Andrew Orvedahl’s new comedy album is a delightful prank
Of the many elements of Normal World I miss the most right now, live standup comedy is high atop the list. I’m not getting that infusion of laughter (and escape) that I previously used as a lifeline during my low points.
Thankfully, Andrew Orvedahl has a new release. This thing is gonna get me through the week.
Andrew is a comedian from Denver who has a new standup album that just released. As a fellow Midwestern boy, it’s been a shame to know that instead of touring the country and performing every night as he’s used to, now he’s stuck at home with the rest of us. And probably feeling a withdrawal from the attention of adoring audiences. So we thought we’d give him a little hit of attention.
Orvedahl is a member of Denver’s comedy collective The Grawlix, who were also the stars of the long running TruTV comedy show Those Who Can’t about disgruntled teachers.
The album is called “Alexa, Play Creed.” It’s available right now and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It reminds me of how much fun it was to make light of the problems of daily life, back when we were lucky enough to experience those problems.
Here’s a quick chat we had with him about the album, quarantine, spiders, and so much more.
Within the scale of how we’re all doing, how are you?
You know, I woke up this morning so that’s a personal win for me.
You have the new album out, and I think we can agree that there is no worse phrase in the English language than, “Alexa, play Creed.” Why did you inflict this on people?
The ultimate goal was: I wanted to do a late-night set to promote the album. I had literally just taped the late-night set to submit right before everything shut down. I wanted a late-night host to say the title of my album and then know that, in millions of houses, Creed would start playing. It was just a very juvenile prank that has nothing to do with the album, it doesn’t reference a joke, I just wanted to make a juvenile prank.
I don’t have an Alexa, so it’s the kind of prank where I don’t have it, so I don’t have to (deal with it). It is kind of confusing to tell—I use Google Home which is the same thing—but I have to tell my Google Home, “Okay Google, play Alexa, Play Creed” like I’m having a stroke.
[Creed begins to play in Orvehahl’s home.]
I can hear it happening in the background! Oh, this is my favorite moment of an interview ever.
It is an annoying album title.
Let’s talk about what it means to be a comedian from the middle of America, and to find such great success in what you’ve done. What was it like to come up in a place that isn’t one of the wonderful comedy worlds like Chicago?
Well, I was pretty lucky to have Comedy Works here; that’s the comedy club downtown, which is an amazing club. I used to come up and see the comics that Wendy would bring in, she’d bring in these amazing comics. I would just sit back–
Sorry, Wendy Curtis, who owns the Comedy Works in downtown Denver. She brought them in every weekend. Just having that to motivate you—but also, I’d go down to the Tuesday night shows. Having that as your garden to grow in was pretty huge. I think it’s such a great club.
You are such a sincere, hopeful, and supportive person, that you just referred to a Comedy Works as a garden that you developed in. I don’t know—Andrew, I will never know another human being that interacts with the comedy world the way that you do.
[laughter] Maybe it’s a tad overdramatic. But then I was lucky enough to start working along with Adam Cayton-Holland and Ben Roy just doing independent shows. If you have the keys to the show like that, you’re able to do a lot of fun stuff as well.
Tell me about Spider House. [An extended bit on the album is about how Orvedahl’s home has too many spiders and it should become a TV show.]
I’m in there now! It’s the season, they come out now. They all come out at once, they don’t usually give me a warmup, like, the first spider of the season. It’s like, there’s all the spiders of the season. Their new thing—this is a great escalation because I had made peace with the spiders overall—the spider was hiding under the lip of my toilet rim, and I sat down on my toilet to use it, and the spider ran out on my butt, something that I never knew how much I didn’t want to happen, and the worst, the worst thing ever. So I jumped up and was like, “What the fuck,” and that was last season on Spider House. This season, just two days ago, I finished peeing, I flushed the toilet, and the spider runs up around the rim again. That’s completely not cool. I can get a mirror on a stick and start examining the rim of my toilet. So that’s where we are now.
You and your best friends in The Grawlix got to make a tv show. What was that like?
We did. We were so lucky to make Those Who Can’t for three seasons in the modern tv landscape. It seems like more of an accomplishment than it did at the time.
We were TruTV’s very first scripted show, and it was a super cool opportunity. It seems so long ago that it’ weird to talk about it. Was that, like, ten years ago? Fifteen years ago? It’s hard to believe how time moves after that. It still streams in places, people can find it. People will find it for the first time and be like, “Hey! I just discovered the show, I love it and I found out it’s already cancelled.” Sorry, man. You missed the ride the first time.
But now we’re working on other stuff, we’ve got some new show ideas we’re working. We stay busy trying to create stuff. But that was very fun to get to do that. We were very fortunate; it was a Cinderella story. Originally, it was picked up by Amazon as a pilot, and Amazon passed on it. We had our little window, it didn’t work out, boo-hoo, and then we got our second chance on TruTV, and it ended up getting three seasons. I always try to keep that in mind if something doesn’t work out the way I wanted it to in comedy. You don’t really know where opportunities will take you, and what things might open up down the road.
