Monday, December 21, 2009

Review: Dead To Me

Dead To Me
African Elephants
Fat Wreck

Dead To Me is back—and lacking in so many ways. For starters, singer and founding member Jack Dalrymple is notably (and very painfully) absent. Secondly, the pensive, captivating approach to ingenious song writing that so permeated its first two albums, Cuban Ballerina and Little Brother, has been completely scrapped in favor of a bland and unimaginative attempt to mature musically. Thirdly, the members of Dead To Me were great at being Dead To Me, but when they distance themselves from their previous efforts in a vein attempt to rip off the Clash, they inevitably sound like a bad Clash rip off. And that’s a shame, because Dead To Me was by far the best new political punk rock band of the 00s.

It’s tough to know where to begin explaining the dullness of this record. It starts with the mediocre reggae/dub tune “X,” a deliberate attempt to exhume the musical imagination of Joe Strummer. The second song—and high point of the disc if there is one—is “Modern Muse,” a catchy pop-punk tune that almost nods to the group’s inspired past. After that, however, it’s one forgettable number after the next. The worst crime of the album has to be “California Sun,” a ditty that nearly caricatures a bad Sublime tune and begins with the line, “Last night I got so high, I finally forgot your name.” This is Dead To Me? What happened to lyrics like, “I’ve got no reaction / Every action’s true” and “Cathode rays to entertain the good wage slaves”? (sigh) Hopefully African Elephants will forever be known as the “Bring Jack Back” album, and the next recording will demonstrate an actual process of musical growth and development instead of one so undoubtedly forced.

(And just for the record, I feel horrible about giving this band a bad review. Not only did I drive from Denver to Fort Collins to see them, but I was truly glad I did. They played good old fashioned political punk with heart and they had a great sense of humor about themselves. And they were the coolest, most laid back people on the face of the earth. I really love these guys. Really. I listen to their first two records daily, as I've done for the past several months. That's why I take this album so personally. It was a letdown on so many levels...)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Review: The Inactivists

Love Songs & Other Songs About Love

Have you ever wondered what would happen if They Might Be Giants started a high-energy funkish bar-rock outfit? They might just release an album entitled Love Songs & Other Songs About Love and call themselves The Inactivists. Just like the Giants, this Denver five-piece sings jocular songs about randomness. Unlike the Giants, The Inactivists embellish their words with a danceable, lively soundtrack that features an assortment of instruments—everything from accordion and theremin to ukulele and saxophone. Tracks like the folk/country “Song for Gary Glitter,” the disturbingly funky “Why (Aren’t You (In Love (With Me)))?” and the hilariously entitled reggae send-up “Lock Jah” demonstrate the band’s proclivity to write musically precise scores with absurdly witty lyrics. But make no mistake, even in the groups wackiest moments, it takes its unseriousness* very seriously. Like most of its contemporaries in the weirdo-core scene, The Inactivists are much more fun live. Regardless, Love Songs manages to be both manic and tranquil, catchy and atonal, and full of love and hate. It’s a folk-funk-rock journey into the psyche of five musically-endowed, neurotic nerds.

Other Highlights: the lovely jingle “The Last Song,” the even lovelier bonus track “Bonus Track,” and the insanely catchy honky-tonk ditty “Take Me Back”

*Might not be a word

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Denver Scene Report: Sarah’s Failin’ and the Death Panel Make-Believes

By Brian Polk

Sarah’s Failin’ and the Death Panel Make-Believes

SFatDPMB may have one of the longest names in punk rock, but they make up for it with exceedingly short songs. Formerly known as Hope Mongering in the Face of Eight Disastrous Years, (and before that, Bush Fisters) these Denver rabble-rousers have altered their moniker eight times in their five-year history. “We change our name every time society takes a shit,” says the group’s singer Jerry “Face-fucker” Stevens. “And let’s face it, we’ve had a massive case of diarrhea ever since Reagan took office.” After releasing its 2004 debut 7-inch, War Bacon is Fattening the Rich, the sneering 3-piece vowed to stir the political sauce with four-chorded songs that never top the two-minute mark. “We’re not pretentious art-rockers,” scoffs Stevens when asked about his unornamented song-writing approach. “How could you be, in this fucked up country?” Nine 7-inches and an oppressive American regime later, the group still has plenty to be mad about—even without its pubic enemy number one, George W. Bush—as evidenced with its latest effort, Tea-Bags of Hate.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Checked Out: October/November

