Gary Capillary Bleeds Funny
Gary Capillary is Denver 's premier singer/songwriter comedian. He's performed at the Bug, the Monkey Barrel, and the Half Empty Cup. He's worked a couple nights as an opening act at Comedy Town . He once sat in the same room as Adam Sandler. The room was Madison Square Garden and the occasion was the New York Knickerbockers versus the Houston Rockets.
His songs include such jems as “I Saw Elvis Kissing Santa Claus,” a send-up of heterosexual interpretations of Christmas Rock songs; “C is for Cocaine”, a children's song about drug abuse; “I'm Not a Beatle”, which details an encounter between a drunken Keith Richards and a drunken bum on a New York subway; and “Boobies,” which is about a species of bird. Ha ha.
We met last Saturday in the periodicals section of the Denver Public Library. The entire interview was whispered.
Strapping Danforth: You're a competent musician. Why did you settle for comedy?
Gary Capillary: That's funny. I played in a band called the Streams of Unconsciousness in Ames , Iowa for seven years. We were a heavy metal punk band with hilarious lyrics. We toured a little, made two records and a CD, and got some good press. As a band, we were fair to middling, but it was a drag to see people head-banging to songs about Chippy the Bowling Chipmunk. Our crowd never got the joke. No one could understand a word we sang at live shows so they loved us for all the wrong reasons.
SD: Did this lead to any conflicts?
GC: We got along with the audience the majority—and by that I mean about 51%—of the time. Nearly half the shows ended with Jimmy or Rex insulting some guy's girlfriend which would then lead to the inevitable knife fight. It's amazing four of the original five band members actually survived.
SD: Were the crowd fights your ultimate demise?
GC: No. It was weirder than that. In 1995, Rolling Stone ran a photo of us in a best of college bands article. The photo was stellar. It was a shot of us playing on stage at the historic Hankerton Theatre in Ames while in the foreground a chimpanzee chased a chicken through a kiddie pool filled with jello and pigs' ears. Unfortunately, they screwed up the caption. Instead of “The Streams of Unconsciousness drive the crowd insane with their cutting-edge hard rock, edgy lyrics, and propulsive stage show,” it read, “Green Day is slicing through the country with their new brand of melodic punk”. They went on to fame. We broke up and scattered across the country. Plus, our bassist was killed in a bar fight.
SD: What brought you to Denver ?
GC: Love. I followed my girlfriend, Sabrina. About a month after we got settled in, she packed up and followed some guy named Damien to Los Angeles . I didn't have enough money to follow them so I stayed here and got a job driving a taxi.
SD: And this led directly to your career as a comedian…
GC: No. First I drifted into substance abuse, made questionable friends, got arrested a couple times, became overwhelmed with depression, and decided to kill myself. Just as I was about to swallow a bottle of aspirin, I saw my guitar sitting in the corner, covered with dust. At the same time, a car drove by and through my open window I heard Weird Al Yankovich blaring “Eat It” out of the speakers. Like a bolt from the beige, I realized my calling in life was to struggle at the brink of poverty playing comedy songs for drunk, tired audiences in second rate clubs.
SD: Describe your act.
GC: I stand on stage, play funny songs for half an hour and leave. It's just me and an acoustic guitar. You'd think seven years of live performance would prepare me for this gig but it didn't. When you're in a band you can hide behind volume. A good beat can save a crappy song and a bad PA can cover bad lyrics. When it's you and a guitar, you're completely naked. You have no choice but to accept the fact that certain elements of your performance will suck. With me, it's my singing, guitar playing, timing and material.
SD: How does a comedy club audience differ from a Midwest roadhouse?
GC: Fewer guns. Beyond that, the biggest difference is in the reaction. In the rock band, people screamed after every song. In comedy, I have no idea what will work. One of my songs includes the line, “Handfuls of hair and a pick in my perm.” Nine times out of ten, people laugh at that one. It isn't even supposed to be funny. The next line is, “I fished for a compliment and caught only a worm,” which is SUPPOSED to be funny and they NEVER laugh at it. I think that when you're in the audience at a comedy show, you're always trying to anticipate the next joke. You want to be the first person to laugh and you never want to be accused of not getting a joke. Sometimes people jump the gun.
SD: One review called you work, “A tired Tenacious D knock off without the talent.”
GC: I got reviewed? Wow! What a compliment. Who said that?
GC: Oh. Listen, Tenacious D is one of my favorite bands of all time. They did gangloads for comesicians [comesician (kom'i'zhi'shun) n. A comedy musician.— Arnold 's Second Revised Collegiate Cant Dictionary]. The problem is that they're not doing anything terribly new. Intentionally dumb lyrics combined with heavy metal hyperbole played on acoustic guitars has been around almost along as unintentionally dumb lyrics combined with heavy metal hyperbole played on electric guitars. Those gags used to belong to everybody. Where Tenacious D ruined everything was that Jack Black is so good. Now nobody wants to hear anything BUT Tenacious D. They're so fucking funny the rest of us now have to reinvent ourselves so we don't look like “tired knock-offs”. That's fine. It'll push us to new levels. For instance, I incorporate lots of pop culture into my work. That way, even if the music is old and tired, the lyrics conjure fresh images. In “One-Legged Hitchhiker” I always throw a reference from that day's paper in the verse where the hitchhiker takes off his pants. It keeps the show fresh even though most of my humor consists poop and fart jokes. Anyway, if people consider my act to be derivative of Jack Black's, then fine. I slept with Jack Black's sister. Who's laughing now?
Librarian: Shhh. This is a library.
Gary 's next performance is Saturday March 22 at the Mudlark Café, just off Arapahoe and Emporia East or exit the turnpike and I-25. Take a right at the inflatable cactus.
--Strapping Danforth, March, 2003