Local comedian Tibby Deaux has put together a comedy show George Carlin, Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks would be damn proud of. In the tradition of counterculture and anti-establishment, and with a nod to the freethinkers, liberals and radicals of the past, he has created a show called Focus on the Insanity.
The mega-show features eight local stand-up comedians, and the insanity focused upon is, essentially, what's going on socially and politically, nationally as well as locally. For this particular show, the performers, though diverse in their routines, have one thing in common: an offbeat, unpredictable approach. The material focuses on everything from politics, to racism, to homophobia, to the drug war, to the high-tech industry, to just plain old self-deprecation.
The topics are the kind that either shut people up or fire them up. "Individual voices are slowly but surely getting quieter and quieter," said Tibby Deaux. He says the backbone concept of this show is the plain old right to express yourself -- a right he feels has gotten buried over the years.
"Right now, if you call yourself a liberal, a lot of people gasp," he said "What's happened to the counterculture, the hippies, liberals, radicals, freethinkers? There are not a lot of voices out there these days."
Tibby Deaux himself knows what it's like to not express that radical inner voice. When he began doing stand-up comedy in New Orleans three years ago, his routine was much different than it is these days. Born and bred in Louisiana, he's all Cajun, so naturally, that was a big part of his routine. "I did everything in a Cajun accent. I dressed Cajun, you know, suit, big hat. I'm Cajun. That's where my humor came from."
As he developed his routine, though, he realized he was becoming more and more political onstage. Unfortunately, it didn't fit the character he was building, and he found he wasn't often able to say what he was really thinking.
Then, a few years ago, his father passed away, and he decided to take a break from everything for a while. When he came back and plunged back into stand-up, he wasn't satisfied with the Cajun image anymore. "It just wasn't me, or what I wanted to be saying. So I changed my routine and my image, and that's when I came up with the concept. And now I feel like not only am I doing comedy, but it's what I want to do."
One of the first people Tibby Deaux (also known just as Cajun) approached was Reg Hunter. Hunter is a 10-year veteran in the stand-up industry and echoes many of Tibby Deaux's speak-your-mind sentiments. "As Richard Pryor once said, 'If you're onstage and not saying anything, get the hell off of the stage.' I live that quote," he said.
Hunter's humble comedy roots were planted right here in the Springs. His main gig is as a software engineer at Compaq. But that's not nearly as fulfilling as the comedy, he said. His comedy has brought him opportunities to open for such talents as Tommy Chong, Judy Tenuta, Ellen DeGeneres and Gilbert Gottfried.
Hunter says his line of comedy is definitely motivated by politics, and he deals with racism and homophobia. "Being black and growing up in white suburbia, I saw a lot. It's really a different twist on the way people see things."
"And I have a gay brother," he continued. "so I've learned and seen a great deal through his eyes."
When asked to be a part of Focus on the Insanity and to speak for the counterculture, Hunter was instantly willing. "I don't know that it's (the counterculture) necessarily gone, we just need the next generation to speak up. But this generation doesn't seem to speak."
Local stand-up comic Arthur Samuels, also part of the show, thinks that counterculture voice is still around. "It's just in hiding. Actually, I think it's the same people from the '60s and '70s. They're just older and more sophisticated now. They've learned to work things from within the system."
Samuels, who has been doing comedy in Denver and the Springs for about a year now, considers his material "intellectual comedy." Though he said that not all of his material is counterculture-oriented per se (except for the parts about politics, religion, drugs and superstition), it does come from the "think for yourself" angle. "When Cajun approached me to be a part of this, he said he wanted a freethinker for the show. And that's me. I was raised ultra-Catholic. Now I'm a hard-core freethinker."
Also on the bill for the evening, and from an ultra-Catholic background, is Emily Grove. Grove bills herself as clean and smiley. Her influences are more along the lines of Carol Burnett, Lily Tomlin, Bob Newhart and Flip Wilson.
"My routines are more self-deprecating. Goofy. So I'm more the political relief of the show, I guess."
Grove said the word politics actually scares her. But living in Colorado Springs, she said, has given her the opportunity to react to many contemporary issues with her comedy.
"A show like this we need here," said Grove. "This town is hungry for something like this. Our counterculture is small, but pretty strong."
Admitting that she is part of the insanity in this town, Sara Bailey (a.k.a. Sara B. Sirus) also jumped at the opportunity to join the festivities. "All the best humor has its roots in reality," she joked.
Involved in comedy on and off for the past 12 years, Bailey is looking forward to getting back onstage after a two-year absence. "I've really missed it. You write about what gets you agitated. Comedy is a good way to go public with it. People laugh, but it makes them think, too."
So what might we hear that agitates Bailey? "The usuals. Focus (on the Family), the liberal church here in town, the whole gay issue. Actually, everybody is fair game."
Colorado Springs native Paul Cardozo is part of the huge comedy slam. He's been doing stand-up since he was about 19 years old, and is now one of the few full-time working comics in this town. When asked what to expect from his show, he replied, "Well, people are probably expecting Dennis Miller, but please don't. And actually, I'm not really a political comic. I talk about growing up a lot. And my family. But I still thought it'd be cool to do the show. There's a spotlight, a microphone, I'm there."
Rounding out the lineup for the evening are Barry Reid and Laurie Hahn. Reid brings to the show his perspective on the hemp industry and some different thoughts on the drug war.
Overall, Tibby Deaux hopes people will come away from the show with a little more courage to speak their minds. "I just want people to realize they need to stand up for what they believe in. That they can be heard."
Along those lines, Tibby Deaux gives a hearty thanks to Loonee's Comedy Corner for supporting his efforts. The opinions expressed at the show are not necessarily those of the club, he points out, but then again, that's the point.
As Emily Grove aptly summarized, "Everybody can make somebody laugh. Everybody has opinions. Everybody is allowed to have opinions. Everybody should be able to speak their mind. That's what this show is all about."