Monday, July 8, 2019

Laughing Stock: Of Stoners and Superheroes

Posted By on Mon, Jul 8, 2019 at 6:05 PM

click to enlarge What did Doug Benson do on airplanes before vapes? - NICK LARSON
  • Nick Larson
  • What did Doug Benson do on airplanes before vapes?

“I'm high right now, by the way.”

High Times named Doug Benson Stoner of the Year in 2006. In 2007, he starred in Super High Me, a documentary about marijuana use. He hosts multiple long-running YouTube series and-podcasts that revolve around his being stoned, yet his lists of movies, albums, TV specials and ad hoc internet exploits defy several-fold any stereotypes of stoner slackitude.

Benson’s Doug Loves Movies podcast, its games and challenges, are the work of an intricate and relentlessly busy mind. Its panel comprises an A-list of entertaining smarties—comedians, comedy writers, actors, improvisors, etc. The Benson Interruption, a Comedy Central series based on his long-running standup comedy showcase in LA, has lately iterated into a podcast.

Most popular is his weekly YouTube series, Getting High with Doug, hosted by the 420 Club. It airs at 4 p.m.; Benson and his guests light up at 4:20. We especially recommend Episode 15. It features Southern Arizona home-boy Doug Stanhope getting drunk on mimosas in lieu of getting high. Cannabis highs are the whole point of the show, but Stanhope avers that he smokes pot badly, so he doesn’t do it at all. The rest of us Benson fans who weird out ugly on pot are forever grateful for the validation.

As much as Benson’s output revolves around marijuana, he doesn’t consider himself an activist. “I will wear a weed shirt if it looks cool, feels good, and above all, is free,” he says. “I'm an activist in that I'm very open about using cannabis, normalizing and taking away the stigma through comedy, and we discuss weed issues a lot on Getting Doug With High.”

Benson started his standup career in the late eighties. Although he was a hit out of the box – Comedy Central tapped him for both standup and writing assignments within a couple of years—his career really took off with internet exposure.

“I just started getting into Instagram, but I've never had a Facebook,” he says. Twitter is my main jam, because I'm better at writing jokes than taking photos. I definitely bother some of my Twitter followers with constant promotional tweets, but it's the platform where I have the most eyes and therefore potential ticket buyers. Like I say in my Twitter bio, ‘If you can't stand the tweet, unfollow the kitchen.’” How could 843,000 followers be wrong? “I chat a lot with fans on social media,” he says.

Benson performs at Laffs Comedy Caffe on Wednesday, July 10 at at 7:30 p.m.. Tickets are $22 via Eventbrite.com.

He travels a lot, but grueling as it is, he finds much to like about it. “I know my way around many cities, in this country and others, that feels good. I used to enjoy doing all the touristy things, but now I'm more into flowing with the vibe of whatever city I'm in. Plus, I like going to the movies in the daytime when theaters are empty.”

About his process, Benson says, “Performing is the fun part, so why not do the writing while doing the performing? I reached that point when a comic's act starts to become more personal, more honest, so I just started talking about being high on stage. People responded positively, so I just kept doing it."

click to enlarge The Unscrewed Family Hour improvises fresh, original comic- book stories from audience suggestions. - JON SCANLON
  • Jon Scanlon
  • The Unscrewed Family Hour improvises fresh, original comic- book stories from audience suggestions.

Unscrewed Theatre debuts The Unscrewed Family Hour

A new show at Unscrewed Theater improvises an original comic-book story every second Saturday at 6 p.m. According to Unscrewed’s executive director Chris Seidman, “The adults (are) as engaged as the kids, and more than one energetic youngster left the theater acting like a superhero.”
The show debuted June 15; the next one is July 13. Tickets are $8; $5 for children 12 and younger. They’re available at the door or online at unscrewedtheater.org.

“Every show is different because the suggestions come from the audience,” Seidman says. The composition of the team changes each week, too. Each month the show’s own team, Comic Chaos, is joined by one of the theater’s veteran teams. “For July, Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed is performing with Comic Chaos,” Seidman says. “There will be short-form games with an emphasis on incorporating as many young volunteers as possible.”

Laughs for Lucy: A Benefit

Pauly Casillas may be the most loved comedian in Tucson. His humor and compassion are almost universal. He performs regularly in comedy clubs in Tucson and Phoenix, but declines to travel farther because he’s a family man. Casillas ran the legendary open mic at Mr. Heads, and he originated the popular local show, The Switch, to which Matt Ziemak has recently succeeded as host. Ziemak also produces the Brew Ha Ha series at Borderlands Brewing Company.

On Thursday, July 11 Casillas headlines a show Ziemak will host at Borderlands. The event will raise money to pay for a costly run of therapy for Casillas’ daughter Lucy. The rest of the lineup includes national touring comedians Joe Tullar and Olivia Grace plus Michael Paul Kohn and Eric Sobczak. Admission is $20 at the door.

Lucy has been diagnosed with Amblyopia, an eye condition for which the only treatment that could help is Vision Therapy. It costs up to $10,000 and is not covered by insurance. Last October, a golf fundraiser and other personal donations enabled the family to provide Lucy with six months of Vision Therapy. Now funds are needed for the final four months.

So far, the therapy has allowed Lucy to make substantial progress in reading, writing and math.

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