Nick Swardson on ‘Typical Rick’ and playing two nights at Belly Up Aspen
IF YOU GO …
Who: Nick Swardson
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Friday, Jan. 5, 8:30 p.m. & Saturday, Jan. 6, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $28/general admission; $50/seated
Tickets: Belly Up box office; http://www.bellyupaspen.com
Nick Swardson was still a teenager when he made his stand-up debut in Aspen, getting his big break at the 1997 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. As the “Grandma’s Boy” and “Bucky Larson” star returns this weekend for a two-night run at Belly Up, he’s staring down middle age — a scenario that’s as odd to him as it is for fans — and talking about it in his act.
“It’s bizarre,” he said during recent phone interview from Los Angeles. “It’s a funny dichotomy of like, ‘OK Nick, you still dress like you’re 14 and act like you’re 20 but you are 41 and you have no kids.’”
Swardson has been touring steadily over the past 18 months, working on material for a new stand-up special, following up 2015’s “Taste It.”
The Minneapolis native was brand new to comedy when he improbably landed a slot at HBO’s long-running Aspen festival.
“That was actually surreal,” he recalled. “I go to the Aspen Comedy Festival, I’m 19, I’ve been doing comedy for six months and that’s where I met David Spade.”
Spade, he recalled, attempted to impress the teenage Swardson by bragging about landing the sit-com “Just Shoot Me” on NBC. The pair have since become close friends, as Swardson started regular collaborating with Adam Sandler, showing up in most every one of Sandler’s movies in the past decade as part of Sandler’s Happy Madison creative family alongside Spade.
“I always think about David being David in Aspen,” he recalled of that first meeting.
His latest on-screen project, the Comedy Central web series “Typical Rick,” is one of the great recent under-the-radar gems of comedy. This hilarious Hollywood send-up stars Swardson as Gary, an Iowa rube trying to break into acting and Simon Rex as his roommate, with guest appearance from Charlie Sheen in two small roles and Chris D’Elia as an egotistical actor.
Along with lampooning the entertainment industry and vapid Los Angeles culture, the show continues Swardson’s juvenile but masterful spin on drug humor — including bits about molly and a bad mushroom experience derailing a Coachella road trip.
The show is semi-autobiographical, using Swardson’s experience as a naïve Midwesterner coming to Hollywood as a jumping-off point. But, he’s quick to point out, he wasn’t as fat as his character when he got to town. He chunked up for the role alongside his hunky co-star.
“It’s horrifying when you act against Simon Rex, who is just psychotically handsome,” Swardson said. “I watch these episodes and I’m like, ‘Well, blow my head off because I am a fat gargoyle!’”
Since his “Bucky Larson” days, Swardson noted, for better or worse, looking ridiculous has become a signature part of his act — which is rough on his ego but good for comedy.
Swardson recently learned that Comedy Central isn’t renewing “Typical Rick” for a third season. The cancellation, he said, may spell the end to Swardson’s relationship with the network that’s been home to all of his comedy specials since 2001 and to his short-lived, envelope-pushing sketch comedy show “Pretend Time.”
“They made the wrong choice, because I will not be doing a comedy special for them ever again,” he said.
Ending “Typical Rick” after two seasons continues a heavily diversified scattershot career that has kept Swardson busily bouncing between television, stand-up and movies. While touring new stand-up material these days, he’s also currently developing a new TV series, and he’ll co-star with Josh Duhamel in the upcoming comedy “The Buddy Games” alongside Olivia Munn and Dax Shepard.
“I’m always creating,” Swardson said. “Hollywood is so arbitrary, so you just have to throw everything out there. … I can’t just sit around. But it is arduous. Now I’m just old and tired and I want to move to Hawaii. That would be so much easier.”
Swardson is sparing audiences from Donald Trump rants during his sets, and isn’t getting political even as so much of the comedy world targets Trump’s presidency. The guy known for creating “Gay Robot” and Terry the roller-skating gigolo on “Reno 911!” and best known for scatological stand-up, he said, has no place jumping on the Trump comedy bandwagon.
“If I got political, people would be like, ‘Are you kidding? You’ve been talking about farting and diarrhea for 20 years! I’m not going to listen to your opinion now about how the world should be run,’” he said with a laugh.
Swardson has become a regular in Colorado in recent years, doing occasional sets at Belly Up since 2013 and recently selling out a six-show run at Comedy Works in Denver. Despite Swardson’s affection for Aspen and mountain-town gigs, he’s yet to master the art of performing (and drinking) at altitude.
When we spoke, Swardson was getting vitamin B and C shots in anticipation of his tour to the high country. He recalled a recent gig in Tahoe that wiped him out with altitude sickness. The frequently proffered advice to Aspen visitors to “just drink water” to ward off the effects of altitude doesn’t fly with Swardson.
“How much water can you f-ing drink?” he laughed. “It gets to a point where it’s like, ‘Well, now I’m just urinating on myself and chugging bottles of water.’ I mean, I can drink a bottle of water a day but I can’t drink 20. That’s insanity.”
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Painter Annie Decamp met the Denver-based artist Michael Dowling at a show a few years ago, and asked if he would mentor her.