Much as you might want to celebrate, it's probably best to limit your 4/20 circle this year. Most organizers and promoters are planning virtual shows and events (not counting whatever's going on in Florida, Oklahoma and Texas) to limit exposure, and while one of cannabis culture's favorite comedians won't abandon us this April, he's keeping things safe, too.
Doug Benson had planned a 4/20 set in Denver last year, but then postponed the gig to a 4/20 show in 2021, which was canceled as the pandemic continued. Although he hopes to finally perform here live on 4/20/2022, in the meantime Benson has jumped online, hosting two podcasts as well as the upcoming Doug Benson's Comedy Sesh, an evening of standup, game shows and an after-hours session on April 20 with RushTix. We caught up with the pot-loving comedian to chat about the state of online performances during the pandemic and how 4/20 impacts comedy.
Westword: How do you think comedy is suited for virtual shows compared to other live performances? You're already doing it in a similar form via podcasting, and the concept of doing standup to a streaming audience sounds easy enough logistically — but audience engagement is important for a lot of standup comedians.
Doug Benson: Comedy is a good fit for a virtual show because you can tell jokes from anywhere. But to me, the best thing about it is that people can watch from anywhere. Normally when I do a show, it's in one club, in one city, and that's the only place to see it. I can only play so many clubs and towns, so there are lots of places where people could never see me live. And don't worry, hecklers: You can make comments that the comedian can see. Of course, just like in a comedy club, hecklers can get thrown out. You don't have to be a big dude to get a job as a bouncer at a virtual club.
On the other hand, I imagine virtual shows also enable more cannabis-centric performances...or is that usually easy to incorporate on stage at live shows?
I've only smoked on stage a few times, in places like Canada and Amsterdam. The only thing I remember about those shows was that I had a good time! So, yeah, it's nice to be able to smoke bowls while I do my show. People would be disappointed if I didn't!
Has the appetite for virtual shows changed over the past year since the pandemic began? Is 4/20 usually a bump on the calendar for live comedy?
Up until last year, I had done a standup show or a podcast taping on 4/20 every year. I tried to move it around so that different cities got a 4/20 show. Denver was supposed to be the 2020 show, and then the 2021 show, and now I'm waiting to see if we can do it there in 2022. But like I said, because of the pandemic, I'll just do a show from home. Maybe next year I can do a live show in Denver and a virtual show for the rest of the world. Big dreams!
Speaking of 4/20: It's no surprise that you have something special planned for it. What games or sketches are you excited for audiences to check out?
I've done a few shows with Rushtix called Doug Benson's Comedy Sesh, so it seemed a perfect fit for my 4/20 show this year. There will be guest comedians who will do sets and also join me for some games from my podcast, Doug Loves Movies. And [for] the games and the jokes, we hang out for several hours of tokes. I don't know how long this show is going to be, but the last one was over four hours!
Has 4/20 developed the same relationship with you that Christmas Day has with NBA players, where you're always expected to perform on our beloved holiday?
I love to perform and I love to get high. It's a win-win!
Bonus question: Was Best Week Ever before its time? A lot of its elements are popular in today's pop culture.
I loved doing it at the time, but now it would mostly be talking about the RHU (Real Housewives Universe), which would not be fun.
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