Items I borrowed from the library this month
By Brian Polk

Letting Go Of God
By Julia Sweeny
(Audio CD)
“All these people were walking to church, holding their Bibles,” says Julie Sweeny in her masterpiece monologue, Letting Go Of God, “and I wanted to roll down the window and say, ‘Have you read that book? I mean, really?’” In her provocative one-woman show, the former Saturday Night Live actress (remember the androgynous Pat?) depicts her journey from curious Catholic to unassuming atheist—all of which began innocently enough when she decided she was actually going to read the Bible for the first time as an adult. What she discovered surprised and frightened her: Apparently one can justify hatred, war, slavery, sexism, or any number of humanity’s worst ills by citing passages in the Bible. Want to rape your father? Well, if Lot’s daughters are your role model, you might as well. Want to murder your progeny? That’s what God demanded of Abraham; who knows when he’ll come knocking for you. Is your mother giving you problems? Tell her to fuck off—since, according to Sweeny, that’s exactly what Jesus did: “And then there’s family,” she says. “I have to say that for me, the most deeply upsetting thing about Jesus is his family values—which is amazing when you think how there are so many groups out there that say they base their family values on the Bible…[Jesus] puts his mother off cruelly over and over again. At the wedding feast he says to her, ‘Woman, what have I to do with you?’ And once while he was speaking to a crowd, Mary waited patiently off to the side to talk to him. And Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Send her away. You are my family now.’” After being appalled by all of the book’s crazy laws and unethical behavior, Sweeny eventually drops the bombshell on the Bible’s very premise: “Why would a God create people so imperfect, then blame them for their own imperfections, then send his son to be tortured and executed by those imperfect people to make up for how imperfect people were and how imperfect they inevitably were going to be? I mean, what a crazy idea.” And so, since she couldn’t find God in the bible, Sweeny embarks upon a mission to find Him elsewhere. She travels to the East to find God in Buddhism. She travels to the Galapagos Islands to find God in nature. Eventually she has an epiphany while scrubbing her bathtub: Maybe God is nowhere. Of course, her blasphemous conclusion has very real consequences with her parents and community, which Sweeny describes with her character wit and humor. By far the most thoughtful, beautiful, varyingly dramatic and hilarious sentiment on the subject, Letting Go Of God is commonsense atheism that adapts none of the dogma or smug self-satisfaction that’s commonly associated with mainstream non-belief. It’s a denial of God with compassion and contemplation. And that’s damn good news.

Youth In Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp

By C.D. Payne
The only thing that’s unique about Nick Twisp is his intelligence. That is, he uses polysyllabic words and breezes through his classes at his public high school. Everything else about Nick Twisp is pretty unremarkable: He’s an American teenager with a hard-on, a face full of acne, and an unrelenting obsession to raise hell and lose his virginity. He lives in Oakland, California, with his single, neurotic mother and a cavalcade of her replaceable boyfriends. His ultra-competitive, BMW-driving dad lives with his 19-year-old girlfriend across town. And along with his friend Lefty, Twisp seems to be in a perpetual state of boredom. And then fate intervened. When a business deal turns sour for Jerry, one of his mom’s boyfriends, Twisp accompanies his parent and her lover to a mobile home camp. There he meets a gorgeous young female intellectual named Sheeni. What follows is a string of events that are impossibly awkward, hilarious, and law defying. It’s a coming-of-age story that relies on all the tired contrivances of horny teenagers, but it completely redeems itself by refreshingly never losing focus of all of the inevitable clumsiness and embarrassing discomfort that comes with raging hormones. Although tortuous in length—the book is 499 pages—the soap-opera complexity and sheer ridiculousness of the plot coupled with the protagonist’s radical veraciousness completely consume its reader, forcing the increased fleetness of eager page-turning until the book’s unfulfilled conclusion. And apparently, the film version of this story stars Michael Cera and will be out some time in 2010. If they remain loyal to the novel, there’s a strong possibility that it could be palatable. Of course, that quite literally remains to be seen.

By Kurt Vonnegut
Walter F. Starbuck is a man who wears a lot of hats: he’s been a communist, Harvard student, Nixon’s special advisor on youth affairs, vice-president of the RAMJAC corporation, and of course, jailbird. His memoir, Jailbird, recounts all the details of his storied life, from his service as a civilian employee of the Defense Department after World War Two to his role in the Watergate affair (which was minimal to say the least). Though this political fiction is not one of Vonnegut’s more famous works, it ranks among his best. Dense in plot and heavy on details, the prose ties actual historical events—the trial and execution of Sacco and Vanzetti and the Watergate scandal—into greater themes of communism and the labor movement in typical Vonnegut fashion. Like just about everything else he’s written, Jailbird is enlightening, heartening, and a great way to spend a string of quiet evenings.

