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Two extremes of comedy

KIMBERLY NICOLETTIsummit daily news

Tonight’s Keystone comedy show with Phil Palisoul and Gretchen Hess has a little something for everyone. Or, as Hess commented:”It’s funny that they put us together. I guess they wanted two different extremes.”Headliner Phil Palisoul has been in comedy for nearly 20 years.”I got my first laugh, and I knew I wanted to be on stage,” Palisoul said.After honing his skills in Denver, he and his wife, Nora Lynch, moved to Los Angeles to write television sit coms, including “Carolyn in the City,” for 13 years. But after more than a decade of 100-hour weeks where their work was, as he lightheartedly described it, “picked apart by people in Norfolk, Va., that have no idea” what’s current and funny, the couple decided to return to Denver, the “great garden,” as he calls it.”I wanted to leave writing,” he said. “I missed the immediacy of stand-up.”Visual scenes in his imagination spur his clean comedy; for example, he might conjure a picture of himself being confronted by a bear, and suddenly, he’s off and running.”Every joke has a victim; that’s just the nature of humor – after all, that’s why they call it a punch line,” he said. “For most of my jokes, I’m the victim. It’s self-deprecating.”He prefers to use himself as a punching bag; that way, people who relate can laugh without feeling picked on.”There’s comedy that’s magnetic, and there’s comedy that’s repellent,” he said. “Both are funny, but I prefer the magnetic kind.”He begins his stint with comments about how he wishes he were taller, more handsome, more brave …”God gave me a sense of humor so I could joke about all the things he left out,” Palisoul said.”Phil is brilliant,” Hess said. “He’s very clean, very clever and quick witted. He’s very likeable.”Palisoul is politically correct even in his description of Hess. He described her as brave enough to say things many people find hard to spit out. Hess simply expressed her style as “a little more crass.””I think most men can get away with what I say, but I think as a female, it’s a little harder,” Hess said. “I have a little bit of shock factor. I’m definitely bold.”Her material revolves around her life – that of a single woman who has never been married and doesn’t have kids and who thinks she’s still in her 20s.Hess lived in Summit County from 1993-96, so she pulls out a few inside jokes about the mountain lifestyle. She got her start in comedy after working on television with RSN. In the vein of living life as a dare, she stepped up to comedy because she was terrified to speak in front of live audiences.”It was a great challenge, because I get bored,” she explained. After doing it for three years full time, she has found it addictive, much like skiing and snowboarding. As she tells it, she felt “so alive” when she lived in Summit County because she was taking risks skiing and boarding, and after she moved to Denver and had back surgery, her days on the snow dwindled, and she needed something to amp up her adrenaline. She likens stand-up to mountain sports: “Any wrong turn that you do, you can fall and hurt yourself.”In comedy, it can be one inappropriate comment or an awkward moment. And, since she blends clean and dirty comedy, she lives on the edge. Nevertheless, her risks have paid off. After six years at Comedy Works in Denver, she has earned a spot on the club’s Almost Famous list for the last few consecutive years.


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