can’t get mad. That’s where a lot of Republicans get to. They’re like, “Why don’t we have to pay for this park and the retirement?” I’m like, “Are you going to come out and cut the lawn?” To the expertise that the lawn requires, there are old sculptures that are drawn into the whole plan. There are sidewalks that were pre-thought out and trees that are making them beautiful tree line that meet the mountains. You’ve got to put money into some stuff.
This is related to this idea. I have this saying about people will pay for value, whether it be taxes or taking an online comedy class. The notion of people criticizing Louie for his bootcamp and its costs, that only has to be because they don’t see the value in it. If there are people who find value in it, then the price is right.
If you like the callback closer, that was his signature move on the Tonight Show and in his HBO Specials to begin a routine with a major punchline that he’ll get to. Then to close with a different take on that same punchline. He’s got an HBO Special where he begins with his mom looking at the neighbors and making commentary about them. Then he ends with UN peace initiative meeting and his mom being there looking through what’s going on, making comments about first it’s the poor neighbors next-door and they’re real poor. It was Ethiopia and at the time they’re real poor. That laughter is a classic move that he would constantly do and I wanted to know more about it. I have used that element in my own stand-up, but then to be with him talking about it and figuring out how did he know what he was up to when he was doing that? That’s high value.
I wasn’t familiar with the callback closer as a tactic, but what I like about that is it treats the audience as really smart. I’m a big believer in that idea of, “I want to treat my students that they’re smart. I want to treat everybody in my life, who’s listening to me, reading what I’m writing or whatever it is, as smart.” I want to make it easy for them to understand. I think good art does that.
There are times where I try to think of other words other than smart because in improv they say, “You’re working at top of your intelligence.” I like that. I don’t want to shy away from why you want to be smart but then there’s also not having any fear to go there. Also I like what you’re saying about just don’t assume, you don’t have to dumb it down for them. Maybe they’re a little smarter than you or maybe they’re a little more aware, or what a Millennial might call woke. I’m 46, you don’t have to tell me I’m woke. I’ve told gay jokes in scarier places than any little snowflake you’re going to run to. You don’t worry about me being woke. I’ll talk to audiences like they get it. Over time, this will lose its relevance.
I do a dirty Christmas show once a year and it’s my most offensive jokes. I think about the most offensive topics that have happened this year and where’s the punchline? I have a punchline that I tried on several friends. I know the joke is solid. It’s that good that I’m like, “I’ve got to practice this one because I’ll only be able to say it one night, one time only.” It involves Jamal Khashoggi. You either know who that is or you don’t. After people laugh and you’ve given the jokes some thought, even in a millisecond you might go, “I think he’s talking about that guy.” Out of four friends, three stood up out of their chair, doubled over laughing, one went, “Who is that?” It makes me realize, “I’ll need a tagline after to allow the people who have all three steps.” The people who get the joke and are getting up and busting a gut. The other people who were taking the context of the moment and going like, “Everyone is laughing that hard. I can’t believe he went there and talked about that guy. I think it’s that guy that he’s talking about.” They can laugh then.
Then there’s going to be a group in the room that’s like, “I have no idea what everybody’s laughing. Clearly, they’re laughing very hard. I have missed something.” They’ll ask about it later. The word, twink, I use that in my act all the time about a day twinks. I refuse to explain it to the audience so that they can have that moment in the car ride home having to explain twink to Uncle Jerry or whatever. Then they come see me again and we’ll meet after the show, and I get the story about how to explain twink. That’s what my audience likes. You have to decide for yourself what your audience likes. For my audience, they love that I don’t stop. Allow that process of context clue to come along. I love figuring out stuff like that. When you don’t know what a word means, but you’re like, “I think it’s here.”
I teach an MBA course in Marketing Management. To me, the most important part of the class is this notion of what we call segmentation, targeting, and positioning. Thinking about the needs, habits, behaviors, things that you can categorize the marketplace, picking the group of people that you want to serve. You’re doing this directly or indirectly with your Comedy 101. Looking at novice or new comics have a certain personality, they’re open to instruction, etc. Then creating what we call a unique position in their mind. You’re the best solution for them. I use this example of Subaru, they didn’t set out to target this group, but recognizing through whatever reason that their cars were super popular with lesbians.
