Have you ever wondered if the stoned banter between you and your friends is as funny when you’re not high? Have you felt like you and your high-tribe could be comedians because the thoughts y’all came up with after smoking are levels funnier than Doug Benson’s best stand up? If you said yes to these questions, you’re not alone and there’s a comedy show that wonders the same thing. I’m Too Effing High is an interactive performance that’s not only designed to make you laugh—it’s also meant to test the smokey wits of comedians to determine the age-old query: are comedians funnier when they’re high?
The comedic social experiment began over two years ago. Blossoming out of the UCB Theater in Los Feliz, host James Mastraieni, a writer for Comedy Central and Funny or Die, and friends Matt Newell and Mike McLendon decided to align their passions for herb and humor to create a show that normalizes cannabis through comedy. “We were all cannabis aficionados,” Mastraieni says, “and I’d always had this idea to do something that put people on the spot while they’re high. Once we started sussing out the details of the show, it became this duality of getting really smart, funny comedians stoned and doing funny comedic challenges. We’ve noticed that more than anything it shows people that cannabis is innocuous, and not this really dangerous thing it’s always been portrayed to be.”
Rather than stoned comedians telling jokes, however, I’m Too Effing High is a hybrid of stand-up comedy, a game show and a late night talk show with a Pee Wee’s Playhouse element. Every performance hosts a panel of guest comedians who get stoned and are tasked with comedic activities, such as acting out random “high-pothetical” situations presented to them on the spot; games and interacting with the (usually stoned) audience.
Occurring the second Friday of every month, I’m Too Effing High also incorporates poetry, dance, live music, stand-up performances etc. making every show different. Some months they’ll have a guest who imitates Attorney General Jeff Sessions while other times they have a segment dedicated to current affairs. There’s also a hilarious bit called “High Reviews” in which Newell goes somewhere stoned and recounts his experience. He then edits the montage of photos and videos he takes on his stoned adventure, which is then played during the show. Here’s a bit about a trip he took to the Griffith Observatory.
“I often compare our show to Drunk History,” says Andrew Steven, the newest member of the comedy crew and producer of the I’m Too Effing High podcast. “Just like you don’t need to be an alcohol aficionado to enjoy that show, you don’t need to be a stoner by any means to enjoy I’m Too Effing High. A lot of people come out who don’t smoke.”
This Friday at midnight, the crew is performing at the UCB Theater in Los Feliz. Ahead of Mother’s Day, the intentions of the show, according to Mastraieni, is to raise awareness of the stigma that exists specifically around mothers and women who use cannabis. “There’s this expectation for [moms and women] that they have to be collected all the time,” he says. “But if a man uses cannabis it’s charming, cute, funny, etc. But if a woman uses cannabis—let alone if a mother does—she is troubled or an irresponsible parent. Yet, they’re allowed to drink alcohol, which is far worse for you. That’s not right.”
Friday night’s show includes guests: Ryan Rosenberg from Big Grande, Teacher’s Lounge and Playing House; Kimia Behpoornia from UCB and Adam Ruins Everything; Ali Ghandour from Ghosted and the Goldbergs; and a special performance from comedy group, Fashion Show at Lunch. “The goal of our show is to show people that you can be coherent and stoned at the same time,” says Mastraieni. “We show this through the talented guests who perform with us. And, really, the only things you need to like are laughing and comedy to enjoy our show.”
“Comedy is a tool of togetherness,” actress Kate McKinnon wrote in her biography. “It’s a way of putting your arm around someone, pointing at something and saying, ‘Isn’t it funny that we do that?’ It’s a way of reaching out.” I’m Too Effing High embodies this notion because it sheds light on the stigma by dancing around the stereotypes we were all brought up to believe, and proving how blatantly false they are via wit and intellect. Thus, this “comedy show on drugs” has inherent layers of depth due to its social implications. Moreover, the show plays a critical role in the patchwork of California’s cannabis culture because it’s not the typical canna-education or advocacy demonstration. It’s also not the typical comedy show, either because it blends truth, education, and advocacy through the guise of humor in an interactive environment. “George Carlin always talked about the best way to deliver truth was through humor,” says Steven. “That’s what we’re doing.”
Additionally, there’s an I’m Too Effing High podcast that comes out every Tuesday on iTunes. On the podcast, there’s a sharper focus on cannabis news, culture, and advocacy. They interview growers, cannabis social media influencers and people involved in the culture or industry about their associations with weed. “If you can get over the stigma hump,” McLendon says, “there’s so much to learn and appreciate—even if you don’t smoke weed. But opening up to it can help make your life so much better. We want to help people realize there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Actor/comedian Tim Allen once said, “comedy is the ultimate anarchist.” I’m Too Effing High is the intellectual anarchy this country needs in order to progress toward cultural acceptance and, thus, federal legalization. On top of that, the crew behind this unique show is providing our culture with content that would make Henry Ansliger flip in his grave– that in itself is a victory. “This is our life’s work,” says Mastraieni. “This isn’t a ‘stoner’ show. It’s active, organized and completely formatted. You can be smart when you’re high, which is what all of us were sent here to do.”
Friday, May 11 at 11:59 p.m.; $5 cover; UCBT Franklin: 5919 Franklin Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028