‘Super High’ comedy: Doug Benson to play Funny BoneWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Doug Benson was asked what he remembered most about his prior gigs in Toledo. His answer was very … well, very Doug Benson.
“My last show in Toledo was at 4:20 in the afternoon, so all I remember is having a really good time,” Benson said in an interview with Toledo Free Press.
Such a response is par for the course for the popular comedian, filmmaker and — surprise! — marijuana legalization advocate. Known for appearances on Comedy Central, “Last Comic Standing” and his comic documentary “Super High Me,” Benson will appear on Aug. 4 and 5 at the Funny Bone at Fat Fish Blue in Levis Commons.
“It’s a powerful feeling, being in control of a crowd. And it feels pretty bad when you lose them,” Benson said of his career choice. “Which is why most people don’t try stand-up comedy.”
Benson might not have taken a stab at stand-up himself — if he hadn’t been dared to, that is. Attending school in L.A., he and a couple friends challenged each other to perform onstage.
“Yeah, some friends said they’d try it if I tried it. They chickened out, and I went on. During my three minute set I got a few laughs, so I was hooked. Not sure what those two guys are doing today,” Benson wryly noted.
He’s performed ever since, carving out a niche in stand-up for more than a quarter of a century. Over time, Benson has refined his ability to work a crowd — he said he sees his audience as a collaborator, not an adversary.
“I work with the audience to make the best show together that we can. Sometimes one of us doesn’t hold up our end of the bargain,” he said.
Benson’s style of observational humor has much parentage — he cites legends like Bill Cosby, George Carlin and Steve Martin among his influences growing up. But he argues that no amount of influence or support is enough to do the job all by itself for someone once they’re under the lights.
“Once I started doing stand-up, several comics who I admired before I got into it said nice things about my act and that was super encouraging. But ultimately, stand-up is something you have to do on your own and no amount of advice can make you funny,” he said.
The environment can be a major factor as well. Between his appearances on Comedy Central and “Last Comic,” Benson has a great deal of experience in doing comedy for a television audience — an experience, he notes, that is wildly different from playing a club.
“When you do the jokes on TV, there’s several people who decide what you can and cannot say,” Benson noted. “So while I have bent to their wishes in order to gain more exposure, I prefer doing comedy in clubs and on podcasts, because I can say whatever I want and the only people I have to answer to is the audience.”
Benson’s also made his mark with comedy albums — after nearly two decades without a recording to his name, he’s released a new one every summer for the past five years. The recording session date, every year? April 20. Of course.
Benson has been a passionate spokesperson for the legalization of pot for many years, and has not been shy about his own use. His most recent comedy album, in fact, was a two-disc set — one disc featured a performance while clean, the other one while, ahem, “baked.”
Being so passionate about such a controversial issue is risky for a comedian trying to go “mainstream,” but such factors don’t trouble Benson much.
“As attitudes about marijuana loosen up, so do attitudes about me and my advocacy. Plus the mainstream is overrated. I like the little niche I’ve carved for myself,” he said.
And Benson said he plans to occupy that niche for as long as he can. “I will always be a stand-up. Telling jokes to a crowd and getting laughs is the goal. And so far, I’m succeeding.”