Seize the Comedy
Mile High in the 505
Finding Reggie Watts
An Albuquerque comedian’s adventures in Denver
Attention Burqueños: Head north for comedy
I called comedian Kurt Braunohler right after one of our Albuquerque monsoons—a real gully washer. The cell reception was sketchy and my phone cut out. I called back and, for the rest of the interview, just to keep him on the line, I had to lean out the window, balancing my computer on my lap, all while under the disapproving glare of my neighbor. Braunohler’s comedy explores those awkward moments in our lives, so nearly falling from the second floor of my house while being silently judged was, in a way, a fitting interview format.
Braunohler, who will feature in Denver’s High Plains Comedy Festival next week, started his career in comedy after college when he took improv classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York. During this time he met Kristen Schaal, the stalker lady from HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords,” and together they created the weekly live variety show “Hot Tub,” now based in L.A. Braunohler’s jokes are big—literally big. He recently raised $6,000 on Kickstarter to hire a skywriting plane to write “How Do I Land?” above Los Angeles.
Braunohler has done everything: improv, sketch and stand-up. Although he only started stand-up about five years ago, he says he prefers this medium of comedy because “it’s a high-stakes scenario…When doing improv, the audience is on your side. They want you to succeed. Even if the improv just barely works everyone is excited for you. But people have very strong opinions about what stand-up is and sometimes the crowd seems to say ‘prove to me that you’re funny.’” Braunohler says he likes this contention, these high stakes, because ultimately the goal of comedy is “to show a level of vulnerability that makes connections with the audience.” To do this, Braunohler says, “No topic can be off-limits, and you can’t be embarrassed about anything.” This sentiment is echoed in his stand-up. Braunohler’s comedy is at times surreal. In one Vine—the short looping video clips so beloved on Twitter—he places googly eyes on an ice cream cone and calls it his little buddy. At other times his work is more personal and reflective. He explores the absurdities of life on his new comedy album, How Do I Land?, released by the venerable indie music label Kill Rock Stars.
Braunohler is excited for next week’s High Plains festival, when comedians from all over the country will swarm Denver for the first major comedy fest in the region. The inaugural High Plains Comedy Festival is headlined by comic genius Reggie Watts, features the brilliant Braunohler and will be packed with Denver comics. Over the past few years, the Denver comedy scene has expanded and flourished, churning out such national headliners as Ben Kronberg and T.J. Miller. As the talent pool has grown, so has the focus on Denver as a key producer of comedy and, in turn, the Southwest as an emerging comedy region. “This is an experiment for Denver and I think anything could happen,” Braunohler reflects. “I can’t wait to see all the comics.”
Take the short trip to the Mile High city and see Watts, Braunohler and 40 other comedians at the High Plains Comedy Festival on Aug. 23 and 24. The Southwest is starting to make a name for itself in the comedy world, and this festival will highlight the area as a place that can bring in big names.
Keeping ABQ Weird
Stand-up comedy at the Guild Cinema
“This is a weird little place to have a comedy show,” said Denver comic Sam Tallent when he headlined a show at the Guild back in April. A movie theater may be a weird stand-up venue, but for a few years now, local comedian Matt Peterson and Guild Cinema owner Keif Henley have been producing comedy shows there bimonthly. Though at first they could only fill the plush theater seats with other comics, friends of comics or people expecting a movie, Henley and Peterson have built an audience by putting on some of the funniest shows in town. Even wayward moviegoers stay and enjoy a laugh.
When performing at the Guild, I can tell you from personal experience, you feel like a vaudevillian luring your audience in with old-timey promises of entertainment. Something about the curves of the velvety curtains on the walls and the rickety wooden stage floor make you want to channel Mae West or W.C. Fields. Audiences enjoy that nostalgic energy from the comedians because it’s a rarity in this modern world. “People come to see stand-up only, which is great for the comedians as well as the audience,” Peterson reflects.
Keif Henley and Matt Peterson have built an audience by putting on some of the funniest shows in town. Even wayward moviegoers stay and enjoy a laugh.
On Friday, Aug. 16, Scotty Goff, originally from El Paso but currently residing in Albuquerque, headlines at the Guild. Goff is one of the sharpest, most quick-witted comics I’ve seen live. A crowd-work master, he can craft a joke out of anything thrown at him. Opening for Goff is Anthony Almanzar, a South Valley native, who recently won a competition to be the next MTV Voices correspondent. Relatively new to the Albuquerque stand-up scene, Almanzar has a slick, energetic stage presence and has quickly become one of the best young comedians in town. Just back from a gig in Texas, Sarah Kennedy and Matt Peterson are also performing. Kennedy has won best local comic from the Alibi and Albuquerque the Magazine. Her style ranges from pop culture references to political and social commentary. Peterson, who also runs a weekly showcase at The Damn Bar, recently had a lead role in the film The Bigfoot Election and is gearing up to star in Abe Makes a Movie. Peterson draws his comedy from raw personal experiences that resonate easily with the audience.