Colton Dowling: Absurd is the Word

January 27, 2020

Photo Credit

John Frank Freeman

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Richard Goodwin


(Ed. note: This episode was going to be one in the new, long-running, series “Catspotting”, wherein comics not only stop by to interview, but also lend a hand scouting for Valerie’s missing precious, Ms. Purrington. Sadly, Ms. Purrington was found, hale and healthy, shortly after this taping; so, welcome back Ms. P, and thanks for ruining the concept.)

(Ex. Prod. note: HEY! The Editor's note about Ms. Purrington ruining a bit does not reflect the opinion of Comedy Wham or it's interviewer who was quite thrilled when Ms P was found and returned home.)

I’m going to just get it out of the way: Colton Dowling is not only very funny, but also very, very, good looking. He’s literally worked as a model, and seems a bit of a “model" human being as well, rolling up to his interview with Valerie with peepers eagerly peeled, helping to look for her lost cat. If you’re not swooning yet, he’s also multilingual, dropping into some German and French when tested; one, fittingly, is known as the language of romance, and the other, of course, is German. He’s lived or spent time in the home countries of both, including a spell doing the aforementioned modeling in Paris.

One of four siblings, Dowling eased into a comedic role in his family early. Claiming his place in the family spotlight at 8 years old with bits like impressions, his sister bemoaned that she “used to be the funny one”; in a retroactive examination of the impression, Dowling suggests it wasn’t top tier humor, but it was enough to set the hook and desire for “stage time”, even if the stage was the family van. He still does a mean (as in accurate, not vindictive) version of Elmo, a delight to people and dogs alike.

The road to comedy for Dowling was circuitous to say the least; I feel like I may have mentioned he modeled for a time (you thought I was done with that bit?), but the runway ultimately wasn’t to his taste, so he moved to video editing and graphic design for the shows, and at one point found himself designing underwear. “Every fun fact about me wasn’t my choice,” he jokes, claiming to fall “ass backward” into each new adventure, versus following a well-defined plan. The journey that landed him in Los Angeles, then Austin, is full of similar incidences of happenstance and transformation, from bombing at his first stage appearance, to finding a long-lived passion in improv.

Every story Dowling shares has a hint of the inane to it, as he clearly leans toward painting situations with a bit of his own world view. He talks, in turns, of living as a “wine mom” in San Diego (commuting to classes at UCB LA), styling hair, playing competitive rugby (and then gay competitive rugby), then pivots smoothly to his love of cartoons and whips out an admittedly stellar Ash impression.

[Improv] allowed me to set the base reality, so I could layer on the absurdity I like to sprinkle in.
Colton Dowling

Heightening tales is in part learned from his education in, and love of, improv. “[Improv] allowed me to set the base reality, so I could layer on the absurdity I like to sprinkle in,” he says, and “what I do is quite absurd.” Consider the time he spent wandering downtown Austin in ass-less chaps as “gay for guns”, waving a “Come and Take It” flag. Reactions were mixed, mostly since quite a few people couldn’t decide which side of the debate (or maybe even which debate) he was representing. I see this as a prime example of Dowling’s sensibilities: a bold exposition of an idea, and joy (and more than a little amazement) at the mere possibility that something like it can be brought into existence.

For such an energetic storyteller, Dowling has a contradictory view on employing paucity of words in the medium of stand-up. “Improv teaches you you can be very funny, by saying very, very little,” he says, and seems to be in constant pursuit of refinement of the linguistic soundtrack to his antics. He works the skill these days on multiple projects, including as co-host of the Comedy Sellers inclusive stand-up showcase. He’s on the cusp of the release of a live action web series, Van Damn Jean Claude, where he adopts a 10 year old boy, played by Arielle Isaac Norman. We even get a furtive tease of possible project starring Jt Kelly as Jesus; the underpinnings of Dowling’s concept are both reverent and lovingly heretical.

Improv teaches you you can be very funny by saying very, very little.
Colton Dowling

It’s clear that Dowling’s mind is often running a bit overclocked, and he admits, on reflection, that he isn’t fond of free time; there’s always something to ponder or power through. He tosses out a compelling argument for why men’s prostates are in the wrong place, why our mouths should be on the top of our heads, cuts into a discussion of helium subsidization, and expounds on mindfulness via Sam Harris. He’s currently taking a boot camp on artificial intelligence, and I frankly don’t know whether to be exuberant or terrified of what happens if he masters it.

In a rare exception, I’m going to drop a quote from the interview here without context: “If it looks and quacks like an asshole, it’s a duck!”. It’s a perfectly...well, absurd...statement from Colton Dowling. Capturing the experience of walking for an hour inside his head, it sounds tantalizingly close to logic, yet so far from reality, that you just have to know the story behind it. Chances are, there’s actually more than one, and Dowling is ready and willing to share them with you.

Colton can be seen:

  • Over the Rainbow - Alamo Drafthouse Mueller (recently handed off to Dylan Garces) - every 3rd Wednesday
  • Performing comedy in Austin most nights of the week and sometimes in Colorado

Follow Colton:

Colton Dowling