by Matt Conty
If you just his read his recent accolades without a name attached, you would probably assume comedian Ben Roy was someone you were already familiar with. At the very least you would assume he is someone who is shacked up in an apartment in LA or New York, making waves in those cities' respective entertainment scenes. And you would partially be right about that.
Roy is making waves in New York and Los Angeles, and just about everywhere else on the American (and Canadian, for that matter) comedy scene. His album "I've Got Demons," released on iTunes in August, was named by Laughspin.com as one of the top ten comedy albums of the year. In November he had his own show at the New York City Comedy Festival, joining the likes of such heavy hitters as Robin Williams and Jim Gaffigan, just to name a few.
If you've seen Roy's live performance or heard his CD, then you already know that his rise was just a matter of time. It's not a real shocker. The surprising part is how, or more importantly where he's achieved all this industry respect: living at home with his family in Denver, Colorado.
"I think nowadays you can live where you want, travel to LA and New York frequently, and still be involved. You just have to be constantly creating and pushing content," Roy explains. "That, coupled with chasing mad tail and doing fashionable drugs."
Ben and a few other pioneers have been cultivating a local independent comedy scene in Denver, tightening the screws on their acts while garnering national attention. The success of Ben, his Grawlix comedy buddies Adam Cayton-Holland and Andrew Orvedahl, and a few other Denver comics can serve as a blue-print on how a city can create a local comedy movement while also creating a national buzz. A city like, oh I don't know, let's say St. Louis for example. The formula in Denver seems to be this: An "A" room comedy club + great, independently produced shows + talent = A strong local comedy scene to be reckoned with nationally. The question is: Does St. Louis have what it takes?
The aforementioned Grawlix comedy show in Denver has achieved "name drop" status in the comedy world, meaning that if you've been fortunate enough to do that show, you use it when you need to boast about your accomplishments in the industry. We're starting to see that develop here in St. Louis. The Funnybone in Westport has been an industry stalwart since the 80s -- this is where young upstart comics see how the professionals do it, and how to become one themselves. Brennan's, Foam, and The Firebird are just a few of the places that have recently worked to pair nationally acclaimed acts with some of the best local talent. In fact, in January, Brennan's will be one of the stops on the Organic Comedy Tour, a tour / documentary about the country's budding indie comedy scenes.
As for local talent? Well, that's for the audiences to decide, but in my opinion there has been no shortage of talent to come out of St. Louis over the years. But does this city have what it takes to keep it here, or to at least make that talent want to come home and entertain us from time to time? Can St. Louis follow in the footsteps of Ben Roy and the other talented comedians in this burgeoning new wave of indie comedy? Only time will tell,