Former Austin resident plays by his own rules

Published 5:56 pm Saturday, August 10, 2013

Josh Denny will perform at Goonies Comedy Club in  Rochester at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Photo provided

Josh Denny will perform at Goonies Comedy Club in Rochester at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Photo provided

Former Austin resident Josh Denny is breaking into the comedy industry his way.

The 2001 Austin High School graduate, who has forged his comedy style on both coasts and in Minnesota, will bring his comedy back to the Midwest on Wednesday when he’ll join Josh Fargusson, Joey Vincent and Corey Adams at 7:30 p.m. for a comedy show at Goonies Comedy Club in Rochester, Seven Second St. SW. The show is for ages 18 and older.

“It’s kind of like a coming home for me,” he said.

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The show is Denny’s first in Minnesota since he moved to Los Angeles. The show will bring Denny back to the place where his comedy career began about seven years ago. Denny first started thinking about performing when he was on a business trip while working as a district manager for Crock Shoes. Denny saw Dave Attell and Sean Rouse perform standup in Palm Beach, which opened his eyes to what comedy can be outside of Comedy Central and television specials.

The experience inspired Denny to write 30 minutes of standup material, which he intended to perform at Goonies during open mic nights.

Though he only was given three minutes to perform, Denny was hooked.

Before starting in comedy, Denny was no stranger to the stage, as he’d been introduced to public speaking through his work, and he’d performed as a musician.

Denny kept writing material and met Daryl Horner, a Minneapolis-based comedian, and started traveling around performing what he described as grassroots, guerrilla-type comedy shows.

The technique didn’t sit well with some comedians, who often forge relationships with established comedians and earn their respect before performing.

Though he angered some comedians, Denny said he applied his business background to his comedy. To him, it’s the law of consumerism: The best content/comedy will win.

“I can’t imagine me doing it any other way,” he said.

Many comedians and agents want to show newcomers how to build a career, but Denny opted to move ahead on his own and let his material be the guide.

“I believe in the content; I believe in what I’m putting out there,” he said.

In 2009, Denny moved to Los Angeles to pursue his comedy dream. When he left, he said Minnesota had two types of comedians: Those who could write well and those who could perform well — but few could do both.

“I didn’t put as much time into writing or creating,” he said, noting he was more a performer.

That caught up to him when he first moved to Los Angeles and performed at small clubs, noting he bombed at first and then took time off to focus on writing new material.

Denny described New York and Los Angeles as comedy’s “big leagues,” where stars like Whitney Cummings, Chelsea Handler and Chris Rock can show up at a club to do a spot performance, raising the bar for all the other comedians performing.

“It’s highly competitive,” he said.

Despite the stiff competition, Denny said he’s been developing his voice as a comedian and has released two albums, the most recent being “Social Hand Grenades.”

Denny also appeared on Comedy Central’s “The Jeselnik Offensive.” Though he was just in the audience with his girlfriend, he was asked to go onstage for a bit, but he didn’t tell the crew he was a comedian and ended up appearing on TV.

He used the experience to promote his Twitter account (@JoshDenny) and grew his followers from around 800 to about 27,000 today.

Denny moved to Austin from Philadelphia when he was in high school, something he said helped forge his comedy style. While the Midwest was laid-back, it was also smarter and more sarcastic, an element he uses in his comedy today. He graduated from Austin High School in 2001.

Denny still works a day job as a director of operations for a finance company, though he’d like to one day make a living on his comedy.

“It’s hard to make a living with entertainment,” he said.

Along with standup comedy, Denny is branching out into other areas of comedy. He’s working on multiple television show ideas that he and collaborators will likely release first online on either Youtube or, with the hopes of attracting more interest.

Denny said websites like Netflix are breaking down barriers by producing award-winning caliber shows like “Arrested Development” and “House of Cards” that are successful strictly based on content and audience reaction.

“The idea that networks can tell consumers what they need to like, that idea is dying,” he said.

Denny compared it to the “adapt or die” mantra used in the baseball film “Moneyball.”

Netflix and similar streaming sites that allow the audience to dictate what sells. Because of the changes to the industry, Denny said few people can afford to be one-trick-ponies and must delve in writing, standup and more.

“It’s an exciting time in the business,” he said