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Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one. At Denver based comedy game show, “Uncalled Four”, everyone in the audience has an opinion, but only the four comedians on stage have an ‘asshole’…card. Jake Browne, comedian and the nation’s first marijuana critic, run a unique show called “Uncalled Four” with fellow comedian and acting referee, Zac Mass. The show is an interactive hybrid of stand-up meets Cards Against Humanity. Audience members help generate questions (and win prizes), the comedians create the answers and points are given based on audience reaction. The podcasting duo, part of Whiskey & Cigarettes: A Podcast About Podcasts, utilize novel approaches to comedy – and they’re doing so successfully.
ELEVEN: When did you first play Cards Against Humanity?
Jake Browne: Over the holidays on vacation with family. Having to explain what a ‘queef’ is to my future father-in-law was an opportunity that I wouldn’t have been able to get out of any other situation. Everyone was getting the same enjoyment out of it. Plus, you can play with anyone and after a couple of rounds, have a much better sense of them as a person – it’s like amateur psychology.
11: Other than realizing its universal appeal, how did your love for the game transform into a concept for the show?
JB: We started gravitating towards playing with the blank cards. That was a really good way to keep challenging ourselves with our funnier friends, especially when using the “Sarah Palin” card lost its impact four years later. We were able to keep the game fresh and use it as an outlet for these one off thoughts or concepts that weren’t going to ever become developed set material, but perfect for this format. Comedian’s old comedy notebooks gave us the realization for a great depth of content. “Murphy beds for dogs” was never going to be a business venture or a joke, but it makes a great card.
11: What sets your show apart and have you seen any similar shows or knockoffs?
JB: The only thing we have seen is where comedians are playing the actual game with each other on stage, but the fun in the game is being able to play. Why would I go watch four other people play monopoly? Unless, it led to really great fights, but there’s no ‘Mixed Martial Arts Monopoly’.
People love the involvement. If one comedian has zero points for a while, once they finally get on the board, they go wild for them. And the prizes. The ‘Price Is Right’ run doesn’t lose its magic on people – they love coming down to the stage.
11: Denver and Portland seem to have similar progressive comedy scenes, where there is a low tolerance for overtly offensive material without it compromising comedy’s uncensored nature. Would you agree and how do you keep the balance?
JB: I think with any scene there’s a little of everything, but the cream comes to the top. What we do with our show is give people the opportunity to tell their own jokes and have the audience receive them as they choose to. The one rule we have is we don’t allow racial slurs, we don’t feel that has any place in the game. But pretty much everything is on the table. The ultimate arbiter of any of this is whether it’s funny or not.
11: What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve had happen at a show?
JB: For our show, it truly comes where you least expect it happen. Most recently it had to do with a gag gift that we paired with a sponsored prize. It was a bag of plastic nude dolls and a man returned it for his girlfriend after the show because she has a real intense fear of dolls.
11: Your show grew quickly and became successful. What advice do you have for comedians starting a show or anyone who is starting…anything?
JB: We’re relative rookies in the game of comedy with just a few years under our belt. Part of being a ‘young comedian’ is being frustrated you’re not getting opportunities. We discovered we could just make our own opportunities – and as long as our format was undeniable and we were awesome with our guests. Part of how I became more or less “the nation’s first pot critic” was I just said, “well, I’m going to write about pot and I’m going to start a pot blog.”
11: What is the biggest challenge?
JB: One problem is if people don’t see instant results, they think their point isn’t being validated. The biggest thing is being consistent and making sure that if people jump on board, they won’t have the same feeling as you did when you started. If you stop doing what you’re doing prematurely, then how would anyone believe in what you’re doing. When we started our podcast, there were three comedy podcasts in Denver – now there are fifteen. If people get discouraged and ultimately give up, it’s usually because they never give it a change to mature. We’re all pretty shitty when we’re babies. If everyone thought ‘these babies suck, they’re really loud, we’re tossing them out’, there’d be no hope.
“Uncalled Four” will be part of Bridgetown this Sunday at 5pm at Doug Fir for $15. The show is currently sponsored by Sexpot Comedy (a comedy and podcast collective – born from pizza chain, Sexy Pizza, and their invite-only pizza pot-smoking comedy shows). Portland prizes include sponsors Aardvark Hot Sauce, New Deal Distillery and Fire on the Mountain. Jake’s favorite strain at the moment is frosty Indica hybrid “The White”, so feel free to nerd out on more than comedy if you catch these guys over the weekend.
Purchase festival passes in advance http://www.bridgetowncomedy.com
Want a chance to win? Go to their website, http://www.uncalledfour.com, and answer their question: “No trip to Portland is complete without seeing _____.” If your answer is picked at the end of the show, you will win their grand prize.
Ed.’s note: interestingly enough, artist Garrett Ross designed the website and many of the ads for the Bridgetown Comedy Fest, as well as the cover of Moongriffin’s debut album Glimpse of Future, which we reviewed in this months issue.