My friend Terence recently found Cayton-Holland through me, then the show, then your standup. He was like, “I just love this golden retriever of a man.”
Yep, that was our secret for making decisions, like what would a dog that was in a human body do at this point? That was our starting point for his decisions. It made things really easy, for sure.
Your last album was more in line with that character. As soon as I started listening, I thought, “Andrew really has a different footing now.” Was that a conscious decision to spread out in that way? Do you see yourself in that way?
No, but I did listen to my first album as I was prepping for this one. It’s funny, as soon as you record an album, half of those jokes, you instantly get a better version of them. I think it was just a natural personality change, I’m just seven years older than that album. When I listen to that first album, I can tell that I sound young, and I don’t seem like I have a care in the world. It’s just a different vibe than modern, Trump-era Andrew, who’s maybe not as carefree.
I did not realize it had been seven years since that album, and I just turned into a mummy and exploded into dust. Oh my god.
There was a time when we were making Those Who Can’t where I could’ve recorded a second album, and I was busy with the show and just held off. Basically, that hour of material just sort of faded away and never got recorded. It bums me out; I like recording things just for the time capsule of it, and to let an album’s worth of material fade away bums me out. I had a good excuse because I was working on a tv show, but I feel like it should have been my third album and not my second album.
What is comedy like under COVID? Are you doing any sort of group live-stream things, or are you just staying in and writing down your thoughts? When you get out of the end of this, is it just going to be a year of COVID comedy albums?
Yeah, I’ve not done any of the laptop comedy shows. I’ve been dreading it, and also no one’s asked me to do one. [Laughter] I haven’t had to avoid it because it hasn’t been an issue. But we have done a live episode of our podcast, which is a lot more fun because you’re just having a conversation with people and so I like doing that. It’ll be interesting to see so many of the same observations and jokes for a while after this.
I’ve been playing an absolute ton of Dungeons & Dragons, that’s been my main hobby. I’ve been doing that five or six nights a week.
Would you talk about what it means to be a midwestern comedian and what you like about working in this area and the audience?
Denver’s a weird place for doing shows, because in the city it’s pretty liberal, but once you leave the city, it’s pretty conservative. Denver has both of those flavors in pretty strong amounts. I like performing all over, but there’s something nice about—this sounds insane, but there’s something nice about when you’re diving through Iowa, Kansas or whatever and you’ll see an insane storm way out on the horizon. There’s always at least one moment out there when you get the big sky panoramic storm in front of you, and part of you feels like a sailor from hundreds of years ago or something.
I wouldn’t want to be sucked under a tornado, but a good old thunderstorm, I like that. In terms of audiences, I guess there’s cool audiences everywhere, I try not to discount my audience before. I was in St. Louis recently, and the last I was in St. Louis, most of the audiences sucked. My vivid memory of them is of sucking and heckling and me battling with them. I had that in my mind.
What were you battling over? You don’t have a lot of political material other than not liking spiders.
They were heckling or whatever, and then somehow, the subject of hockey came up. I foolishly divulged that I liked the Colorado Avalanche, the St. Louis Blues’ mortal enemy. It rapidly devolved into hockey arguments with the crowd. It was just the sloppiest shit show. But this time I went to St. Louis and it was great. The crowds were cool, and it’s like, why set myself up to have a hard time before the show starts? You never know who’s going to show up, so there are cool crowds everywhere.
What is your thought on what comedy looks like in the next few months?
It’s a question I’ve been wondering about, since I saw some clubs opening up already in the country. They’ve got social distance seating, so it’s like, I need to make money so, so, so badly.
But also, it’s so much worse for a comedian like you, because there’s the microphone, the mic stand, the green room, all of the people in that space; green rooms have never been cleaned in their entire existence. Being a touring comedian implies that you’ll have to travel the country and gas stations. There’s so much involved in it that’s hefted upon you; when do you feel okay with that?
Yeah, I guess I would wait until the people smarter than me say that we can congregate again. That’s when I’d feel comfortable, when there’s a general lifting of those restrictions. Not in a rash contentious way: not like, “Georgia’s opening, it’s fine!” Also, my brother is an infectious diseases specialist and doctor. So when my brother tells me that it’s probably okay, then maybe I’ll go out again. I definitely don’t want to rush it. Right before this, there was this comic—I’m not going to say his name—he was so sick and I was so irritated that he would bother to show up at the club for a twenty minute set. He could get every single person in there so sick, it made me so mad, it was so selfish.
What’s your elevator pitch to people as to why they should buy your new album?
You should buy my new album because I’m proud of it, I think it’s a good album, and in these dark times, you can’t go see live comedy. It’s almost as if you’re there. Thirdly, this is currently the only comedy product I have to sell. I realize that everyone gets their albums for free, I get my albums for free. But if you’re like, “Oh yeah, I could support an artist, I’d buy that.” I would love it if you supported it. You can find it on my Bandcamp page, and I’ll put that money directly to food, coffee, and hand soap. So…yes. To spell all of that out, yes.