Comedian Robert Dubac on his good old days in Aspen and bringing his ‘Book of Moron’ to The Temporary
IF YOU GO …
What: Robert Dubac’s ‘The Book of Moron’
Where: The Temporary at Willits
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
How much: $20/advance; $25/Saturday
With wit, wisdom and an unsparing satirical eye on American culture, Robert Dubac has carved out a singular place in comedy.
He crafts one-man show experiences that pick apart the decline of our civilization with a high-brow approach that doesn’t spare the jokes. Working in the biting and perceptive tradition of Mark Twain, he’s the guy behind shows like “The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron” and “Sex, Politics and Other Headaches.”
Dubac brings his latest show, “The Book of Moron,” to The Temporary at Willits on Saturday. It promises to dissect the dumbed-down America of Kardashians and Trumps with the comic’s signature style (the late Garry Shandling called it “the funniest show you’ll ever think at.”) The show, with Dubac as a brain-rattled patient trying to recover his mind, premiered in Denver in 2014 and had an acclaimed run Off-Broadway.
The Thanksgiving weekend performance is a homecoming for the comedy veteran, who got his start here in Aspen during the drop-out heyday of the early 1970s and honed his craft in local bars before becoming a go-to opening act for touring rock bands. It’s his first performance here since a 2015 set at the Aspen Laugh Festival.
Dubac recently spoke to Aspen Times arts editor Andrew Travers about the new show, the good old days here in Fat City and the state of comedy.
The Aspen Times: What were your early days in Aspen like?
Robert Dubac: I moved there in the early 1970s and I’ve stayed in Colorado pretty much since then. We live in Telluride now because it’s the only place that looks like Aspen did back in the ’70s. When I first was there it was obviously a different vibe. There were little clubs all over town and I was performing in all these bars — I was doing this close-up magic stuff. Everything was catered to the chaos then. It was really just a small group of people who got to know each other really well. And that was when Hunter (Thompson) was still alive and all of that.
I was in my late teens when I first got here, so my whole viewpoint of humor was formed by that crew in Aspen. It was this melting pot of intelligent atheists and anarchists from around the country. That’s why we all went to Aspen. None of us thought of pot or other drugs as all that illegal. You had all these smart anarchist ski bums who’d moved there from all over the world and you’d have these kinds of philosophical discussions — even if its over a keg of beer or an eight ball, you’re still having them.
I ended up opening for a lot of rock ’n’ roll bands. It was in Aspen that I met Jimmy Buffett and the Eagles and I was Buffett’s opening act on tour. I did this comedy magic act in front of bands for years. It’s not hard to do magic tricks when you’re in front of a rock ’n’ roll band. You can just say you’re making the piano disappear — everybody was pretty stoned back then.
AT: So being in Aspen back then, oddly, launched your career?
RD: Definitely. It was the proving ground. This was before there were comedy clubs anywhere. Rock ’n’ roll was really the only place you could try stuff out onstage. And I cut my teeth at The Cabaret in Aspen. Back then when bands and the Hollywood wave came to town they wanted to meet the locals, they didn’t sequester themselves. We were invited to their parties and got to meet them and hang out with them. It was a small group and we were all friends and hung out and got high together. So then when I went to L.A., I had a leg up on everybody else in L.A. trying to get into show business, sitcoms and comedy. I went to L.A. to do my share of film and television and writing.
I rented a place off Hyman Avenue in Aspen up until the early ’90s. That’s where it all coalesced for me.
AT: How did you come to start doing these high-concept one-man shows like “The Male Intellect” and “The Book of Moron”?
RD: I started doing these kinds of shows in the early ’90s and it became a better career move than trying to get a guest-starring role on “Murder, She Wrote” or a Dick Wolf cop show.
It does have a bad stigma to it, because a lot of people are around doing these one-person shows that are pretty self-indulgent — a lot of them are somebody going through some kind of therapy session onstage.
AT: There is an interesting debate about the stand-up form right now and comedians like Hannah Gadsby redefining a comedian’s role onstage. What do you think of that evolution?
RD: I’m not excited right now because I think it’s not evolving, it’s devolving. There are specific examples, like Hannah Gadsby, that are evolving it and taking it up a notch. But mostly what I see today is new jokes on a lot of old tired concepts. I think it’s a reflection of an art where there’s no discipline anymore.
AT: How do you make “Book of Moron” work?
RD: The show starts out stupid. The first 10 minutes is just setup-joke, setup-joke to get people on board and get them to start listening.
The show is smart stuff and it is funny. You don’t have to come in with any ideology. And you can walk away from it just having had a great time, or you can walk away from it saying, “I have some things to think about and have some discussions about.” That’s the challenge. How do you write it so you can take it just at face-value or you can mine the depths of it more?
From the day Complexions Contemporary Ballet premiered on June 10, 1994, the innovative company has been selling out shows. Last year, its sold-out tribute to David Bowie captivated Aspen audiences, and on Saturday it performs “Love Rocks,” set to the music of Lenny Kravitz.