Printed in The Durango Telegraph
The coffee machine is broken, the toast is burnt, your significant other can’t find the keys, and your senile neighbor is screaming at the neighborhood cat again just as you open the fridge to realize you’re out of beer and pizza. The struggle is as intense as it is real. But, at the end of the day, there are two ways to react to those unfortunate episodes in life: get mad – slam a door, punch a pillow, flip the bird; or, throw your fist in the air, deem the universe clever for making your life an entertaining mess … and laugh.
Then you write it out – say, about the time you walked out of the house with your daughter’s Barbie in your hand instead of your coffee cup – orchestrate it to a group of total strangers and hope they laugh, too.
That’s what Dan Korman wants to bring to Durango: a forum in which people can share life’s humor with others. A former Durangoan once removed, Korman has now returned to introduce “Laugh Therapy,” a monthly comedian open mic night held every third Thursday in the downstairs of the Irish Embassy. Korman hosts the event with hopes of providing a space for comedians to practice new material or polish their oldies but goodies in front of a real live audience.
Korman (no relation to the famous comedian Harvey Korman of “Carol Burnett” fame although he is an admirer) isn’t new to comedy, but it also isn’t his profession. By day he wears the hat of a successful real estate broker, managing remotely a real estate firm he began while living in New Orleans. In his free time, he volunteers and coaches soccer.
But by night, he builds on his comedic passion. He grew up loving comedy and aspired to be a comedian. He was performing live a couple times a week and selling real estate until he found himself spread too thin. “I was working from around seven in the morning to six at night, and then afterwards I was performing once or twice or four times a week, and it really started draining my ability to focus,” he said. “I needed to focus on one thing.”
He weighed his options and ultimately went with real estate, reluctantly leaving comedy behind.
However, after spending a few years focused on real estate, he slowly came back to comedy. And now he says he’s found a perfect balance in his dichotomous lifestyle with Laugh Therapy. It isn’t as demanding as doing regular stand-up, yet fosters the comedic muse. Once a month, he says, is perfect: any more would be overwhelming; any less just wouldn’t create a flow. Comedy has become fun again, and it gives an audience something to look forward to every month, he said.
The open mic night was a niche that needed to be filled in Durango, according to Korman. Even though there are comedy shows, there is nowhere for a practicing comedian to hone his or her skills. In fact, the only time he ever got to see local jokesters trying their hands on stage was at the Jokedown at Snowdown.
And so far, his hunch has proven true. Since starting in May, each Laugh Therapy has seen growing participation, with the last one the biggest so far.
The format is similar to other open mics in that those wishing to participate sign up at the beginning and are given a time limit in accordance with how many comedians wish to participate. Standard is three to five minutes per comedian, which helps keep the audience’s attention, but Korman’s seen 10 to 15 minutes work just fine as well. In addition, every performer gets a free drink, whether to calm the nerves before, during or after their turn.
The event is open to all comers, from seasoned veterans to complete newbies. “Some know what they’re doing; some are just practicing; some have no idea what they’re doing,” he said. “As the host, it’s my job to try to keep it flowing.”
Someday, he’d love to see a packed house and said he wouldn’t mind making some money from his efforts. But for now, it’s about creating a platform for the art of comedy. “I’m not in any rush to make comedy a business. I’m doing it for the love of it.”
As is everyone else who performs at Laugh Therapy. Local performer Chad Peyer isn’t looking for fame or money, he just wants a place to meet other comedians, hear their comedy and share his own jokes. “The best part I’ve experienced so far is the before and after when I can talk to people who are in the exact same boat as myself; trying out new jokes, seeing what’s going to work and what’s not and then talking to each other before and after about what happened,” he said. “Even if it’s just one night a month, it’s more than I’d ever experienced.”
Peyer admits it’s hard getting up in front of strangers and talking about his personal life, hoping people will thinks it’s as funny as he does. “Sometimes people think it’s funny weird and sometimes people think it’s weird weird, but I just go with it,” he said. His favorite joke, which involves walking out of the house with splattered toothpaste on his shirt, is a hit or miss, but it’s still one of his favorites, because it’s a little out there, he said.
Being unusual is a specialty for another Laugh Therapy comedian, Dallas Gwynn, who arguably stole the show at September’s open mic night. She got into comedy because she had just broken up with her boyfriend and “needed something else to do.” She continued on through the years because she likes making people – including herself – laugh. “Some of it you’re just kind of born with; the way you can look at awful things and make them funny,” she said. “I just find myself in embarrassing situations all the time and it makes it less embarrassing if I say it out loud.”
It’s also a way of sharing the humanness of, well, being human. “Everyone has gone through this shit. Everyone has fallen in public; everyone has peed themselves; everyone’s gotten dumped via text message by a guy who lives in a van. It takes the power out of it and it provides a space to have something in common.”
Being female adds another interesting twist. “It takes a while to break in, and there’s a lot of male ego involved,” she said, adding that some men either don’t want to be less funny than a woman or just don’t think women are funny. “All that taboo stuff that women don’t even talk about with each other – that sex stuff, and looking bad, or stomach fat or whatever – prevents them from being funny,” she said. “I have a guy friend who says that chicks just aren’t that funny, and I think that’s true because society hasn’t taught us how to foster it.”
But Gwynn has broken that boundaryand gained fans and won comedy competitions in the process. Her biggest fans though, seem to be her parents who show up to as many of her performances as possible “They’re always very supportive,” she said. “My mom always says, ‘Do you always have to talk about sex?’ and sometimes I don’t, but usually that’s what’s going on in my life … these awkward sexual encounters.” Nevertheless, they love her regardless, she said.
Unfortunately, she can’t say the same of her love interests. “I’ve been broken up with because of it, because I told some story about some situations. I don’t use names, ever. But whatever – you’re an insecure ***tard. You can’t handle it. It’s not my problem.”