National comics come to Breck
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It almost always starts the same way: A dare by friends.
It took two years of constant peer pressure for Andrew Orvedahl to try his hand at making an audience laugh. Lori Callahan rose to the occasion a little more quickly, but not without trepidation: Memories of completely forgetting her speech at a pageant as a 1976 Miss Colorado Teenager haunted her.
But, like all hams, the rush of hearing the crowd roar hooked both comics as soon as they stepped on stage. Since then, they’ve built national reputations.
Orvedahl, Wednesday’s feature comedian, secured a spot in Denver’s Comedy Work’s regular rotation in less than three years. He has performed nationwide, including Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and Red Rocks Amphitheatre. He also has opened for acts like Dave Chappelle, Bob Saget and Josh Blue. And then there was his stint on “Last Comic Standing,” which he wouldn’t repeat, saying it’s more of a reality TV show – where directors put words into the comics’ mouths – than a comedy competition.
Orvedahl recently returned to Denver, where he grew up, after living in Los Angeles and learning from plenty of talented comics. When he and his wife had a baby, they decided Denver was a better place to raise a child, partially due to expenses. Plus, Orvedahl loves ski-town crowds, because, as he points out, they’re either wealthy or on vacation, so, generally, they’re pretty darn happy.
His laid-back observational style of comedy explores everyday absurdities and things people take for granted. He’s been described as a “smart” comic, but he doesn’t relate much to that adjective.
Though he enjoys studying English and history, he said, “I don’t consider myself ‘smart’ – apparently the bar must be set really low. I promise, no one will learn anything. You don’t need anything more than a second-grade education (to get my jokes).”
His no-gimmick (no running around on stage or yelling) approach comes from his desire to be “as authentic as possible.” He prefers his stage presence to be similar to sitting down at the bar and conversing with people.
Still, Callahan, who has worked with Orvedahl plenty, maintains he’s “smart, clever and edgy.”
“He’s one of the best writers I’ve worked with and seen in Denver,” Callahan said.
Callahan has garnered a reputation as one of the nation’s top female comedians. In addition to touring with Paula Poundstone, Will Durst and Thea Vidal, she has appeared on Showtime’s “Comedy Club Network” and ESPN’s “The Lighter Side of Sports.”
She’s been working as a full-time comic since 1989, but when she started drawing standing ovations, she literally thought people were “going to the bathroom in droves.”
Her material revolves around family, friends, travel and everyday things, including the “stupidity of people,” she said. She uses laughter as a catharsis; rather than letting herself get upset about the fact that she had a sister her dad hid from her for years – and now another previously unknown step-brother has emerged – she makes fun of it. She also makes light of her weight – before and after she lost 150 pounds.
But she’s no lightweight when it comes to dealing with tough crowds. She has earned the name “Slayer,” because if anyone heckles her, “look out – anything can happen,” she said.
“She’s a true veteran,” Orvedahl said. “We’ve done some rough shows together, like biker bars, and she can always turn a crowd around.”
“Lori is one of the best when it comes to crowd interaction, so it’s always fun to see her perform,” said High Country Comedy founder JonScott McClung. “The crowd loves her.”
She also points out that she’s not a male-basher; as she explains, “I’m an equal opportunity basher, including myself.”
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