Are You Experienced
By The Jimi Hendrix Experience
This is an essentially unessential Hendrix album. (How many more times do you really need to hear “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe,” or “Fire?”) Still, like every “classic rock” band, the non-hits are still worth a listen. “Third Stone From The Sun,” is a sprawling, jazz-fusion tune replete with effects and sections of spoken word. “Can You See Me”—the titular track of the group’s first album—and the blues cut “Red House” similarly never received much airplay and are subsequently worth lending an ear to. Are You Experienced is a CD that I would never consider buying—mainly because I have all this material on vinyl, but more specifically because you can hear most of the songs on FM radio. Thank goodness there are still places to get free music legally.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Another Advertisement

Click here to buy a copy of The Best of Yellow Rake book

And click here to buy a copy of Brian's other book, Turning Failure Into Ideology

Brian's New Band...

Brian has a new band, Joy Subtraction. Go ahead and befriend them on Myspace...

Checked Out: August/September

Items I borrowed from the library this month
By Brian Polk

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University
Kevin Roose
Kevin Roose is a brave man. First of all, he committed four months of his Quaker liberal life to attend Liberty University—a school founded and administered by the Reverend Jerry Falwell. Second, he approached the semester with minimal trepidation and an incredibly open mind. Thirdly, he fit in seamlessly with the sober, virgin, born-again, mostly right wing student body. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface: He also sang in the choir at Falwell’s twenty-thousand-member Thomas Road Baptist Church, went on coffee dates with Christian girls, relentlessly prayed, and even interviewed the man himself, Jerry Falwell. Through it all, he comes to realize that born-again Christians (for the most part) aren’t the frothing-at-the-mouth, gay-bashing intolerants they’re portrayed to be. In fact, they were just confused kids at the end of adolescence trying to figure it all out. The Unlikely Disciple offers a sufficient introduction to the beliefs and habits of right-wing Christian soldiers in training. It’s always nice to get a dose of perspective—even if it’s a perspective with which you could never, ever sympathize.

What Would Jesus Buy?
Rob VanAlkemade (Director)
When I first saw a trailer for this movie a few years ago, I thought anti-consumerism was finally breaking into the mainstream. Of course as history has proven, the film didn’t make much of a dent—especially since our economy is still based on filling our unaffordable houses with unnecessities (just made that word up). What Would Jesus Buy? follows Reverend Billy and his activist troupe, The Church of Stop Shopping, as they travel around the country and enlighten American consumers about the “shopacalypse.” With the parodied ostentation of a Christian choir, the stop shoppers sing anti-shopping hymns to bewildered crowds of frantic bargain hunters. While its humor is biting, the guerrilla tactics probably end up alienating more people than they convert. However, the message is an important one—especially since anti-consumerists (myself included) sometimes need people like Reverend Billy to light a fire under their asses by reminding them to buy coffee from the corner shop instead of from Starbucks. Preaching to the choir has never been so much fun.

Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday
Kurt Vonnegut
For some reason, Breakfast of Champions never really had much of an impact on me—and Vonnegut is among my favorite writers of all time. Listen: Slaughterhouse Five, Timequake, The Sirens of Titan, and Mother Night are some of my favorite books. I’ve read them again and again. But Breakfast of Champions just never piqued my interest long enough for me to finish it. Even the author gave it a “C” when he graded it—along with his other books—in Palm Sunday. But since I listen to books on tape as a matter of course, I figured I’d give it another whirl. And this time around, I finally understood the underlying themes he attempted to convey: the randomness of racism, sexism, and homophobia, the relationship between a writer and his characters, and of course, free will—which is a favorite subject of the author. Still, even though I was able to identify its coherence this time around, I’ll probably file Breakfast of Champions away with other Vonnegut one-timers, like Deadeye Dick, Galapagos, and Hocus Pocus.

The God Delusion
Richard Dawkins
(Audio book)
If you’ve been looking for a coherent rebuttal to every argument made on the behalf of God’s existence, scientist Richard Dawkins wrote a book for you. As you might have guessed, The God Delusion teems with scientific jargon aimed at disproving and ridiculing believers in faith. Reading (or listening to, in my case) the whole thing is a daunting task. However, Dawkins and his wife (who both narrate the audio version) intersperse the dry text with beautifully articulated theses against the delusional belief in God. If you’re still fighting the culture war (read: atheism vs. belief), arming yourself with Dawkins’ arguments is like bringing an atom bomb to a paintball match.

