The Stoner Stylings of Comedian Doug Benson
by Andrew R Tonry
April 08, 2010
BEING THE PREEMINENT pot comic of the day has its perks. You get to
do drugs at work and everyone wants to give you more. It's almost
like a contesteach fan wants to prove they've got the best shit.
"A lot of people give [weed] to me, and that's awesome," says
comedian and High Times magazine's 2006 Stoner of the Year Doug
Benson. "Especially in places where it's legal or at least
decriminalized. I love that."
Benson's pot-related projects are numerous. He starred in Super High
Me, a parody of Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me that entailed smoking
all day, every day for 30 days. (Unlike Spurlock's revelation,
Benson's results were no great surprise.)
In October of last year he embarked on the "Medical Marijuana Tour,"
a 13-day tour of the 13 states where weed is legally considered
medicinal. The tour began in Rhode Island and stretched all the way to Hawaii.
"It was not as difficult as I thought it was going to be," says
Benson. "We managed to make it to every date and, of course, Portland
was one of the highlights. That was one of the most fun shows on a
tour that was all fun shows." Benson's first visit to Portland,
however, was a disaster.
After performing another pot parody in 2005, the off-Broadway The
Marijuana-Logues, the group decided to take the show on the road. To
their overwhelming excitement, Tommy Chong, the godfather of ganja,
joined the ranks. "We went to Vancouver first, great show," remembers
Benson. "The audience went crazy and threw a bunch of joints onstage.
It was a wonderful time." The next night in Seattle, the same. The
morning after, as they were to leave for Portland, Chong gathered
everyone in the hotel lobby. He was quitting the show.
"He was on probation at the time from the jail time that he did,"
says Benson of Chong's bust for selling pot paraphernalia. "He said
that being around people smoking pot and people throwing pot on the
stage was a direct parole violation and he didn't want to have to go
back to jail." Benson & Co. found themselves in Portland on a drab
rainy Sunday night. The showand the rest of the tourwas cancelled.
And while pot has presented Benson with a niche and a number of
opportunities, being equated with stoner culture isn't always
helpful, nor does it encompass his onstage talent.
"One of the downsides would be, maybe giving people the idea that I'm
just a dumb stoner and don't try very hard and don't have anything to
offer," says Benson. It's a legitimate concern. Benson is neither
lazy nor stupid. He's been performing for over 20 years, and his act
is multi-faceted. A year ago I saw Benson open for Craig Robinson in
San Francisco, and Benson blew him out of the water.
"I like to think there's no established rhythm [in comedy] because
what makes people laugh is surprise," Benson explains. "So I try not
to have it all be uniform in length and style." This includes short
and long-form jokes, callbacks, and of course, subjects more varied
than just weed.
Benson points to his work on Last Comic Standing and Best Week Ever
as proof that his appeal extends beyond stoner culture. "I have fans
that don't smoke pot and they don't care one way or another whether I
do," Benson says. "The jokes have to be good, no matter what they're about."