They wanted to be able to communicate with this group and they’ve figured out a very clever way to do it that had no effect on the other groups of people. They had ads like, “It’s not a choice.” Another one was, “Get out and stay out,” and a picture of a car in a mountain setting. Which I always thought was really fun because if you’re in the know, it’s especially clever and it may speak to you. If you’re not, you can just take it as face value. It was a very fun use of language.
You could do that with a Coexist bumper sticker on the back of a Subaru. That’s how I knew they were popular with lesbians. This is a lot of new information for me. I see what you’re saying. I do like that wordplay. It is allowing certain people in the club while telling other people they can’t come in. I love that and a bit of laughter.
I want to hit a few other things here. Do you talk about the rule of three?
Is that also like a technique that you used that you talk about in terms of trying to develop jokes?
[bctt tweet=”Acting and theater and such are like a badge of honor to work for free for so long. You’ve got to rethink that.” via=”no”]
By that point in the semester, that’s usually week six or eight. In Helitzer’s book, he calls him the triples. He brings up the Rule of Three in chapter three as well. It comes up a few times. The first time I address it, I talked more about how there are things that you’ll hear have titles like rules. Helitzer, since he’s writing a book for an academic purpose, he does have an acronym for what threes is.
Do you have an example for the audience of a good Rule of Three?
A classic bar joke is usually a setup based on the Rule of Threes. When a Jew and a Catholic and a gay comedian walk into a bar, then you can begin to know that the bartender is going to interact with the first character mentioned. One, first the Jew then the Catholic, and then the comedian is going to say something that builds or gets the laughter. The first one sets up the idea, the second one builds the anticipation and the third one delivers the big punchline. Tagging a joke can often be based on the Rule of Three as well. A classic joke to do is to reinvent porn titles to demonstrate your ability to do wordplay. However you change the titles of porn, if you’re doing impressions, “This is my impression of so and so starring in this movie,” that’s too pretty well-done premises that people can conceive on their own. Doing three versions of the movie title allows the audience to laugh on the first title and then on the second one they get to go like, “One more time.” Then the third one is like, “We get it.” Hopefully, you’ve maxed out the amount of laughter and you’ve probably maxed out the audience’s attention span on the little rhetorical technique of using the three examples.
I noticed one thing that you use is exaggeration. I asked you for a bio. The one I introduced you with, I hacked together from different places. Your bio had, “Chuck Roy is a very funny comedian.”
No comedian likes their bio. I’m working on how to write better and funnier bios for people. I knew that for Google Analytics, top comedian was a popular search. I just put a period after top and then it’s top.comedian. You have to be really gay to get that. Gay people call themselves tops and bottoms. It was a joke that nobody ever told me it was funny. Then a student in class, I showed my demo reel for one class, and it’s a moment that pops up. He was like, “Top comedian.”
I’ve heard stories about filmmakers who put something in their movie for one person. It’s something so subtle that maybe only Quentin Tarantino is watching your movie.
When you are generating tons of laughter in a comedy club and everybody knows they’re having a great time and you tell another joke that only one person in the room is going to get and clearly gets, and if they guffaw like a big, hard, loud laugh coming from the silence from offstage, from anywhere, the rest of the people know that you weren’t quite wrong in assembling the words the way you did. Maybe they were wrong in assembling the words the way they heard them. They clearly missed something that somebody else is laughing at. To do a joke like, “Top comedian,” it was one of those things where it’s like this one is going to slide past a lot of people. There are going to be people like, “I had no idea you’re gay.” It was the first word. I should have had you laughing in the first word. I didn’t even get to the second word of my bio. I’ve told you everything about my comedy. I wished my bios and such resonated more like that but again, I live in Denver. I’m not trying to be a popular comedian.
Let’s talk about that. I want to say that sometimes I write things just because I enjoy what I’ve written. This is a stupid example, but I enjoy it. I was writing an academic paper and I wrote, “Nevertheless, the effect persisted.”
You’ve got to go with what you want.
