Longmont-based comedian Vincent VIgil was working maintenance at a hotel where his now best friend, Chris Fonseca, was staying. Fonseca invited him to attend a show that Jimmy Abeyta — a Denver comedian — was putting on that night. He didn't know that the show had a joke-telling contest at the end.
"At the end of the show, there was a comedy competition. Anybody in the audience could come up and tell your best street joke. I did, and I won,” Vigil said.
The win, along with Fonseca urging him on, inspired Vigil to consider stand-up comedy.
Though that was his first comedy show, Vigil has been surrounded by humor his whole life. It was always how healing happened in his family.
"I grew up in a large Mexican family where laughing was a way to heal or mask over pain. Every time you'd get hurt, it would be 'well, let's make a joke out of it: Sana Sana Colita de Rana (Heal heal, little frog's tail),'" Vigil said.
As Vigil got older, he started listening to stand-up. He remembers listening to Bill Cosby's comedy act on "Driving in San Francisco." He also listened to many George Carlin records once he discovered the art, which greatly influenced his work.
While he realized stand-up comedy was funny, it didn't occur to him until later that he was listening to jokes. Vigil shared that he just knew the comedians' stories made him laugh.
Telling jokes live on stage wasn't always easy for Vigil. He was worried about hecklers but found a solution.
"When I started, I was deathly afraid of hecklers. So, to get over that, I wrote heckler lines. These were back-pocket jokes like 'I remember when I had my first beer," Vigil mused.
He found he never had to use them but brought them to shows for a long time, referring to them as his comedy security blanket.
Once Vigil found his footing, he focused on what he calls crowd work — bantering with the audience. He expresses his love for the craft through the way he relates to his audience. Doing comedy, VIgil said, gives him a new way to perceive the world and keeps him returning to the trade no matter how many times he leaves.
"It's almost like a reverse kaleidoscope. One, you have to take one single image and relay it to all these different people and do it in a way that ensures they all think it's funny. Two, you want them to take a piece of you with them when they leave," Vigil said. "It's an incredible responsibility, but it's also one of the main reasons I continue to do stand-up."