Travels With Charlie
John Steinbeck
Travels With Charlie delivers one of my favorite literary quotes of all time (and one that I felt compelled to put on my Facebook page under “Favorite Quotations”): “I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I’ve lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment.” For some reason I went on a John Steinbeck kick a few months back. And I’m glad I did. In Travels With Charlie, the great American author traveled the country with his dog Charlie to reacquaint himself with the pulse of America. It’s insightful, humorous, and a good read before bedtime.

Live At Shea Stadium
The Clash
The Clash is like a home you can always go back to. No matter how many times you foray into strange genres or listen to indie bands for months on end (for me it was Modest Mouse), these innovative punkers always seem to welcome you with open arms. “I see you’ve been listening to nothing but Iron and Wine and The Flaming Lips,” your Clash records tell you with an air of pity. “Why don’t you give us a spin and rejoice in your roots where you know you belong?” “Ahh, that’s better,” you think to yourself after taking your records’ advice. “I feel like my old self again. Thanks.” Needless to say, I love this CD.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Review: Little Fyodor

Little Fyodor

Peace is Boring

“What the hell is this?” you’ll ask yourself upon slipping Little Fyodor’s latest effort, Peace is Boring, into your CD player. And it will take several listens before you finally wrap your head around what the hell is going on here. That’s because Little Fyodor perpetrates eclectic music that's reminiscent of awkwardly laughing your way through a really confusing acid trip. The lyrics address several pressing issues facing humanity, such as uncomfortable clothes, hairspray, and as the title suggests, the dullness of peace. The songs range from straight ahead rock to Devo-inspired electro—but they’re all deliberately offensive and strangely strange in that punk rocking kind of way. As a whole, Peace is Boring rails against a culture that takes itself way too seriously (you know, the kind of thing that punks used to be really good at). And Little Fyodor is a type of prophet with a simple message: Life is too short not to have fun. So why not write a song called “Fuck-a-duck-a-luck-a-luck-a-ding-dong?” At least it makes sense to him.

Definitely recommended.

CELEBRATE LITTLE FYODOR’S CD RELEASE PARTY! (The L.F. live show borders on genius.)

Little Fyodor is releasing Peace is Boring on Friday, October 9 at the Lion’s Lair. The Limbs and Ralph Gean are also playing. Go online for more information:

Little Fyodor and Babushka

Lion’s Lair

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Work: part one, by Nate Stone

Work: part two

Work: Part three

Review: NOFX

Frisbee (the CD is called Coaster)
LP, Download
Fat Wreck

I dig Fat Mike’s point of view: Religion is for anti-intellectual dimwits (“Blasphemy: The Victimless Crime,” “Best God in Show”). Doing drugs and drinking are both fun (“First Call,” “I Am An Alcoholic”). Conservatives still suck (“Suites and Ladders”). And punk rock should be fast and loud (the whole album). If that’s not a platform you can get behind, I don’t know what is. Frisbee is a NOFX record replete with NOFXy sounding songs and NOFXy style lyrics. In other words, these new songs will in no way take you by surprise. But it’s actually nice to know that the band never felt obligated to reinvent itself (read: no crappy metal albums or shameless appeals to the mainstream). Sure Fat Mike and company isn’t inventing the wheel, but sometimes consistency is an apt punk rock trait.

When Brian Ran For Mayor

By Nate Stone

Brian received exactly two votes, and he didn't even vote for himself. He's considering another run in 2010.

Review: Accordion Crimes

A Higher Quality Version Of This

If you were officiating a game of tug-of-war and at one end Modest Mouse and Built to Spill were tugging viciously against Shellac and Fugazi, you’d have a really shitty metaphor. On the other hand, you’d have an interesting tug-of-war match that refused to leave the CD player. After listening to A Higher Quality Version of This about a hundred times, I have come to accept that Accordion Crimes is a perfect band: its songs are maddeningly catchy, its lyrics thoughtful, its soft/loud dynamics executed with the seamless expertise of bands like Nirvana and the Pixies. The highlight of the disc, “Planes,” has the ability to reach deep within the very core of your soul and demand an emotional response: the intro is melodious and cacophonic at the same time. The drums and bass kick in a minute later like a sack of bricks across the face. The heart-on-the-sleeves lyrics are downtrodden with a shrug of inevitability—the most poignant way to sing the blues. The backbeat swings. The singer sings his fucking heart out. If you’re looking for a new favorite album that will remind you of the late summer of 2009 years from now, find a copy of A Higher Quality Version. If you end up regretting it, I’ll buy you a beer.

It’s all about the Music

By Lorien Nettleton

Some people use their status as rock stars to extort special favors from the world. For a lot of people, it’s about being entitled to special treatment as a star.

