Doug Benson's Total Scam of a Life
Comedian and Super High Me star Doug Benson should be God to every poor soul disenchanted with his job. His 27 years of doing stand-up have begat six full-length comedy albums and a life where the lines between profession and passion have blurred into a Magic Eye canvas of food, film, and fatties – that’s marijuana cigarettes, Cochise.
Benson’s rep as comedy’s cotton-mouth king gets him regularly smoked up by zealous fans; his undying love of movies finds expression and company with film oracle Leonard Maltin in Benson’s popular Doug Loves Movies podcast; and his Nerdist podcast, Dining with Doug and Karen, captures what funny people eating delicious food sounds like.
It’s quite the racket.
The 49-year-old's life is a “total scam” by his own admission. Yet no one’s crying foul. His fans get what they want, and many come bearing spliffs. Benson returns to Austin this weekend as part of his "Doug Dynasty Tour," with a special afternoon show at – when else? – 4:20pm. The Chronicle spoke with the comedian about the loves of his life and more prior to his appearances at last November’s Fun Fun Fun Festival.
AC: You’ve said your approach to performing is “not to try.” How difficult was this for you to cultivate and master?
DB: I was probably high when I said that. But yeah, that's sort of what I do. The idea is to make it look like you're not trying. It wasn't difficult to cultivate; it just took a long time. The more you get onstage, the more comfortable you are being onstage. Still haven't mastered it yet, though. There's always room for improvement and growth.
AC: It seems the only pre-show nerves you have pertain to audience behavior. For seasoned comedians like yourself, is the onus more on the crowd to make it a good show by shutting up and staying out of the way?
DB: I just like a crowd that wants to be there. I need them to make noise – not necessarily heckling, but laughter and the occasional verbal encouragement. I embrace spontaneity in my performances, and the audience contributes to that. It's a give-and-take dynamic that changes at every show.
AC: As a highly Twitter-active comedian who likes to read tweets onstage, how soon after Twitter came out did you realize you had a gold mine in your hands?
DB: I think it existed for a year or two before I got on board. But once I did, I was hooked! It's such a great way to interact with people who like what I do. Especially folks who might never get to see me live. I wish I could play every town where I have fans, but it's just not possible. That's where the Internet comes in.
AC: Doug Loves Movies hit the road this year. Who wins for most obsessive, nerdy movie city on tour thus far?
DB: Ooh, good question. The audiences are always great in Austin, of course. But now that I've sucked up to my favorite city in Texas – twice! – I'd have to answer Atlanta, Georgia. I've done the podcast a few times there, and the crowds are always super enthusiastic.
AC: Unabashed and renowned stoner that you are, you didn’t get into smoking pot until you were 28. What took you so long?
DB: I didn't start until I was 28 because that's when I went on the road and spent my evenings hanging out with other comics. In high school, junior college, and my early years of open mics in Southern California, I ran around with groups of people, fellow wannabe performers mostly, who didn't smoke weed. Then I met Greg Proops and Brian Posehn and other pot-smoking comedians and found out I really liked it. Maybe that's why I smoke so much now, to make up for all that lost time.
AC: What movie character would you most want to get high at a drive-in with?
DB: Jim from Blazing Saddles, played by the late, great Gene Wilder. I say late because you don't see him in anything anymore, and I miss him. I'd like to smoke in a circle with Jim, Willy Wonka, and Victor Frankenstein.
AC: Weed, comedy, and movies are three of your patently obvious passions. Do you have others?
DB: I like food, obviously. So I have a podcast about that now. It's called Dining with Doug and Karen, and each episode is me and my friend Karen Anderson eating several courses made by a different chef on each show. My life is a total scam. Thanks to my comedy and my podcasts, I get free food, movies, and weed.
AC: Although one tends to complement the other, what could you sooner live without: marijuana or movies?
DB: I've loved movies for much longer, so if forced to choose, I'd go with movies. Thank goodness I don't have to choose though!
AC: Leonard Maltin has played “The Leonard Maltin Game” on Doug Loves Movies four times by my count. What’s he like in real life? What film do you and he fundamentally disagree on?
DB: He's not really a fan of one of my recent favorites, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, but that's probably because he's not into video games and fight scenes. In real life, he's pretty much the same as he is on my podcast: friendly, polite, and passionate about movies. I'm constantly delighted by the fact that the critic I grew up reading is now a regular on my show.
Doug Benson performs Saturday, July 5, 4:20pm, at Cap City Comedy Club, 8120 Research. For more information, visit www.capcitycomedy.com.