A group of addicts gathered in a dimly lit lounge on North College Avenue last Sunday and Monday.
As it came time for each of them to speak, the power of their words echoed across the worn, red brick walls surrounding them â€” the roomâ€™s energy was entirely in their hands.
They supported each other, and throughout the evening both laughter and tears abounded from all.
Those tears, however, were actually metaphorical tears of laughter from the entertained audience in Hodiâ€™s Half Note. And the addicts were Fort Collins comedians completely addicted to the art of stand-up comedy.
Recently, public knowledge of the Fort Collins comedy scene could be compared to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting â€” the only people who know a lot about it are the ones in it.
But things are starting to look up for Fort Collins stand-up, and one of the people fueling the rise in laughs is Fort Collinâ€™s own Jeremy (Jrock) Michael, CEO of the Fort Collins production company RapidFire Entertainment.
Last year, Jrock watched a group of local comedians perform stand-up at the now closed Cork nightclub in Fort Collins. He laughed, and he was surprised. His eyes were opened to the townâ€™s underground comedy scene.
â€œI saw that there was talent, and I saw that there was a need to give them more time to develop that talent,â€ Jrock said.
Just as Jrockâ€™s production company had given unknown local bands the chance to play at venues like the Aggie Theatre and Hodiâ€™s Half Note, he decided it was time for the underappreciated comedians in Fort Collins to shine as well.
Thatâ€™s why he organized the first comedy open-mic at Hodiâ€™s seven months ago. Around the same time, he also started a monthly comedy showcase at Hodiâ€™s, which brings together comedians from all around Colorado, and Fort Collins comics headline many of the shows.
Denverâ€™s Christie Buchele, the sole female comedian at last Sundayâ€™s showcase, has performed at five RapidFire comedy showcases so far, and she said Jrock is one of the main reasons she comes back.
â€œHe sticks with the comics, and feeds us. And weâ€™re not kidding, he literally feeds us,â€ Buchele said. She turned around and laughed right as Jrock placed hot cheese pizza on the bar for the comedians to snack on before the show.
Buchele is a teacher in Denver when sheâ€™s not doing stand-up, but she isnâ€™t satisfied with grading tests. For her, the lure of comedy is undeniable.
â€œNormal people donâ€™t do this. Because you get up there and ask people to hate you, you know?â€ she said. â€œBut sometimes they love you. And thatâ€™s what keeps us coming back.â€
The likable and laid back local comedian Bob Gaudet, who hosts open-mic nights at Hodiâ€™s every Monday, knows all about getting addicted to stand-up.
Gaudet entered a small comedy contest in Fort Collins on a whim six years ago. He invited all his friends, but right before he went on stage, he panicked.
â€œFive minutes before I went on stage, I turned to my friend who was studying martial arts at the time and told him, â€˜Beat the shit out of me,â€™â€ Gaudet said. He didnâ€™t want to willfully back out of his set, so he thought the only way to maintain some pride was to be knocked unconscious.
But he did go on stage, and the audience did laugh. Ever since, heâ€™s been hooked.
â€œThereâ€™s nothing in this world Iâ€™ve found better than a room full of laughter at something youâ€™ve said on purpose,â€ Gaudet said. â€œItâ€™s thoroughly addicting.â€
It doesnâ€™t take long to get addicted to stand-up comedy, and CSUâ€™s own Scott Sharp can attest.
Sharp, a self proclaimed â€œextreme seniorâ€ majoring in theatre and communication studies, headlined the comedy showcase at Hodiâ€™s on Sunday night, but his lust for stand-up comedy began outside of Fort Collins.
â€œI used to go to Denver (for stand-up), but then all these shows popped up here, and it was awesome because I didnâ€™t have to drive anymore,â€ Sharp said. â€œIt kind of just birthed here real recently.â€
His 30-minute headlining set was filled with self-deprecating humor. â€œIâ€™m a pretty goofy looking, redheaded skinny guy. Thereâ€™s like five hours of material just in that.â€
For most of the comedians who perform in Fort Collins, stand-up doesnâ€™t pay the bills.
And after telling jokes at night, most wake up to a long day of work, or in Sharpâ€™s case, classes.
â€œIâ€™d like to say we go to coke, stripper parties after this,â€ Sharp said. â€œBut honestly, Iâ€™m probably just gonna go home and sleep.â€
At Hodiâ€™s open-mic night this past Monday, another CSU student was one of the clear crowd favorites. Mike Hammock, a junior majoring in criminology, got the most laughs with his jokes about sperm-induced genocide â€” (he can explain it better).
But Hammock wasnâ€™t always so comfortable being raunchy on stage. â€œI was just so nervous the first time, but it was such a rush,â€ he said.
Hammock said he usually does stand-up two to three nights a week at various locations in Fort Collins, so he knows a lot about how much the comedy scene has grown lately.
One of the places he tests out his material is the Alley Cat Cafe, which just recently started hosting comedy open-mic nights every Wednesday. Like other stand-up locations in Fort Collins, the Alley Catâ€™s comedy started out small, but itâ€™s growing exponentially.
â€œIt used to be two comedians and a homeless guy on a couch,â€ Hammock said. â€œItâ€™s really picking up now though.â€
Since stand-up comedy is just starting to get its feet wet in Fort Collins, some of the local comedians think it will take a while until people develop a taste for it.
â€œI think if you only do comedy in Fort Collins, youâ€™ll get a false sense of â€˜niceness,â€™â€ CSUâ€™s Sharp said.
Denver comic Sam Tallent, who performed before Sharp at Sundayâ€™s comedy showcase, agreed that Fort Collins has very forgiving crowds.
As the Fort Collins comedy scene begins to expand, and as the audiences begin to discover whatâ€™s funny, local comedians will continue to get on stage, take the mic and bare themselves with their stand-up routines.
â€œIâ€™m not saying weâ€™re brave or courageous, alright,â€ Tallent said. â€œWeâ€™re like, damaged, and we need your attention.â€
â€œDamagedâ€ or not, each comedian who took the stage in Fort Collins this week did so because they thrive on the laughter.
And as host Gaudet said multiple times between sets on Mondayâ€”â€œStand-up is cheaper than therapy.â€
Staff writer Colleen McSweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.