I don’t know if anybody who ever reads that will recognize the connection to Elizabeth Warren, “Nevertheless, she persisted.” It’s stupid but it makes you laugh. It didn’t make me laugh, it just made me smile.
I was just here for an Arts Entrepreneurship Conference. The titles of the workshops alone were beyond worthy. The phrase ideation came across, which to me is like, “That’s academic for ideas.” You’re like, “Ideation.” It’s like, “Come on, you’re not that fancy.” I wrote this joke about how they come up with the title for these things by putting all academic words on dice and boggling them up and going like, “It’s ideation for academic success.”
I get it. I love it. That joke is a little too close for me. You said, “I live in Denver, I’m not trying to be popular.”
I think that is changing. It’s not my priority, but I’d like to sell out the room when I play somewhere, so I need to address that skill. I’d like to teach other people why you want to sell tickets. There are other people counting on the revenue as well from the waitstaff to the dishwasher. I certainly have walked the line and done the whole thing about being an artist and I come from the ‘90s, especially as an opening act, you didn’t sell tickets. That wasn’t a skill that we were taught or it was necessary checked, evaluated. If it had been, I’d be selling tickets.
It’s already in commerce now.
I remember my first YouTube videos or my first stuff was putting your logo here on it and making artists go crazy like, “What do you mean putting logos on stuff?” I was like, “I toured and I saw logos on posters with my face on it and I wasn’t seeing any of that revenue.” I didn’t like that and I wasn’t in control of it. Here’s my audience having to see the logo of maybe a beer that isn’t the one they drink. I was like, “How am I going to get the beer I want to set the tone for the evening I want on the poster?” I began that process of exploring like how we as artists take that on. It’s quite the battle in 2003 and now it’s 2018 and comedy clubs are suddenly like, “You’ve got to share us on social media.” Before they’d be like, “Don’t you dare, that’s our revenue and what are you talking about?” To be able to sell tickets is something that I’d like to do.
The online comedy school, I would like that to be popular because it’s effective. I want that word of mouth, very satisfied customers. We were mentioning it a little bit trying to hit that price point for the value that they expect in this definitely shifting era of technology. It’s no longer putting out a book like Judy Carter did. She’s got online classes now as well. I’m studying her price points and what is she delivering versus what am I able to deliver? What you want is for people to really feel like they’ve got a value of what they purchased. You also want them to look at others who have the similar problem and say, “Buy this course, be it for $5 if it’s a short-targeted course or a $50 or $100, if it’s something where I’m taking a lot longer and giving you information that’s going to yield the return on investment that you’re thrilled with.”
I noticed on your website you sometimes sell individual lessons like some $5, some $20. You do these one-off things.
Identifying topics for a set list, $5.
That’s about the same price as a drink.
It’s about a price of a drink, about the price of an eBook on the low end. It’s not hours of content. It’s very specific. If you’re at that level where you’re wondering about how to assemble a set list artistically, you’re not making big dollars. I don’t feel comfortable charging you big dollars. I’m not selling you a secret that’s going to save a year. I’m trying to put together a $5 solution. You spent some time on it and absorbing the content, but that really what you have to do is go out there and practice the theory. Hopefully, it inspires some comedians to change their setlist. I can hit open mics and its people who are still trying the exact same jokes. They’re looking at notes. You’re like, “What do you mean? I know what the joke is. I’ve seen you three times over five years. I don’t know your name, but I know this pedestrian comedy thing you’re doing and you’re still looking at a list like you can’t remember what god-awful thing is next? Get it together and then put some art behind picking those topics.”
[bctt tweet=”Learn from someone who’s really doing it.” via=”no”]
I have a saying, “Be a professional.”
I want to say stuff like that, but I’m a modern drunkard magazine, drunk of the month. You’re going to hear Ralphie May laugh from the heavens like me going, “Eric, be a professional.” There’s a day where I walk in to see Ralph and I’m going to host the closing show for the night. I had played the one club in the south of the city and I’m now up to the other show because I knew both the headliners. They’ve got me joyfully moving from club to club. As I walk into the downtown club, Ralph is there and his opening act, Billy Wayne Davis. This is how I meet him as Ralph goes, “They’ve done F you up, Billy Wayne.” He’s cursing at Billy Wayne going like, “They got Chuck Roy to host. You can’t follow him.” He’s just doing what comedians do to blast their opening.
