Comedy and bloodshed go together like soybean butter and jelly – just ask any fan of Kick-Ass, Pineapple Express, or the Three Stooges. Maybe this is why so many comedians love UFC. Whatever the reason, as throngs of people – many comics included – descend upon Toronto for the big fight this Saturday night, Toronto comedy nerds stand to benefit as Doug Benson sticks around the city for two shows May 1 at Comedy Bar.
Doug Benson is one of those people you can’t help but love. For one thing, there are just so many opportunities to love him. Into stand-up? Benson has three highly enjoyable albums, now releases a new one every year, and performs live constantly (http://eventful.com/performers/doug-benson-/P0-001-000004119-4). Into improv? It’s not exactly a Harold, but Benson injects improvisation and dialogue into stand-up on The Benson Interruption, a long-running live show-turned-Comedy Central series and podcast featuring comics such as Nick Swardson, Sarah Silverman, and Thomas Lennon. Into movies? So is Benson, and he discusses them weekly with his funny friends on his very popular and always entertaining podcast Doug Loves Movies. Into technologically-sponsored humour? @DougBenson is a tweeting machine. And, finally, into marijuana? Benson’s material, while appealing to anyone on the spectrum between straight-edge and junkie (I assume), is definitely stoner-friendly, and he has been a long-time advocate for legalization and the old-fashioned art of letting your freak flag fly.
Ultimately, it’s easy to love Doug Benson because, no matter the context, you very quickly feel like you know him. He’s open, relatable, and engaging, and I’m not being sentimental when I say that I look forward to seeing him at Comedy Bar this Sunday in the same way I look forward to seeing an old friend. Okay, maybe a little sentimental.
Doug was kind enough to answer a few questions from MONDO. Read on!
MONDO: Hey Doug! Thanks for A-ing my Qs for MONDO! I’m writing this on 4/20, and although I’m not participating in the festivities this year, and more and more people seem to embrace the day with an increasing sense of irony (or so twitter would have me believe), I can’t help but still feel a certain amount of solidarity, brother. How did you spend this very special day? Twitter tells me a bacon sundae was involved? I think that’s an American thing.
Doug Benson: You don’t have Denny’s in Toronto? Because they are the geniuses that that came up with the bacon sundae. And yes, I did try one on April 20. But more importantly, I celebrated the holiday by recording a new CD that will plop later this year. I say “plop” instead of “drop.” Because I’m quirky.
MONDO: You release a new album every year, a podcast every week, travel relentlessly, guest on other people’s shows, etc., etc…. basically, you’re the most prolific and hard-working stoner I know of, maybe besides Bill Clinton. Please enlighten me as to how you manage this. Are there many things you won’t do high?
DB: If by many things you mean everything, then yes, I do many things high. Not sure how I manage it. Perhaps it’s the years of practice!
MONDO: As idealistic as it may be, I feel like there’s still a bond between stoners, I guess rooted in the fact that as prevalent as it is, stoner life is still a counter-culture. Do you see this reflected in your fanbase, which includes many self-described stoners? I feel like your fans are incredibly friendly and feel a real bond with you and each other.
DB: Yeah, people don’t want to feel ashamed about marijuana, and some are downright proud of it. My shows are a chance to bond with other like-minded individuals. And have a few laughs while they are at it.
MONDO: That said, mutual affection for weed doesn’t explain it all – you are one of the friendliest, most generous and approachable comedians around, and you maintain a dialogue with your fans online and in person. Is this a conscious choice, or something that’s grown out of your natural way of interacting with your fans?
DB: I just appreciate, with the world economy being what it is, that people would pay money to see me or buy my CDs and podcasts. Taking pictures after shows and responding to tweets is the least I can do. And, like you said, my fans are incredibly friendly, so meeting them is fun for me as well.
MONDO: I also see you as something of a warrior for community in comedy – you surround yourself with friends in Doug Loves Movies and The Benson Interruption, both of which have introduced me to comics I now love, you go on your friends’ shows and basically have your hands in a variety of pies, if that’s a real saying. As a stand-up, which is essentially a solitary art, you’ve made it very social. Is this a conscious goal? Do you see great comedy as something communal?
DB: I like to laugh as much as I like making people laugh. Which is kind of where the idea for The Benson Interruption came from. I thought, instead of cracking jokes in the back of the room while other comics are on stage, why not be on stage with the comics holding a microphone of my own? I love stand-up and I love improvising, so this was an opportunity to combine the two. Over the years I’ve become friends with many hilarious comedians, and now I take full advantage of these connections by getting them to participate in my shows.
MONDO: It is very exciting to me that you are recording an album every year for the foreseeable future, and I know a number of comedians are adopting the model of writing a new hour per year. I feel like in general stand-up is getting fresher – gone are the days of spending five years perfecting a tag. Do you feel like setting these limits for yourself forces you to keep moving forward?
DB: Yes, knowing that I have to record a new album on 4/20 each year helps me to make sure the act stays fresh. It’s easy as a comic to rely on a bit that works, as long as it’s not topical, for years and years and years. And sometimes, sadly, even if it is topical. How ’bout that Monica Lewinsky everybody?! But audiences are a little bit more savvy these days, and they won’t come back to see an act that they think is gonna just rely on the proven material. Since I just recorded a new album, the audiences at Comedy Bar in Toronto are going to hear a lot of that material, but they will also hear new stuff that I’m working on for next year’s CD.
MONDO: Is there anything you can tell us about the upcoming album?
DB: It will contain absolutely no mentions of the royal wedding. I think it’s time we all move on.
MONDO: As someone who lives far away from LA and has only been able to see a couple Benson Interruptions (at Del Close Marathons) it was a thrill to see the show on Comedy Central. Did you feel like it captured the live experience the way you wanted it to? What do you think the new Benson Interruption podcast offers differently?
DB: I was really happy with The Benson Interruption tv show. But the one element that was tough to capture on television is that two comics riffing can go off on some really interesting tangents. With each ep only being 22 minutes long, we had to edit things down and take some of the air out of it. So the podcast version is an opportunity to put the sets out there completely unedited, warts and all. And we don’t have to bleep the swear words! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go put my hands in a few more pies.