Denver comic Darius Dinkins speaks candidly about his experience in the city’s comedy scene
“You have to be careful. Careful about what you’re saying, how you’re saying it and what it is conveying. Are they laughing at what you’re saying or are they laughing at you?”
Darius Dinkins, 23, had a moment’s notice to commit to opening for the famous American comedian Hannibal Buress at Denver’s Hi-Dive (7 S. Broadway) earlier this year. He and his girlfriend had turned in for the day when he received a text at 6:37 p.m. from Al Jackson, the cohost of the nationally broadcast talk show “Daily Blast Live.”
“Yo yo this is Al mane. Are you in town tonight?” Jackson’s message read.
Dinkins was suddenly given a 10-minute slot at 9:15 p.m. that same day.
“I remember just pacing in my living room waiting to hear back until I got the confirmation,” he said.
Dinkins is a member of Denver’s Slam Nuba and hosts Jokes and Jerks, a comedy show every first and third Thursday at Penthouse Caribbean (1600 Champa St.).
And he has seen some bright lights in the past year which have propelled his career.
They include a set in 2022 at the world famous New York Comedy Cellar where comedic legends Dave Chappelle, Jon Stewart and Robin Williams have passed through – just to name a few.
“As soon as I walked inside, the first dude I saw was Godfrey. Other people were talking about Hulu and Netflix specials,” he said. “In the Cellar, the lights were pretty bright. It’s like I swam across a lake that day.
“So, now, what is a pool? I might have folded for the Hannibal show if I hadn’t swam across a lake.”
Dinkins is a self-described “weirdo.”
Dinkins has floated around for most of his life. Comedy was his tool for observing the rapidly changing world around him.
“I was 13 or 14 on the bus listening to stand-up on Pandora, laughing out loud listening to Godfrey,” he said.
He grew up in a military family and spent years living in Greece, Missouri and Kentucky before eventually landing in Colorado where his mother had family.
He graduated from Grandview High School and briefly studied at Metro State University before dropping out to chase his comedic dreams.
His father wasn’t too fond of that.
“For a while I had this joke that I’d tell other comedians. ‘As a comedian you only have two options for a relationship with your father. Either it’s really terrible or he’s dead,'” Dinkins said. “But he finally came to a show two years ago and I got my third option. Dad is now on board.”
Dinkins spoke candidly about what it’s like to be a Black comic in front of white audiences.
“You have to be careful. Careful about what you’re saying, how you’re saying it and what it is conveying. Are they laughing at what you’re saying, or are they laughing at you? Are they laughing at your ideas, or are they laughing at the Black dude in the room?” Dinkins said. “Whether you signed up for it or not, you’re a representative, and you don’t want to make jokes at the expense of Black people. But it also depends on how deep a comic is going to think about that.”
Dinkins is committed to growing the comedy scene for everyone in the city.
At the Black History Month Comedy Showcase, presented by Slam Nuba and hosted at RedLine Contemporary Art Center, Dinkins brought in comedians with all sorts of accolades.
It included Mason King, who has headlined at the famous Apollo Comedy Club in New York; Meka Mo from HBO’s Game Theory and the New York Comedy Festival’s 2022 list of Comics to Watch; Park Hill comic Tairee Dillard, who performed with J.B. Smoove and is a frequent performer at Denver Improv; and Shanel Hughes, who was a semi-finalist in the annual Comedy Works New Faces Competition and has performed at festivals across the country.
“In the (Denver comedy) scene, it’s a group of people giving the same $40 back and forth,” Dinkins said, in reference to a community of comedians that book one another and produce shows around the city.
“The scene is good. We’re not LA, New York or Chicago but we’re not a ‘nothing’ city. The issue is not a matter of talent, talent is here. It’s a matter of exposure. The people who come to my shows often times tell me I was their first comedy show. Especially people in my age bracket.”
Dinkins is working with the Slam Nuba team to organize the Women’s History Month showcase later this month.
“‘Potential’ is actually one of my least favorite words because it means something is not as good as it could be. But even I say it: Denver has potential. When I entered the comedy scene, it was tough for me. But I hope to leave it better than how I got there,” Dinkins said.
After the Hannibal Buress show, Dinkins asked Jackson why he chose to reach out to him for the opener slot.
“Hannibal told me he needed a young comic who had a future in comedy,” Jackson told Dinkins.
Dinkins says he’ll never forget that.