That’s how it gets taught oftentimes. My best mentors just crushed my soul and taught me how to be funnier and demanded excellence. If I was presented with the challenge, they’d be like, “You’re not ready for this. Hurry up, you have twelve minutes to get funnier than the situation.” Ralph is essentially telling his opening act, “You can’t follow this guy. This guy’s a headliner who secretly lives in Denver, has hidden from the whole industry and you’re about to get annihilated. Hurry up.” I pick up the context of it as it’s happening, and I look at Billy Wayne and I go, “You can’t follow me.” That is the kind of stuff I’m trying to learn how to even put into lessons.
I wrote this course called How to Write Halloween Jokes That Kill. It was just based on feedback. Somebody reviewed my site and was like, “It’s way too academic. It’s way too serious. You’re not being funny.” The customer, they don’t want to know how to write a joke. They want to know how to write a joke that kills. Then Bloom’s taxonomy kicked in like, “How am I going to effectively teach the joke that kills? How do I measure? How does the person measure? How do we prove that they’ve demonstrated mastery in writing jokes that kill?” I wrote this little short lecture about Anthony Clark who used to crush me when I was his opener. He delivered this thing that he would call, “Boom, shake the room.” You could make the laughs bounce off the comedy club and they’re laughing at your next joke and your next joke. It’s booming laugh after booming laugh after booming laugh. The jokes have to be clever and funny and working at the best of your ability. More jokes and more jokes and no cheap jokes and even more jokes and more jokes so that the room is booming with laughter and it’s shaking the room. I was in my fourth or fifth year getting those lessons. There are comedians who go twenty years without ever hearing that type of stuff. They either won’t seek out that kind of mentorship or they’re not in a position to get that kind of mentorship.
They live in the wrong place. They don’t have the right people.
If Ralph May doesn’t think you’re funny and ignores you then you’re sitting outside the green room waiting for his show to start. You just get to watch him and observe if you’re lucky enough to be in the green room or on the show or in the movie. It’s also you’ve worked enough. You’ve done the work to have the jokes that crush and the comfortable delivery and you’re bringing the goods. I’m trying to put that into text that translates to audiences who might not be speaking or reading English when they’re getting it. I’m loving that challenge. To go back to popularity, that’s why I would like to hear the people, comedians in other languages, were able to use Google Translate, which I barely understand how it works, for them to be able to grasp the concept and go, “You really nailed it so that I could be learning this from Finland or I’m learning this from Asia. I’m getting the concept of rock in the house.” Make that boom, shake the room happen.
I have to tell you this that when we were talking and this idea of instruction came up, you just lit up, as much as you can light up. I can see that you’re excited about it.
It matches everything. I was done with comedy. I’ve done it. I know I love it and I know I’ll continue to do it, but the challenges were over. It just brought on more celebrity or fame, which was nothing I wanted to deal with. I decided to move here. I fired the local comedy club because they paid terrible and they were rude to me on a certain day. I went, “If you don’t think I can walk away from this world, you miscalculated.”
There’s a reversal in your own life.
In a few months, I ended up teaching and it’s comedy on a level that only I think my best of friends and peers like Ralph could get. They understand that I don’t have this desire to be number one on Netflix but if that were to happen, great. Would I like to maybe figure out how to be number one on Netflix so I can teach a course about it? Yes. Would it be a private course? Maybe, but the fact that it’s for a public university or community college, the fact that I teach at a community college versus an elite university, I would like to teach at Harvard. I believe I’ll teach at Harvard. I’d like to teach at Emerson. I believe I’ll teach at Emerson, UCLA here at Boulder, DU. The Community College of Denver, that is luck and the world rewarding me or people like the other teachers who have had the opportunity as well. You’re lucky to be able to be in a classroom demonstrating the art to people and helping them reach their own art and version of the art. They’ve got to work for it. They’ve got to go back to their job. They have to figure out their student loan and they have to get a return on investment on it. They want to get into a career and taking a comedy class may just be part of an academic journey. They want to learn how to think critically and problem solve and make people laugh. They’re not trying to be comedians or going to go on to be a poet or an IT programmer, an accountant or a public speaker.
