Matt Besser wants to smoke your weed
eaching far back into his memories, to the halcyon days of his first youthful engagements with cannabis, comedian Matt Besser thinks of Nancy Reagan.
“I was a kid in the ‘80s during the Just Say No campaign,” says the 50-year-old Besser, “and that whole era where marijuana was treated just like crack.”
For anyone aware of the “green wave” currently washing over the country, this particular political and cultural memory is an exercise in perspective, one that draws stark differences between the then and now in our collective perception of cannabis.
For the Los Angeles-based Besser that perspective is particularly extreme. That’s because Besser has been weaving cannabis into his comedy for what he says is longer than he can remember — including hosting a weed-infused comedy show every year on 4/20 since 2006 — and with the shifting attitudes and policies surrounding the subject matter, that means a constant reworking of his material.
If you’re curious what that might look like, Besser would be happy to show you, as this month marks the first time the comedian is bringing his canna-comedy routine to Colorado, with a stop at the Springs’ Temple of Open Faith on July 7. This show will also mark the first time Besser has performed in a venue that legally allows cannabis consumption on the premises. (Note: The legal standing of cannabis clubs is murky statewide, and particularly in Colorado Springs. The Temple does not have a city license, but claims it’s in the clear because it doesn’t sell anything.) And while Besser isn’t one to typically stoke his creative fire by toking up before or during a show, he admits he may be willing to make an exception given the special nature of the venue.
“That would be a unique opportunity. I’ve never been able to legally get high onstage and perform,” Besser says. Adding, “If anyone wants to challenge me to smoke the best strain of weed they have, this would be the only stop I could do that.”
As for what an audience might be able to expect from the show, Besser calls it “part comedy show, part sociological drug experiment,” which is a description likely to ring even truer in a venue with such lenient parameters. He also emphasizes that the content, despite his own storied background in improv comedy — which includes having helped found the Upright Citizens Brigade improv theater (a comedic institution that has helped produce talents such as Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, Kate McKinnon and Donald Glover), as well as hosting the ongoing podcast “improv4humans” — will consist of roughly 85 percent written and rehearsed material. But he’s still making sure to leave himself enough room for a unique dialogue with the audience.
The majority of the material will, of course, be cannabis-centric, though whether Besser will use that license to riff on the age-old ritual of buying a bong, or the new-age ritual of applying for a medical card, is something audiences will have to pay admission to find out. And while cannabis may be the catalyzing force behind the show’s humor, he sees the plant as relating to all facets of life, and thus could hit on a variety of subjects ranging from the sexual to those as benign as a dinner with his daughter at Benihana.
Ironically, Besser’s pot humor arrives in what is arguably the preeminent cannabis state at a stage in the comedian’s life when he no longer really partakes.
“It’s the only illegal thing I’ve done in my whole life, and I’ve done it throughout my life,” he says, recalling the DIY bongs of his past, fashioned out of hazardous plastics, at a time when today’s vaporizers and dab rigs only existed in the imagination of his local steampunk. “Now it’s legal and I’m not really into getting high anymore.”
Still, the former cheba-head knew he had to bring his act to Colorado.
“As perceptions have changed, there are a lot of new issues, and Colorado is out in front dealing with it first,” he says, detailing how the tour throughout the Front Range presents an opportunity to bring his comedy to some of the most progressive cannabis minds in the nation.
But for Besser, who first began his comedy career in and around Boulder and Denver, the tour also represents something more personal, as it will be the first time he’s returned to the area since getting his start out of college. As outlined by his comedy, though, this mixture of business and pleasure is nothing new for Besser, though when he takes the stage in the Springs, both he and the audience will have an opportunity to see the two come together onstage in a way like never before.