When he takes the stage at The Temporary tonight to perform his one-man show, “The Book of Moron,” humorist Robert Dubac will draw on a wealth of past experiences — from decades as a comedian and appearances in numerous films, sitcoms and soap operas to writing for a variety of performance media.
But perhaps the most influential experience may the years he spent as a young man in Aspen’s vibrant comedy scene of the early 1970s.
“I basically learned how to be funny in Aspen,” said Dubac, who resides in Telluride. “When you realize the people Aspen attracted back then were all these sort of miscreant anarchists from around the country, it just turned into this melting pot of different points of view, and the humor pool was pretty deep. It kind of formulated a broader scope of looking at how things are funny, more from concepts instead of just one-liners.”
Chief among those Aspen miscreants, of course, was comedy legend Steve Martin, who honed his irreverent shtick in town before springing his “wild and crazy guy” persona on the American public.
“He created an entirely new form of comedy; it was anti-comedy comedy,” Dubac said. “The character was so full of himself up there. It broke all the barriers of the regular Catskills-sitcom type of setup-punchline.”
In his early Aspen years, Dubac was pursuing an acting career and doing some close-up magic along with the likes of local icon Doc Eason and the great Ricky Jay, who was a regular visitor to town back in the day.
“You’d do tricks for people while they were waiting,” Dubac said. “You’d perform for tips, but back then you’d get half-grams and bindles, and you’d have to sell them to someone else to pay your rent.”
Dubac’s career eventually took him away from Aspen and into more mainstream comedy and television pursuits, but the lessons learned in those formative years stuck with him and informed his own take on what will get audiences laughing. In front of the camera, he amassed a solid portfolio of acting credits, while behind the scenes he continued writing, leading to the creation of the show “The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron,” which enjoyed a successful run at the Wilshire Theater in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2002 before Dubac took the production on the road.
Some years later, working with his friend Dave Shirley, Dubac co-wrote the show “Oddville: A Love Story,” which Shirley, a Denver local, has been performing to rave reviews. It was that connection that ultimately put The Temporary on Dubac’s radar, culminating in tonight’s performance.
“Dave and I had been collaborating for a couple of years on that show,” which Shirley performed at The Temporary back in May. “When he went there and had such a good response from people I called up Ryan [Honey, who runs The Temporary] and said, ‘Hey, I’m just down the valley a bit. I can drive up from Telluride, if you want to do it.’”
Aware of the “The Book of Moron” after its well-received off-Broadway run at New York’s Urban Stages, Honey was only too happy to book Dubac, and the date was set.
Tonight’s audience can expect the clever wit and biting satire for which Dubac is known, but they can also expect to come away from the performance with a better understanding of how we’re all dealing with the less-than-intelligent times in which we live.
“It’s about critical thought and trying to wake up from this coma of being bombarded by the media — whatever bubble you want to live in,” Dubac said. “How do we think for ourselves? How do we find out our true identity? It’s serious stuff when you talk about it in an interview, but it’s pretty funny onstage.”
Critics apparently agree, with The Denver Post calling the show, which follows a brain-injured guy named Bob as he attempts to recover his memory of himself, “terrific … witty and incisive.” The Huffington Post referred to it as a “high-concept comedy that is both provocative and brainy,” and The New York Times compared it to “riding shotgun with intelligence and absurdity.”
It’s an intelligence that’s sorely lacking in American society these days and an absurdity that harkens back to those Aspen anarchists who stood comedy on its head and set a young Dubac on the road to stardom. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. show, and tickets are $25. For more information, visit tacaw.org.