I love that challenge of like having deans and a team above me that holds me accountable to am I teaching to every student that walks in the room and handling their difficulties and they’re bringing out the best of their abilities? This is where I needed to be. It brings back all those skills that I gave up leaving politics. This is policy. I didn’t like politics. I like policy. Being one of the people out there influencing comedy education is super great. To be able to be in a position where I get to write the stuff, I’m the one who got to make the reverse video. To get that done, I had to think about the broader audience and the idea that don’t lay down rules, lay down suggestions. Walk people through the process of them being able to come up with their own rules or guidelines. That’s how you determine your artistic satisfaction. You figure out how much you want to have to do with sales or not. If you want nothing to do with sales, then don’t worry about selling tickets. If you want to play theaters that are sold out, then you might want to get around the skill of selling some tickets.
My thing is, “Do you want to write a book or do you want a successful book?” Those two things can be different.
I’d like to write an OER book for this type of stuff, open education resource, the free ones. Especially in Arts Entrepreneurship, I recognized that is not a new field but it’s emerging. There aren’t a lot of books about it and there’s no need for me to write one for profit when I could probably earn about the same through the school and right when that goes up on open education resources. Then schools from around the globe get to download it. They don’t have to write a book about how to sell tickets artistically at your rock club, poetry show, theater performance or sell commercials for your podcast, how to artfully market your pottery, whatever the art is. I can totally relate to not wanting to be a sellout. I also understand how sellout is also part of selling.
I have the saying, “It’s not selling out. It’s cashing in.” People have mortgages, they have student loan debt. It has to be more than a hobby.
In the world of comedy, no matter what you think of your role in the money, if you want your audience to get some chicken fingers and burger or fries during the show, especially if it’s a Wednesday night at 7:00, many of them might have just come from work. Whether you like it or not, if you want an audience that is hangry, then don’t get them fed. If you want an audience that is sober, then provide no beer. If you want some people who are out having a fun time on a Wednesday, acknowledge that there is some food and beverage service going on. For a waiter or waitress to be there in America, under our economic system means they’re getting a server’s wage. They’re working off of tips. They’re counting on a certain amount of people showing up. Whoever plans that has to predict how many waiters or servers they’re going to schedule. For someone to get scheduled and then cut, they have to figure out where that money comes from. If you’re going to be so against selling out that you’re contributing to the fact that waitresses and waiters get cut. I don’t mind bringing up the economics of that and say like, “You’re a jerk.”
Just for some false Jerry Garcia type like, “We don’t want to sell tickets.” The Grateful Dead had better ticket sales than anybody and this whole world of commerce following them in the parking lot. For me artistically, I’ve had to realize when I first got into the business I was just like, “Selling tickets, no way.” Then you study and you realize, “The Dead had things like a hotline you could call to find out where the next show was.” In terms of customer service, they delivered on venue. Where are you going to go see the show? What kind of adventure you’re going to have when you get there? Who’s the opening act? How cool is the poster? All that type of stuff, it adds up into the enjoyment of the evening.
It reminds me a little bit about I watched this documentary about the Ramones. Everybody always thinks about Joey Ramone. Joey is the tall, long hair one. There’s another one there. You think about they’re a punk rock band and they’re just so punk rock and all this kind of stuff. That dude was the brains behind their operation. He might not have been the brains behind the music, but he was the one who made the Ramones, the Ramones. You often need that, you can’t just have the creative genius. Oftentimes behind the creative genius, there’s the boyfriend or the girlfriend or the parent. Van Gogh had a brother. We don’t know who Van Gogh is if he didn’t have that brother.
Ben Roy has a number one album on iTunes. He’s got a successful TV show on TruTV. He was my opening act for a long time. During these drinking days, he’s a rockstar in a bottle. I used to tease him like, “You’re like Dane Cook.” I started with Dane and I witnessed what he did. Ben was one of those guys conflicted by selling out. He’s a master at selling and entertaining the audience, bring them on the journey.
Bringing those people will pay for value.
