Sexpot Comedy’s dream of unlimited cannabis and laughs is getting a reality check.
The brand, which was created in 2012 by marijuana entrepreneur Kayvan Khalatbari and has grown with the help of Denver comedian-producer Andy Juett, is retooling for 2015 after a year of creative triumphs — but also empty seats at some of its live shows and a delayed website launch.
“It’s definitely had its up and down days,” Juett, 37, said of Sexpot’s website, which was unveiled on Oct. 31 following an initial goal of August. “But for most part it’s going great, and we’re finding a lot of value in original content.”
Styled after sites such as the Los Angeles-based Nerdist network, sexpotcomedy.com collects links, photos, audio streams and videos from the 20 live stand-up shows and 11 podcasts Sexpot sponsors in and outside of the Mile High City. In the coming months it plans to offer original content from Denver-bred comics with national profiles, such as Ben Kronberg, T.J. Miller and others.
“The hardest part of creating something like Sexpot, which is ultimately a shared platform and support network for everyone that has anything to do with the creation of the scene, is getting people to buy in and trust that you’re not just trying to take advantage of the situation or the people,” Khalatbari said.
As the owner of Denver’s Sexy Pizza chain and co-owner of the Denver Relief cannabis businesses, Khalatbari spent about $50,000 in 2014 sponsoring Denver comedy shows and podcasts such as Too Much Fun, Empty Girlfriend, Propaganda! and Werewolf Radar Picture Show, as well as other creative projects. He estimates he also contributed $25,000 in scene-related freebies and discounts at his cannabis and pizza businesses.
Sexpot has not seen a financial return on most of its investments, but its founders hope to change that in 2015.
“Our goal is to monetize this for our content creators as well as ourselves,” said Khalatbari, 31. “We want to put together sponsorship packages for all our platforms — videos, podcasts, live shows — and grow this network.”
One of those platforms is Sexpot’s eponymous monthly showcase at the 400-seat Oriental Theater in north Denver. It was launched in January as an ostensibly marijuana-friendly comedy show, but has struggled with the fact that it’s illegal to consume cannabis in public. It’s also had trouble selling out shows for comics who are better-known to stand-up nerds than the average Comedy Works or Improv patron.
Past headliners include Kate Berlant, Aparna Nancherla, Sean Patton, Nikki Glaser and Andy Haynes. Sexpot’s one-year anniversary show at the Oriental on Dec. 19 will feature Todd Barry (“Louie,” “Flight of Conchords”), who is undoubtedly one of the more recognizable names Sexpot has booked.
It will also be the final monthly show at the Oriental.
“We’re going to continue do a quarterly show at the Oriental while getting bigger names like the Todd Barrys and Reggie Watts of the world,” Khalatbari said. “But we’ll move our shows with up-and-comer and indie comics to 3 Kings Tavern, and we’ve already been in talks with (3 Kings co-owner) Jim Norris about that.”
3 Kings, a South Broadway punk-rock venue, also hosted shows during this year’s second annual High Plains Comedy Festival — an event that Juett co-owns and Khalatbari’s Sexy Pizza and Denver Relief businesses helped sponsor.
“Our first show there in January will be the Denver Comedy Awards and roast party, which is a celebration of all things Denver-comedy, not just Sexpot,” Juett said. “We’ll have categories like Best Comic, Best Transplant, Best Venue and Best Open Mic.”
Sexpot also hopes to launch a branded radio app that allows users to stream its artist-owned content, as well as retool its lineup of sponsored shows to reflect who’s on top of Colorado’s growing comedy scene.
“That’s really important as you can feel the reality that in the next 12 months, some people in our scene will be in L.A. or New York,” Juett said.
This month, the Denver comedy trio the Grawlix — with whom Juett has worked in the past — traveled to Los Angeles to shoot a TruTV pilot for its sitcom “Those Who Can’t.” Grawlix members Adam Cayton-Holland, Andrew Orvedahl and Ben Roy have also appeared on “The Tonight Show” and various Comedy Central programs this year.
“Denver is drawing comics in. Some of them are almost there. Others have a long way to go,” Juett said. “But Kayvan and I created some of these shows… so newbies can go get their reps at a mic and (veteran) comics have great shows when they’re not traveling or doing clubs.”
SEXPOT COMEDY PRESENTS: 1-YEAR ANNIVERSARY SHOW WITH TODD BARRY. Stand-up showcase, also featuring Karl Hess, Elliot Woolsey and Shayna Ferm. 8 p.m. Dec. 19 at the Oriental Theater, 4335 W. 44th Ave. $20. 720-420-0030 or theorientaltheater.com.
John Wenzel: 303-954-1642, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/johnwenzel