Is there actually a comedy scene here in Salt Lake City, or are we just screwing around? To help me understand if there’s really a HAHAHA in Salt Lake, I’ve found individuals so immersed in this ugly “business”, they’d rather spend five minutes onstage twice a week than give any thoughts about having a real career.
In this issue, we begin with stand-up comic Arthur Carter, a rabid soccer fan with a penchant for police-grade weaponry. He only agreed to be a part of this Revolv article because he’s still reeling from being cut out of City Weekly’s feature on stand- up comedy from something around five years ago (that’s not entirely true; you can see his hand and part of his arm in a group picture he was cropped out of).
For the sake of justice, I invited him over for a slice of cheesecake on my lanai to watch me drink lots of beer on my balcony.
After we settled into our chairs, we sat there and awkwardly stared at each other in silence for a while. This guy has some face on him. I’ve never been around someone that can skulk like a brooding, feverish Dostoevsky character one second, and then flash a menacing Chuckles the Clown smile the next. We were both feeling uncomfortable, so to cut the tension, I lit a cigarette and asked him to describe his stand-up persona in thirteen words on the spot. He could only come up with seven (unprofessional, aggressive, silly, lengthy, flagellant, filthy and dark, in case you were wondering), so deduce his intelligence from his lack
of adjectives how you will.
Next, I lobbed a softball at Arthur by asking what his worst experience was on stage, and to my surprise, his answer was slightly disconcerting:
“There was a show where I felt like the audience wasn’t very smart. They really liked the comics that pandered by talking about drinking and fucking and things like that; and I got on stage and took a survey right off the bat and asked how many audience members liked [famed ventriloquist-comic] Jeff Dunham. The majority of the audience said they did by applause, and I said they’re all idiots…and then I proceeded to attack them for the rest of my set. They wanted to murder me by the time my set was done. I had to leave the venue right away.”
This was surprising because having seen him perform several times, I never got that sense from him. Maybe it was because he was surrounded by fellow comedians, or maybe it was because I simply wasn’t in on the joke. I asked him whether his time on stage would have been better spent not alienating the crowd, but to that, he just shrugged innocuously. Did that mean he doesn’t give a shit if he comes across as a smug bully that relishes in punishing his audience, or that he’s played the stand-up game for so long, he just can’t pretend to be anything but an anti-pandering truth-teller?
Whatever we may conclude about his probable pretentiousness, it helps Arthur’s cause immensely that he is very, very funny. I absolutely adore him for his bubbling – just – beneath – the -surface temper, and his tremendously intelligent wit about the condition of the world.
In regards to the comedy scene, I asked Arthur whether he thought Salt Lake served more as a stepping stone for better opportunities in other places, or if this city’s comedians should actually thrive as their own species. He replied,
“I think it should be a springboard. I mean that’s great for people that want to live here, and have to live here, but they could get more opportunities, and get paid [in other cities].”
I asked if his disposition is reflected by the level of talent in the area.
“There’s a lot of good stand up here, that’s the surprising thing… I was like “holy shit, I didn’t think there were that many good local comedians.”
My only problem is it’s taken so seriously, way more serious than it should be taken here. Don’t wear sandals on stage, don’t wear shorts on stage…like, you’re at an open mic, who gives a fuck?”
His ultimate assessment about the scene may be a bitter pill for some local show promoters to swallow, but also may make perfect sense to those that may be itching to get out of here and make it big. Nevertheless, he wholeheartedly believes that even if this place is a springboard, at least there’s an incredible community supporting it.