His photos from the set of those who came were so great that they just told you the story and they shared the journey with you. When kids sign up for my class and I asked, “Who are your favorite comedians?” They name people I’ve worked with. They have this vision of the person being like this never going to sell tickets person. I’m like, “I know that person. They do this in order to sell tickets.” They’ve gone on a journey from not being rock and roll and tatted and against that type of thing to understanding their role in it and how you got to entertain while you ask people to buy the album or follow up with the thank you. Ben is so good about following up with like, “I can’t believe I’m number one.”
I’ve seen him on Twitter thanking fans.
That was something that conflicted in way early. For me as his producer, I didn’t have the skills to be able to say, “This is why we do it.” I was more in agreement with him going like, “Why are we trying to sell stuff, but we’re doing a crop report and there’s a chance to sell commercials in this thing. I like to figure out how to sell commercials so I can pay you.” You have to deal with artists who at that time who was like, “I don’t need to be paid. This is just amazing what we’re doing.” I was like, “Ben, I’d like a mortgage. I’d like insurance.”
I think it’s selfish when fans get upset about stuff.
Oftentimes it’s like, “I don’t want my little secret artist to become famous or whatever.” It’s like, “I don’t know what you want, but Red Rocks is 8,000 seats and they got to sell. If you’re mad at Nathaniel Rateliff for going from bar rooms to selling that for two nights, you should be so happy for him.” He’s got a band that they travel to Europe. While it sounds terrific, he’s mentioned that if I configure it out, how can he come into the class and talk about his responsibility and making sure those checks are good for the band when they play Europe and such. There is that element of the art where people are like, “I don’t want my band to be there.” If you want them to be available to you at your corner bar in Denver, then please understand. Since I moved here, rent was $300. It’s now $1,300. Cost of living was $30,000 something when I first got here. It is now $50,000 to $60,000. Your band has got to figure it out. Barista jobs don’t pay for that. They’ve got to be able to sell tickets and you’ve got to have a role in wanting to pay for that so it does show up at your corner bar.
While that doesn’t have to be an exorbitant fee, we can achieve it if we poopoo and make it impossible for them to sell those tickets. It goes specifically to the poetry audience out there. Poets don’t charge anything and that’s why poetry shows are lousy. Nobody goes to a poetry show and is like, “This was banging.” Acting and theater and such are like a badge of honor to work for free for so long. You’ve got to rethink that. The world really has to think about, “How can my local actor starring in five shows, but the same play for a month at a theater? How does that convert into their world of being able to save for retirement? Otherwise, we’ve got to buy them food.”
I have had Sommer Browning who’s a poet down in Denver. She’s opened a poetry show in her garage, which you might enjoy that. How did you end up teaching at a community college?
I was a guest speaker often when Chris Voth had the class. He went on to get his Doctorate and would no longer have time to teach the class. He suggested me. I know that they went for some other comedians as well.
I’m glad they failed.
I’m certainly glad as well, although it’s a city property, so I’m not a hog. We’re looking at building a certificate which means more courses. If there are other people who should be teaching those classes, then I need to do the hustle to get those people to teach those courses. I do think I’ve got the certain set of skills and that broad range of thinking. I don’t think the other people they were looking at would be considering students in Nigeria. I also don’t think those people don’t have those skills. If I were to go to any of the two other people that I know of that they were looking at for the job, they would have a lot of answers for me on like, “What do we do about Nigeria?” I think it will also be like a bear, I’m already yawning, “You go research that and tell us what you think and we’ll back you.” I don’t have a Master’s degree, so I’m back in school trying to get a degree while I continue to teach and develop the certificate. They had to have a little presidential exception. At the top of my résumé, it actually said flunked out of college.
If there’s any place that you should be able to get the exception.
It would be the Community College of Denver.
I was going to say it would be for a comedy class.
I went to an Instructional Design Conference and this one lady in an attempt to comfort me, they were saying I could call myself professor, even though I’m an adjunct. They’re trying to solve how do I upsell this thing that I don’t have a degree?
You take the bug and you make it a feature.
