Every Tuesday, Taylor Higginbotham, Brad McKenzie and Robbie Scheer invite a comedian to perform some stand-up comedy to a live crowd at Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton for their podcast, The Brave Boys. But the comedian's set is not recorded; only those in the packed room hear it.
After the featured comic for the week finishes the set, he or she sits onstage with The Brave Boys trio to talk about a topic chosen and researched for the episode. The subjects range from ghosts to cartoons to tacos, and the hosts dissect the minutiae of each topic for comedic effect in front of a live crowd of returning audience members.
The Brave Boys recently reached a milestone, celebrating a year of performances in June with a roast involving regular contributors to the show. The roast was an example of what the show has come to represent in DFW comedy. It's not afraid to be self-deprecating, and it spotlights Denton comedy while inviting comedians from Dallas and Fort Worth to collaborate in front of a packed audience.
The journey to the group's success started well before the first guest took the stage at Dan’s Silver Leaf. Higginbotham started performing comedy in the summer of 2013, and before long started hosting house shows with a mixture of bands and comedians. He laughs while recalling the early days of organizing the house shows.
“I was a less experienced booker, so we would end up with like eight to 10 comics,” Higginbotham says. “It was a lot of fun. It was a house party, essentially. I lost about 80 bucks per show, buying beer and everything for everybody, but it was great.”
The partnership between Higginbotham and McKenzie started to gel while they worked together, just trying to make one another laugh as they passed time. Wanting to involve all of their friends in the prolonged riffing sessions, they kicked around ideas of a traditional podcast recorded without a live audience. When Dan’s Silver Leaf offered the venue as home to the show, the duo grabbed it.
“The shows have been going on for a year,” McKenzie says. “We didn’t start releasing the recorded episodes until we were allowed to use the actual soundboard at Dan’s Silver Leaf. We used to use a separate PA, and it used to be outside [on the patio], but that was super early on. They gave us a show without knowing us or knowing it would be funny or if people would show up at all. I understood. We have earned our way indoors.”
Higginbotham hopes to continue producing The Brave Boys for as long as there are comedians eager to stop in and record episodes, but his ultimate goal is to pass on the creative reigns of booking shows in Denton to upcoming artists so that he can travel doing stand-up. He knows an artistic environment can’t continue without new voices taking charge.
Performers creating their own shows supported by other local artists is the lifeblood of the Denton community. For comedians, there is no Improv Comedy Club or venue dedicated solely to comedy, so any show is created outside the typical channels a larger metropolitan area might offer.
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“I feel like every Denton show kind of exemplifies the DIY attitude,” McKenzie says. “I don’t know any comedy shows that happened at a comedian’s house outside of Denton. [Denton comedian] Nick Fields had to turn on his window AC unit because 50 people were in his living room watching comedy for two hours.”
There’s a growing level of comedic talent in Denton, and the efforts of Higginbotham, McKenzie and other Denton promoters are raising awareness that it just might be worth the drive for Dallas residents to see a live show.
“We haven’t made it by any means,” Higginbotham says. “But when I first came in, it was kind of a lot of people were just trying to put on shows at places where they could tolerate it. A lot of like Killer’s Tacos, the places where we already do mics and stuff, but what I really wanted to bring and what I think that we’ve gotten now is we can walk into any venue in Denton and be like, ‘Hey, we’re the comedy scene, can we do something?' And like 75 percent to 80, as opposed to the 10 percent before, would say yes.”