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Laughing with Abby Alt

Delivering the punch line at VooDoo Comedy Playhouse.
Delivering the punch line at VooDoo Comedy Playhouse.
Benn Stebleton

Abby Alt is standing on the stage in lacey lingerie. Lights on her, audience hooting, clothing scattered about her feet. She is positioned between two equally naked male strippers. Abby is not a stripper herself. But she is a comedian who knows how to put on a damn good show. This time, the show needed black panties and naked firefighters for a little something extra. Most other shows only require Abby’s irrepressible humor and charisma.

But she’ll do what it takes to give the audience a good time.

Abby has been doing stand up around Denver just over a year. She launched from a suburban household filled with five kids and a husband into an open mike at Over There Off Hampden. Her first set was fueled by Fireball shots and some shocking humor. The audience loved her. She loved them and their laughter. She went home and immediately starting writing more material. Lots of material. Notebooks full of stuff fell between scrubbing toilets, gathering socks from the floor, and afterschool playdates.

But before the seven shots and the first crass joke spouted into a microphone, Abby was entertaining friends and family with stories and crank calls. That was enough for a few decades.

Then she was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease. It’s an immune system disorder where one’s body decides it no longer accepts the thyroid gland in its neighborhood, then makes every effort to encourage it to go away. But our immune system often doesn’t see the big picture. That view in this case would show it that the thyroid impacts every little part of the human body.

Abby dropped below 100 pounds, her hair shed at an alarming rate, panic attacks were a regular occurrence, agoraphobia set in. She huddled into a bathrobe for two years before a diagnosis and medication brought a remission.

She took that as an opportunity to jump back into life.

“When I got well, I was going to so everything I wanted to do.” She exercised furiously. She got out of the house. She saw an ad for Over There Off Hampden’s open mike and decided to attend. The audience was small enough to be less than intimidating, and Abby was drunk enough to alleviate most of her anxiety.

She got her first belly laugh from a room of strangers. And she needed more.

People started paying attention to Abby during her regular open mike appearances. She was noticed enough to get asked into a comedy showcase. Then things accelerated. Bookings. Openings for larger acts. Showcases. More writing. Longer sets. Abby left behind a rehearsed delivery and became comfortable really expressing herself on stage. She was starting to find a real voice.

At this point there was no going back into the bathrobe. She had to see where this was heading.

“Maybe this is something. ‘cause I’m now starting to be able to perform with recognizable names,” Abby said while acknowledging that realization was celebrated with a bottle of champagne.

Hippieman. Sam Tallent. And she was killing at those shows.

“Now I can’t envision it not being in my life.” Before the first year was up, this fun little stay at home mom had been transformed into a stage presence. She jumped into Denver’s swelling comedy scene, and she’s still riding that wave out.

But while Abby has been steadily rising, other Denver comics are quickly falling away, or pushing along for years without coming close to her level of success. Comedy, like all arts, is a cutthroat business. Performers are bleeding out on a daily business.

There is no one thing that allows Abby a charmed career. She is damn funny. It has to start with funny. She develops her material with an always increasing awareness of what makes people laugh. She created a stage character from which one cannot look away. She is also willing to put the work into a show before the first seat is filled.

When Abby needed a new open mike spot, she started one at her local hangout, Devon’s Pub.

Devon’s is in one of those areas of Denver where local beers are not served. It is surrounded by strip mall. It’s one the city’s last smoke filled bars. It is a cigar pub, which means smoking is allowed indoors. Ashtrays and Marlboro hard packs sit next to every neat whiskey. Everyone over 40 is lighting up, and anyone younger sucking down Camels looks over 40. The lone musician who opens Wednesday’s open mike does not smoke, but his tattoo does.

It’s not an ideal spot to become a staple for up and coming local comics. Still, Abby saw potential. Friend and bar manager Jon Harris told her she had the space if she wanted to run with it. Within a couple weeks more than 30 new patrons were crowding into the small space. The most recent Wednesday hosted more than 20 comics, with Abby orchestrating the whole scene.

Harris credits Abby’s promotional skill in making it such a quick success. He also recognizes her talent.

“Hilarious! For someone who’s only been doing this a year, she’s killing it…If she keeps up the pace, hell, I can see her doing big stuff. Nationwide tours, TV,” he boasts.

The same dedication and skill that established Devon’s as a spot for comedy also put Abby on the stage at VooDoo Comedy Playhouse in her underwear.

It was all part of host Mona Lott’s Stripped Down Stand Up. The simple premise of the show is that each comedian is paired with a stripper. The comic’s joke bombs, she takes off a piece of clothing. The joke gets laughs, the stripper throws off an article of his wardrobe.

Mona didn’t have commitments from enough male or female strippers and proposed cancelling the show. Abby stepped in and rounded up buff friends and sexy women to make sure the show would go on, even if it meant she would have to fill dual roles of comedy and naked eye candy.

It’s that commitment to making it happen, along with some really funny stuff, that is pushing Abby into upcoming shows at the Denver Improv July 30 and opening for Tommy Davidson at Comedy on the Rocks September 20.

She’s even starting to get paid, a rare occurrence for comics in their first few years.

She still hasn’t determined how much she can get from a performance. She’s just too new to the business to know her true worth. She worries she might be selling herself too cheaply. But she’s proven herself to be a quick learner.

You’ll want to catch her before she figures out she’s more than you can afford.

Here are a few ways you can keep up with Abby Alt.

On the face thing.

She's at Devon's Cigar Pub every other Wednesday to host their open mike.

Denver Improv Future Legends. July 30.

Comedy on the Rocks. Sept. 20.

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