For me it’s all about the music

All I can think of while receiving a blowjob from a 17-year-old groupie is how important music is in my life. If it weren’t for music, I would have killed myself long ago. I never would have gotten to do cocaine with David Bowe, or heroine with Thom Yorke.

Yes sir, it is totally about the music. I’m not in it for fame, or for money, or to see how many girls I can tit-fuck in three days (17) while playing back to back shows in Detroit. All I want is to set my soul into a melody.

Each time I cup the pert breast of a woman whose name I will never know, all I can do is sing the praise of the healing power of music. As another woman grinds her tight fishnet-and-mini-dress ass into my groin when I’m relaxing backstage, and two she-males perform mutual fellatio, and coke-filled baggies litter the couch like Easter eggs, I thank my lucky stars that writing songs is my only passion.

I just wish it wouldn't burn when I pee.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pick up a copy of The Best of The Yellow Rake

Hello everybody! If you would like to get a copy of the book, please visit the link below and maybe buy a few records while you're at it.

The Best Of The Yellow Rake at The Vinyl Collective

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Worst Of The Yellow Rake Zine...

Cover by Drew Smith

The Worst of the Yellow Rake zine is available only at the Best of The Yellow Rake book release show. For more information on the whereabouts and what-have-yous of the said release party, scroll down!

Also, we're in the Westword:

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Yellow Rake Book Release Party!!!

Huzzah! We are releasing our first ever book, The Best of the Yellow Rake. The release party will take place on Friday, August 28, 2009 at the Larimer Lounge and feature these bands:

The Dicky Jaguar Band
Joy Subtraction
Night of Joy
Two (Brian Polk and George Fraska)

2721 Larimer Street
21+ 8 p.m.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Saved My Life

By Drew Smith

Jason is Too Sexy for His Bike

Fun with Haikus

By Brian Polk

Great God in the sky
You made humans to laugh at
Comedic genius

Because Bathing is Important

By Nate Stone

Join the Posse

ACRASSICAUDA: Sounds from Iraq

By Dave Paco

I came across a website one night while surfing around on the Internet that boasted Iraq’s only heavy metal band! I wanted to know more about the band and their background so I got a hold of them we did this little interview via email.

You call yourselves Iraq’s only heavy metal band. Is that a true statement and, if so, why? Is there much guitar rock in general happening in Iraq?

Yes, we are for now. There are a lot of guitar players but they have not got the chance to make a band because of the what the war left in Iraq.

What is your musical background and influence? What got you into metal?

We got into metal because we want to tell the world that there are people in Iraq and we still have a life and not all of us have the wrong idea about the world. Our background and influence is life and what we see every day and for sure the bands we like... All the band members have their own best, but I will say Slayer, Death, Slipknot, Metallica, Megadeth, etc.

What kind of venues do you usually play? Do you play outside Iraq?

No, we haven’t played outside of Iraq yet and the shows we make in Iraq are on our own. No one helps us do it and we do it because it’s the only way to express our anger.

Does Iraq have a strong local music scene or is most popular music foreign?

Iraq has that strong local music and that’s what really makes it harder for the rock scene.

Can you give me a description of your lyrics or tell me what some of your songs are about?

Our songs are all about the daily life in Iraq and all what we suffer from the war.

Many Americans are disgusted by the war in Iraq and don’t trust our president’s intentions. Do you feel Iraq is on the way to democracy and freedom or do you think America will retain some control of the government to protect its oil interests there?

In some ways Iraq is better now, but before we were afraid of one guy and now we are afraid of everyone. Before if you say any thing bad about Sadaam you will be dead, but now say anything bad about anybody, you will be dead...and it’s kind of funny.

Are you religious as a band or as individuals?

We are not extremely religious as individuals and one of the members is Christian. Also as a band the music we play deals nothing with the religion.

Do you feel that the current tensions between world religions could result in another world war?

No, not really.

Do you ever encounter discrimination because of the type of music you play?

People think what we do is devil worship but we don’t think that the people understand what it is really.

The World Wide Web has made many changes in communication and media. For instance, that’s how I became familiar with your band. Do you think these changes will greatly affect the music industry? How do you feel about people downloading music illegally?

For sure [the Internet changes the music industry], and people download music illegally. I am one of them because as you know not everybody in the world can buy a $25 CD just for listening. No, they shouldn’t [download illegally] but in cases like we have here in Iraq we don’t have a credit card or any way to pay off the internet so I guess the people who own these music stores or web sites, they SHOULD come and open music stores here in Iraq so we can pay them!

