Actor and comedian BJ Novak entertained a tough crowd that included policy wonks, business leaders and economic development gurus at Aurora Economic Development Council’s annual A-List dinner on Oct. 11.
Novak, who is most well-known for his work on the NBC television show “The Office,” tested jokes on the crowd of more than 1,500 people at the Wings over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver.
Armed with a trash can and a bundle of notecards with jokes written on them, Novak vowed to keep the jokes that garnered laughter from the crowd for future performances, and throw out the ones that elicited cricket sounds.
Some were uncomfortably funny: “I used to sponsor an orphan in South America until I saw on TV that for the same price, I could buy myself a cup of coffee every day. I have so much more energy now.”
Others were benignly funny: “I spent four years in college and I literally learned nothing. It was really kind of my own fault. I had a double major in psychology and reverse psychology.”
A few were lousy: “The other day I saw a guy in the street drinking a glass of water with cubes of frozen water in the glass. That guy likes his water.”
And one joke was apparently raunchy enough for Novak to stop midway through it.
Novak’s 30-minute “speech” had zilch to do with economic development, and Novak himself admitted he was a bit apprehensive about the evening.
“I was a little insecure about, like, does everyone here know I’m just a comedian? Because a lot of people beforehand asked what my speech was going to be about,” he said.
Overall, he thought he did fine, even though the evening was out of the ordinary.
“It’s a little unusual for me to do such a formal event, so that was a little something to get used to, being at a podium instead of the microphone,” he said.
Novak, who has worked rooms like Comedy Works in Denver, said he hasn’t played a room quite like an aerospace museum.
“It’s so cool to walk to the stage and have the stage manager say things like, ‘Watch out for that bomber,’” he said.
The evening was unquestionably unique compared with previous A-List dinners that have drawn guest speakers including former President Bill Clinton, professional tennis player Andre Agassi, and Democratic political commentator James Carville. However, politicians who might seem sometimes humorless said they enjoyed themselves.
“(Novak) did a great job, he really did,” Hogan said. “He clearly knows his business and he can play the audience pretty well.”
This past summer in Aurora was filled with tragedies, economic flops and too much politics — the July 20 theater massacre, the stalled Gaylord Hotel and Conference Center project, and the Presidential election.
Aurora City Council members said Novak’s comedic performance was a welcome breath of fresh air. At least when he did make them laugh.
“You need the humor,” said Councilwoman Barb Cleland.
Councilman Bob Roth agreed, but noted that he skipped watching the Vice Presidential debate to watch Novak’s schtick.
“Of course, the debate might have been funnier,” he said, “you never know.”