Doug Benson has made a career out of making it look easy.
His acclaimed podcast “Doug Loves Movies,” which celebrates its 10-year anniversary in 2016, sounds more like a road trip with friends than a viable way to make a living. The stoned conversations on his web series “Getting Doug With High” seem so equally effortless it’s easy to forget he’s amassed more than 23 million YouTube views. Toss in two documentaries, a six-episode run of “The Benson Interruption” on Comedy Central, and his first hour-long special “Doug Dynasty” in 2014, and you could argue Benson, 50, is one of the most prolific comedians of his generation.
Did we mention he’s released seven albums in the last seven years? He’s about to make it eight. The L.A.-based comic returns to Denver’s Comedy Works to record that album with three shows on Monday, April 20, capping off a weekend chock-full of stoner fun.
In this email Q&A, Benson shares his thoughts about being sober (sort of) this April, his stoner Mount Rushmore, what’s going on with his latest documentary and much more.
The Cannabist: Why come back to Denver for 4/20 this year?
Doug Benson: Well, Denver has always been one of my favorite places to play, but I have yet to record an album in Colorado so now I think it’s about time.
Cannabist: Are you hearing much about Denver’s comedy scene, or just the weed scene?
Benson: I’d say I hear more about the weed scene because it’s been national news for the last year or so but I know the comedy scene is booming.
Cannabist: With three shows on 4/20, you’ve got a pretty busy schedule for a “high holiday” here in Denver. Do you plan on smoking at 4:20 a.m., or is every day 4/20 for you?
Benson: I might not be up at 4:20 a.m., but if I happen to be you know I’m gonna smoke! Just for the ritual of it. One of the many things that makes smoking weed fun. The number one thing that makes smoking weed fun is the smoking of the weed, of course.
Cannabist: Was it just me, or were you REALLY high for “Doug Dynasty”?
Benson: I got as high as I could because I just thought people might want to see someone who is admittedly and extremely high doing a stand-up special. I’m also pretty damn high when I do the show @Midnight and just the other night I won.
Cannabist: Has the TSA given you any problems since you joked in the special about traveling with pot and several media outlets picked that up?
Benson: They haven’t said a word to me. Most don’t even know who I am. The ones who do know me wink.
Cannabist: What about hotels fining you for smoking? Have you had a chance to watch them clean any rooms yet?
Benson: No, no problems there. Well, I did get yelled at in one hotel and had to promise I would stop smoking in the room. So I just went outside.
Cannabist: You talked about taking a month off drinking in “Doug Dynasty,” and this year it falls on No Alcohol April. How’s it going so far? Is this the first April you’ve done?
Benson: So far it’s not so bad. Never did it in April before. I decided to this year because I thought it would be fun to do shows leading up to the album recording, and then the album recording itself, without drinking any alcohol. I’m just gonna get as high as possible and leave alcohol out of the equation and see what happens.
Cannabist: Since you usually don’t need to worry about how you’ll get high, do you do much dispensary browsing while you’re in town? If so, how would you compare them to shops in California?
Benson: I very rarely go to shops in California and I haven’t been to any in Colorado. I’m very happy knowing that they exist, but weed comes to me. I’m very lucky in that sense.
Cannabist: Having discovered marijuana in your late 20s, is there any advice you’d give someone living in Colorado that might be on the fence about giving it a shot now that it’s legal?
Benson: Give it a shot, it’s legal. if you don’t like it, at least you’ll know and have a reason to turn it down at the next party.
Cannabist: You just got back from SXSW in Austin where I heard you saw “Rolling Papers,” a documentary that focused on The Denver Post’s coverage of legalization. What’s your review in more than eight words?
Benson: I really really really really really really liked it. That’s nine words! But seriously, I found it fascinating, especially the stuff about people working in the legal weed business can have their children taken away from them. Scary, uncharted territory we’re wading into. but I think the movie proves that legalization in Colorado has been a success story.
— Doug Benson (@DougBenson) March 24, 2015
Cannabist: If you were making a stoner “Mount Rushmore,” which four make the cut?
Cannabist: In addition to becoming an authority on marijuana, I’ve seen more and more movie reviews quoting you (or one of your tweets, to be exact). What’s something you’d consider yourself an expert on that people might not know about?
Benson: I really like Broadway shows, especially musicals. I see a few shows every time I visit New York, which is four or five times a year. And I like playing poker. Not as much as I used to when I was broke, interestingly enough.
Cannabist: What are some of the challenges in putting together your next release, “Chronic Con, Episode 420: A New Dope”?
Benson: Low-budget documentaries are tough to do because they take a long time to edit and then you have to find a distributor or submit it to some film festivals. This new one has taken several years to finish and find distribution, and I’m still not sure exactly what’s going to happen with it. Hoping for some sort of release this summer to coincide with Comic-Con in San Diego.
Cannabist: You’ve been putting out “Getting Doug With High” for over a year now and it’s been very well received. Are the conversations changing with potential guests in terms of being willing to get high on camera?
Benson: Not really. People are scared to do it. So we’re building a bench of great regulars that we can call on when the big names don’t come through. And some of those are pretty big names, like Sarah Silverman and Eric Andre. They’ve both been on the show a few times. I like the trend lately of having two or three guests, and just having a casual smoke session and some laughs.
Cannabist: Are people nervous about getting high, or what they might say when high that’ll be taken out of context and fed into this new “outrage machine” that seems to be dominating a lot of conversations about comedy right now?
Benson: Yes, being quoted out of context while high is a concern. I don’t worry about it so much because I’m high all the time.
Cannabist: Eight albums in eight years is an accomplishment in its own right, but adding in the documentaries and podcasts, I’d say you’re one of the most prolific comedians of your era. Where does that motivation come from?
Benson: That motivation comes from fun. I really enjoy what I do.
Cannabist: Some comedians obsess over album recordings, but it seems like you went the other way with your last release, “Gateway Doug 2: Forced Fun,” and really didn’t force much. How did you get there from more “traditional” stand-up formats of your past?
Benson: As my stand-up, which I perform on most weekends all over the country year-round, becomes more loose and improvised, so do my annual albums. I just want each record to represent what my act was like around the time of the release. Give people an idea what they will be in for when they pay their hard-earned money to come to one of my shows: You’re gonna watch a stoned dude read tweets from the audience, tell stories and jokes old and new, and play games with audience members.
Cannabist: Any ideas for an album name yet? Would you consider letting Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”) come up with one?
Benson: Morgan is busy making entertainment for every medium, so I’ll leave him out of it. As you have mentioned, I always have a lot of projects going on, so the record, which is due to be released on June 9, is called “Promotional Tool.”
Cannabist: Do you have any updates on potential movie interruptions with local comedians at the Alamo Drafthouse in Littleton?
Benson: I’m gonna do another one there on Mother’s Day. We’re gonna interrupt the classic “Junior” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. And by classic I mean, classically awful.
Cannabist: As a noted theme park enthusiast, are your annual Mother’s Day shows just an excuse to duck over to Elitch Gardens and ride our coasters?
Benson: Ha, I wish I had time. I’m gonna be outside the club getting hella high before and after each show.
Cannabist: Have you ever visited Lakeside Amusement park and the Cyclone, one of the few pre-World War II coasters still operating?
Benson: I haven’t! What’s wrong with me?