Do you trust the media in Iraq? Is there much connection between the local media and powerful companies or politicians?

No, I don’t think so but we don’t trust them because there may be some connection between the local media and terrorists.

Heavy music has long been controversial because of the sound and content. Do you consider heavy music as a positive or negative force in the world today? What has it done for you?

We consider heavy music as a positive force in the world. And it does give us that kind of space to express our mind.

Is Acrassicauda a full time project or do the band members also have day jobs? If so what do you each do for work?

It’s not a full time project because we have to work to support our families. We have every day a different job. I do work in a computer store and some of us don’t even have a job except playing music.

Is there anything you'd like to tell the readers?

We love rock and we think that it is that music that can change the world in many ways, so keep rock and be safe.

The band members:
1. Firas . bass player
2. Fisel . vocal
3. Tony . lead guitar
4. Ahmead . lead guitar & rhythm
5. Marwan . drum player

Our we site is:
and the band email is:
My Space:

(Originally published in the summer of 2006)

Who is This Ben Kronberg and Why is He So Funny?

By Brian Polk

Inspiring as much hatred, silence, and outright confusion as he does uncontrollable laughter, Ben Kronberg is rapidly emerging as one of Denver’s most promising stand-up comedians. With subject matter ranging from fast food and bodily discharges to angel abortions and testicular massiveness, the comic won the Comedy Works New Talent Contest as well as several other competitions not really worth mentioning. The love and dedication he invests in his craft is second only to the affection he feels towards his own penis, which is huge. Just don’t ask him what the phrase, “Through the trunk,” means … trust us on this one.
Recently, Kronberg agreed to an interview with The Yellow Rake, but refused to make eye contact or acknowledge our writers’ existence in public. Therefore the interview was conducted by his agent via the “Interweb.” We hope you enjoy it.

What type of psychological make-up must an individual possess to become a stand-up comedian? How did you get into comedy?

You have to be very repetitious and be able to constantly come to terms with the realities of comedy over and over again. The realities are: Every time is different, every crowd is different, you are different—even if you are saying the same thing you said last time. I think if you don't recognize the change in yourself then you might become a stale version of yourself. I got into comedy through music and music open mics. My mom bought me a guitar my last semester of college and I started making up songs. At that time, the songs were about terrorism and war and I parleyed my political songs into songs about poop, pee, semen, and McDonald's.

A comedian and a musician? If you were a candidate in an election year, you would be branded a “flip-flopper.” What gives?

I never set out to do comedy, but the natural flow of my creative juices happened that way. I still play "serious" songs, mostly by myself—to be serious by yourself is okay, but to try to be funny by yourself is sad. You need to be interacting with people to justify funny thoughts. You talk, they listen. You write, they read. You make, they watch. Joking with yourself is like masturbating in front of the mirror: Sometimes it's hot. Plus it's nice to see how you would look while having sex. Whenever I jerk off in front of the mirror, I pretend like I'm having doggystyle sex cause I'm standing up and that makes the most sense.

Do you think there’s a part of the brain that makes you want to become a comedian?

I think funny things might happen in the brain, but I think people who are really funny have it in their soul, just like people who like to kill—it's in their soul. The most extreme parts of any human are in the soul. So yes I would still be funny, ‘cause I'd be drooling and pissing and shitting myself. Retarded people are really good at slapstick.

Ever since you won the Comedy Works New Talent Contest, you’ve been doing unhealthy amounts of blow, jumping from one groupie to the next, and walking around like you own this motherfucker. Even though it must be nice to be a Mile High Comedic Celebrity, the chaos that has become your life can’t possibly make you happy. Could you please expound on your inner-emptiness?

You always want more: pussy, blow, peanut butter—there is never enough. The more you have, the more you want. I think not being satisfied is one of the keys to success. The emptiness that I feel lets me know that there is room for more stuff. I Love to eat, and when I indulge and eat a lot and feel really full, that's when I feel the most empty.

You also won the Denver’s Meanest Person Contest, which strikes me as odd, considering other Denver comics who are much bigger assholes than you (ahem, Greg Baumhauer, ahem). Are you a closet dick that only shines when the occasion calls for it, or what?

I have a dick side to me, and unfortunately it has nothing to do with my dick. I keep my hate for other people secret and repressed. Those other cocksuckers like to rag on people most of the time, which clears them out. So when my dick comes out, it can really shoot a big wad of angry semen.

Are your obsessions with McDonalds and poop directly related? Or are they separate entities each suitable for their own respective discussions?

