Colton Dowling: Absurd is the Word

January 27, 2020

Photo Credit

John Frank Freeman


Valerie Lopez


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