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John Rumley, King of Late Night Denver

John Rumley launched Late Night Denver in Jan. 2013.

Late Night Denver's set is in John Rumley's garage.

Late Night Denver is looking to grab a national audience with TheLipTV2.

John Rumley does his monologue.

Late Night Denver, John Rumley's Internet-only talk show, is catching on in a big way. Now he's looking to capture a national audience, thanks to a deal with TheLipTV2 -- but Rumley promises the money won't change Late Night Denver.
In his attached garage near DU, past the collections of crucifixes, cookie jars and kitsch art, John Rumley is in host mode, seated at his desk, calmly interviewing Bob Ferbrache about the records he recently produced.

Ferbrache rubs Rumley the wrong way, and the calm breaks. Rumley pulls a gun and pops Ferbrache in the chest. "Big Bad Bob" goes limp, and red seeps through his plush blue track suit.

Welcome to the set of Late Night Denver. All of the elements of late-night TV, circa 1970, are here: the desk, the couch, the green-screen skyline, the witty banter, the cigarette smoke and the booze. Plus there's usually some blood.

"You're gonna dig the hole!" bellows Heather Dalton, Rumley's Late Night Denver co-host.

Rumley conjures his best impression of Tommy DeVito, Joe Pesci's character in Goodfellas. "What is it, the first hole I dug? Not the first time I dug a hole. I’ll fuckin' dig a hole. Where are the shovels?"

Denver's late-night kingJohn Rumley does his monologue.

Rumley is a jack of many trades. He's played guitar with Slim Cessna's Auto Club. (The Late Night Denver set is in the very garage where the legendary Denver alt-country band once rehearsed.) By day, he repairs guitars, fiddles and banjos at the Denver Folklore Center and he builds high-end, custom guitars on the side.

But after hours he's the king of Denver's late night, and he's got his eye on the rest of the country. He's got a deal with TheLipTV2, the sister entertainment network from TheLip.tv, to produce an episode of Late Night Denver every month.

Rumley launched Late Night Denver in Jan. 2013 after discussing his concept for a satirical, SCTV-like Denver network with Dalton, who works at Colorado Public Television when she's not moonlighting as an on-air sidekick. Dalton loved the idea, but pushed him to narrow it down to one variety show and urged him to host. Late Night Denver was born.

Every episode has many of the traditional talk-show staples -- a monologue, one or two guests and a musical act -- as well as often gory skits and fake commercials.

As host, Rumley says his inspirations are both fictional yakkers like Sammy Maudlin (Joe Flaherty) from SCTV and Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) from The King of Comedy, and real ones, namely Johnny Carson and Dean Martin.

Rumley cut his filmmaking teeth making videos for Slim Cessna's Auto Club in the 1990s and made several "grindhouse" shorts under the umbrella title of Bring Me the Balls of Akmar Kincade (clip). He thought of trying to make a feature film but was daunted by the scope.

"Trying to make a movie -- that's insane," he says. "I thought, 'What can I do that's right here?'"

And you can't get much more "right here" than Late Night Denver. The budget is so low it's subterranean. The curtains Rumley emerges from are just a few feet from his desk, which is similarly close to the Mac he edits the shows on.

When the crew needs an off-set location, production moves to Rumley's living room, or maybe the driveway. "I completely abuse my house," he laughs.

The blood that oozed through Ferbrache's track suit came from a squib -- a condom full of blood with a remote-control firecracker. Other times the blood comes from an air compressor and a carefully hidden tube. "You get that splat," explains Rumley.

Prop rooms dominate Rumley's home. There's a rack of samurai swords, fake firearms of every description,  a huge inventory of vintage clothing and costumes and all sorts of oddities he's found at the ARC on South Broadway over the years. "I just go to the thrift store every day and get stuff," he explains.

Besides Dalton, Rumley's on- and off-screen Late Night Denver collaborators include the aforementioned Akmar Kincade along with Theresa Mercado, Nick Amodeo, Ian O'Dougherty and Sherry Hern. He taps his connections from the Denver scene like Ferbrache -- producer of numerous Slim Cessna's Auto Club albums and a current member of the band -- and other local talents like Richard Groskopf and Magic Cyclops. Mercado books the music, mainly local acts like Wheelchair Sports Camp and Little Fyodor & Babushka. This is a Denver show that truly captures Denver.

Rumley promises his deal with TheLipTV2 won't change the Denver focus. "I use as much local stuff as I can," he says. "I want Denver to make a mark, because there's so much crazy good shit going on."

Off the road

Rumley is no longer touring with Slim Cessna's Auto Club, but he's played with the band at some recent Denver gigs. "I can't tour anymore," he says. "It's not possible for me to do with my kids. But I hope to play with them again. They're an awesome band and an awesome bunch of guys."

Now that he's off the road, Rumley splits time between the Denver Folklore Center, making archtop jazz guitars and Late Night Denver.  "If I had to choose what I was gonna do -- between repairing guitars, making guitars, playing in bands and touring -- this is it," he says. "It's the next level."

And his deal with TheLipTV2 might allow him to take Late Night Denver even higher. Founder Michael Lustig, who booked bands in Denver before going on to manage acts like Smashing Pumpkins and Bryan Ferry, liked what he saw in Late Night Denver and reached out to Rumley with a contract for a monthly show. Late Night Denver's set is in John Rumley's garage.

"It's not bad," says Rumley. "Because I got that deal, I made this September show where we get all paranoid and greedy."

Not that it's now easy street for Rumley. The Late Night Denver budget is no longer in the basement, but the set remains in the garage.He writes, edits and books most guests on Late Night Denver himself, and that won't change, deal or no deal.

"It's a ton of work," he says. "I'm out here every night for five, six, eight hours. Sometimes I'll be out here all night long. I'll come out here at midnight and shoot my monologue by myself."

Photos by Eric Peterson.

Read more articles by Eric Peterson.

Eric is a Denver-based tech writer and guidebook wiz. Contact him here.
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