I like things that are salty, and those two things are the saltiest things I know of. I would gladly humor any discussion about either of those topics separately or together. What I would really prefer to do is eat McDonalds with someone and then go poop next to them in a McDonalds, (If you know anything about McDonalds you know they only ever have one place to poop, no paper towels, and a scratched up mirror so the tandem poop wouldn't be possible. I’m a dreamer’s dreamer). And then we would talk about McDonalds.

I saw you almost get your ass kicked by a member of the crowd who happened to be a Mexican Veteran (perhaps you could expound on this). Obviously some of your comedy is offensive. Is it in a comic’s best interest to remain conscious of the line between edgy and distasteful? Or do you just go with what’s funny regardless?

Funny is usually the focus. Edgy and distasteful are ideas that get projected on the things we do/say. I've done most all of my material in front of my mom, and if she can take it but a Mexi-Vet can't, there is definitely something wrong with him. I think and believe that it is more important to do your comedy in front of people who aren't going to like it. It helps you grow and it helps them grow. I want the ideas behind my jokes to be bigger than the laughs they get. So even if no one laughs, they can't say that was a stupid idea.

Does rocking the Casio keyboard during your set make you Avant-garde or just badass?

I'll take the Avant-Garde over the badass. But if they are both up for grabs I think that would benefit me the most. A lot of comics will dismiss the use of an instrument as a prop, but then those same comics will say, "I have this idea for a song; I think it would be funny." And I'm like, "Yeah, totally," ‘cause I'm a nice guy.

(Originally published April 2006)

The Hirsute Herald of Happy Hooliganism: The Outlandish Antics of Comedian Chuck Roy

By Brian Polk

It’s 12:45am, Wednesday morning. A vast majority of Denver’s citizens slumber through the darkness in the comfort of familiar beds, blissfully unaware of the city’s burgeoning energy that refuses to subside. As the night thrives, so does its minions: strippers expanding g-strings to make room for dollar bills, cabbies waiting for their next fares, clubbers dancing to get laid, and of course, Chuck Roy verbally abusing every last patron from the stage of the Squire Bar.

For Chuck the night isn’t so much about comedy as it is hanging out with friends and socializing with his comedy peers. After spending the weekend at Comedy Works, opening for nation touring headliners, or closing the show himself, he needs time to relax. Unlike the open-mic comics, Tuesday Night at the Squire means nothing to him—it’s a peripheral grain of sand in an hourglass of comedy. He doesn’t come to this bar to improve his act; he comes to unleash his fury on unsuspecting alcoholics who wanted nothing more than to get a drink.

Although Roy’s open mic set would make any champion of political correctness cringe, the comic has a brighter side. A veteran of comedy, he spent the better part of his twenties chasing his dreams in Los Angeles, which resulted in an impressive resume: routine performances at Hollywood’s world famous Improv, several national tours, a two and a half year stint as the warm-up comedian on Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, and guest appearances on the hit sitcoms Will & Grace and 3rd Rock From The Sun.

After several years in the industry, however, an embittered Chuck left Hollywood for greener pastures. Settling in Colorado, the comic eventually found a home as a featured performer at Denver’s Comedy Works and host of Film on the Rocks at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, as well as writer, producer, and emcee of his own comedy shows, Stand-Up Comedy Battles, and Yell Fest.

The Chuck Roy with a list of accomplishes a mile long in comedy, who habitually insults customers at the Squire Lounge, is a drastic departure from the Republican businessman of his earlier days. Working as an intern for Pat Buchanan’s 1996 presidential campaign, Roy began his political career as an eager, wide-eyed East Coast conservative. Though, after he helped successfully deliver the New Hampshire primary to Buchanan, Chuck’s desire to contribute to a blatantly homophobic campaign at the time when he was coming to terms with his own homosexuality diminished.

“That’s one of the reasons I got into stand-up comedy,” says Roy, who used the craft to purposefully distance himself from his Republican past. He never again became involved with politics.

Roy spent the next few years perfecting his new act in New England comedy clubs before following his dreams to Los Angeles. The move proved to be premature for the fresh comedian, who, “Went out as a kid and couldn’t stand it, so I turned around, went back to New Hampshire, worked on my act, worked in the Boston comedy scene.”

Not long after relocating back east, however, friends of Chuck convinced him to return to California, a move that would ultimately prove successful for the comedian. His accomplishments didn’t come overnight, however. In his first few months in Los Angeles, he routinely found himself in the audience rather than the stage.

“I came back just two weeks after [Will & Grace] started shooting their first season,” he says. “I would go up and watch rehearsals. I would go up and watch tapings and just sit in the audience. That’s where I learned how to do warm up by watching their warm up comedian.”