She goes, “What you have is terminal degree in your field,” which is maybe laugh in the saddest way because that’s how academics are. They’re like, “Are you a part-time professor? We can’t say that. How about adjunct faculty member? That will market itself to nobody. Nobody will buy a class because you’re an adjunct faculty member. We can’t call you professor because we’re elitist and there’s got to be a hierarchy.” What it means is there’s no degree in comedy, not even an Associate’s out there. My life experience gives me the maximum degree you can get. In an academic world, we can’t say maximum degree in my field. It’s terminal. It sounds like I have a disease and that we’re going to have benefits for a terminal degree.
I don’t know if anyone else will enjoy that as much as I do.
I hope so. If I had a production crew, we’d have had the commercial already. We’d have my Department Chair, Dr. Nick, who’s a funny actor, and to have him in a medical suit just talking about how I have terminal degree in my field.
I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you about this stuff. One or two things that you’re reading, watching or listening to that stand out to you as extremely good?
I think Judy Carter’s webinars for public speaking are great. She’s shifting her focus from teaching comedy to teaching public speaking. One of her marketing methods is to offer these free webinars that really solve a problem, so that you’re attracted by the title that clearly says she’s going to solve some problem within this webinar. She doesn’t have this academic background. I think she understands her role in teaching. She wrote one of the most popular books out there, The Comedy Bible. What you’d learn quickly is that she quit comedy and then wrote the book. That was what stopped me from buying her book when I was a kid is I was like, “I want to learn from someone who’s really doing it.” Her stuff about public speaking is targeted. She’s taking advantage of the technology out there by having these little free webinars. As far as reading, the last fun book I read was called Small Teaching. It’s a good book about how to take topics and break your classroom up into small activities and small events.
It turns out I used a lot of those techniques naturally. He would back an idea by the academic evidence and then demonstrate real activities that you could apply for your classroom right there. I like that. Sitting on my desk is Adam Cayton-Holland’s book, Tragedy Plus Time. I haven’t had a minute to read it. I know Professor Sinclair at the community college dogeared the page where I mentioned he tells a great story about when he was a new comedian and I had just moved here. We would all play those squire lounge open mic and compete over this $25 bar tab. It was vicious competition. I would not do any joke older than three weeks. Unfair of me to do my headlining cereal up against a bunch of rookies competing. They would use the best of their material plus whatever new stuff. Every Tuesday you’re just fighting for this bar tab.
In fact, you bring your bar tab back to drink and you can drink all night and they would take $3 or $1.50 off the tip. A $25 bar tab could spend for a year as required. It wasn’t about how much pay or booze you could get. It was about winning on that night, having the set, the joke, the piece of comedy that stood out versus Adam or Ben Roy, Andrew Orvedahl or Josh Blue could be in the room. Louis Johnson, one of the original Denver comedians, could stop in or Aaron Gabow, who was a brain scientist that quit because he was going to make more money and it could no longer devote. He had to devote all of his time to brain study in order to pursue his other passion. His comedy was super brilliant. You’re trying to crush in a wild bar room on Colfax Avenue. At some point I’ll read the whole book and get the whole story. Right now, I’m in four classes. I’m taking Business Calculus class. There are times where I look at the professor going like, “I strategically chose not to do certain assignments because I don’t need any more lessons in the process.” Calculus is hard and some things take a long time. A zero will let me answer a lead about a corporate gig, which got to pay the bills. I’ve got to pay bills.
I’m so thankful that you came up here to do this.
I’m glad you asked me. I’m glad we’re connected. This is phenomenal. Hello to your audience and thanks for reading. I hope we get to meet at some point, bear hugs when we do.
- Chuck Roy
- Jimmy Dunn
- Stefanie Johnson – previous episode
- Comedy Writing Secrets
- How to Write a Joke – online course
- The Humor Code
- Sommer Browning – previous episode
- The Comedy Bible
- Small Teaching
- Tragedy Plus Time
About Chuck Roy
Chuck Roy is a bear of a comedian. He has appeared on the Ralphie May Filthy Animal Tour and Louie Anderson Presents. In the late 1990s, he achieved unexpected Hollywood success with an appearance on Will & Grace. Chuck teaches comedy at the Community College of Denver and privately through Comedy101.ChuckRoy.com. an Online School For Stand-up Comedy. He has the ambitious goal to change the world with laughter.