He didn’t last as merely a spectator for long. After playing a small role in a PlayStation commercial, Roy was recognized as a legitimate actor for hire and gained the attention of Will & Grace writers.

“Eventually Michael Patrick King, who was a writer on the show, had just heard enough about me and for some reason just wrote this part of popcorn vendor for me,” Chuck explains. “The script calls for three facial reactions and one line. And I told them I didn’t think the line was funny on the first day. And they told my friend, ‘If Chuck were to ever say that to another executive producer he’d be fired.’ And I told my friend, ‘Well if you going to hire a comedian, you might want to find out if the comedian thinks it’s funny.’”

Despite his defiance, “They stuck with me. I added a line and we shot. And the next week I was sitting back up in the stands, watching them tape. I never was one trying to push being down on the floor. Eventually I would make it down on the floor.”

Once he appeared on the sitcom, work came easy to the comedian. Managing the nearly impossible task of landing a television appearance without any representation, he acquired the Gersh Agency as his management company immediately. Almost overnight, he was meeting with casting directors and traveling from one audition to the next.

“It’s a process of where you get used to hearing ‘no,’” Roy admits of the seemingly endless auditions.

But he persevered and landed another guest spot on the show, 3rd Rock From The Sun, where he played the dull-witted son of Kathy Bates. And even though he was a virtually unknown actor featured in a guest spot on a hit television show—a blessing for any comedian—Chuck still took it upon himself to show up to rehearsal late and hung over. He eventually walked into a room with a conference table surrounded by increasingly impatient actors.

“Everybody’s gushing over Kathy Bates,” describes Roy. “Everyone was a little bit like, ‘When are we going to start?’ And when I come in, Kathy Bates yells out, ‘This must be my son.’ The trigger word for my character was, ‘Mama’ — this little retarded guy going, ‘Mama,’ all the time. So I went like, ‘Mama,’ and I gave her a big old hug and people laughed. We sat down. I’m next to Kathy Bates with Newman [Wayne Knight] on my right. Lithgow is on the other corner. Across the table is Jane Curtain.”

With acting experience under his belt, Chuck focused on his stand-up, performing regularly at Hollywood’s world famous Improv. Ultimately the comic would reach the crowning achievement of his career in Los Angeles as the warm-up act for the Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, a job that led to his disillusionment and eventual departure from the west coast scene.

“Every one of my friends, especially in the business, especially comedians from back east had been calling me for months telling me, ‘Get the hell out of LA, you sound miserable. You sound horrible.’”

With a destination in mind, Roy planned to leave California in the fall of 2001.

“I flew home [from Denver to LA] on September 9th, 2001,” remembers Chuck. “On September 10th, I went to Kilborn, told the makeup artist, who’s my friend and Craig’s advisor, and told her I’m quitting. And I was going to tell him today. And she said, ‘Wait ‘till Friday. Craig doesn’t like that kind of news on a Monday.’”

After that Tuesday, however, Chuck never had the opportunity to talk to Craig about quitting. In fact, the events of 9/11 forced the weary comedian to remain in Los Angeles.

The same people that told him to leave LA, “Were calling pretty much right after 9/11 going, ‘You have to stay in LA. Keep your job. The cruise ships have shut down. All kinds of comedians are coming home. Any of the touring shows are gone.’ So I had to stay in LA for another year. It was the worst year in my life. Staying at this shitty job with this asshole star.”

Finally in late 2002, Roy left California for the Mile High City, an environment not necessarily conducive to comedy. Although he doesn’t audition for sit coms anymore, he seems comfortable in a town without an established entertainment industry. Since the stand-up scene is largely underground, it allows him the creative freedom to write and produce his own comedy shows. Roy also helps young comedians establish their own open mic rooms—even if his open mic sets are little more than cavalcades of incessant insults.

“When I first got here there wasn’t anything like that,” Chuck admits about the underground comedy. “All the old guys were pretty tired and negative about the way the industry was going and the scene. And I was like, ‘It’s coming here. They’re going to start coming so you better shape up.’”

Sacrificing the momentum of his career and snubbing the opportunities of Los Angeles, Roy enjoys his current situation. Not only has he rejuvenated the city’s veterans, he directs its novices, playing an essential role in the rapidly emerging Denver underground comedic community—a function the comedian no doubt finds satisfying.

"It was referred to me this week as DIY comedy: Do It Yourself comedy," Chuck says about the Denver stand-up community he helped create. "Hell yeah, that's what I'm about."

(Originally published March 2006)