February is winter's death rattle. The roads are sludgy, the calendar is wonky, and there's nothing to look forward to except Valentine's Day --which can often seem more of a solemn obligation than a holiday, anyway. Fortunately, a diverse range of comedy events should light up the otherwise bleak February entertainment landscape: comedian-produced shows with gross names like Tongue Stuff and Tits & Giggles; veteran acts like Paul Mooney, Norm MacDonald and Jeff Ross; and even the spectator sport of Olympics for Weirdos. In short, plenty of ways to keep you laughing until the sun comes back.
10. Rain Pryor Herman's Hideaway February 28
Though she's the progeny of comedy royalty, Rain Pryor doesn't live in the shadow of her famous father. She served as artistic director of the Strand Theater Company in Baltimore, created and starred in the solo show Fried Chicken and Latkes, and headlined across the country as a standup comic in her own right. Now adding Denver to her itinerary, Pryor is headlining Tits & Giggles, a 4/20-friendly comedy burlesque showcase hosted by Chris Carlton and Cameron Vs. Humanity. The show will also feature comedian Brent Gill, music from Ultra Sex Laser, Unique Henderson, and Big N Low, as well as burlesque from Triple D Debauchery.
9. Tongue Stuff featuring Ben Kronberg Rhinoceropolis
Among the many casualties of DIY performance space Mouth House shutting down a few months ago was chaotic showcase Tongue Stuff; like many of Mouth's lovably crusty residents, it was left without a special place to do its weird thing. Fortunately, when we say that Tongue Stuff returned last month at Rhinoceropolis, we're talking about an independent comedy show and not a fungal outbreak. For February, host and organizer Connor Marshall has booked an enviably solid lineup with jokes from local champs Matt Wayman, Kevin O'Brien, Jim Hickox, Nathan Lund, Bobby Crane and special guest headliner, the prodigal Ben Kronberg, recently seen on Comedy Central's Half Hour and John Oliver's New York Standup Show.
The show starts around 10 p.m.on Saturday, February 15th at Rhinoceropolis. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.
8. Movie Interruption presents Pretty Woman February 13 Alamo Drafthouse
February is a notoriously barren month for new movie releases. Studios have a long tradition of unloading their substandard film-like products in the nether region between prestige cinema and Hollywood blockbuster filmgoing seasons. Luckily for Denver-area cinephiles who enjoy a little snark in their lark, the ongoing Movie Interruption signature series has recruited all three Grawlix members to unite with host Harrison Rains in mockery of Pretty Woman this Valentine's Day eve at the Alamo Drafthouse. There a few worthier riff targets Pretty Woman, a quintessential artifact of '80s moral vacancy whose nostalgia eclipses how truly objectionable it is.
7. Comedy Works Funny Final Four Round 1 Every Wednesday Comedy Works downtown
For comedians, the Funny Final Four contest is a benchmark of their progress in the scene and an opportunity to compete for bragging rights on the welcoming stage of Comedy Works. For audiences, however, it's merely a chance to enjoy an evening of polished jokes from the funniest people in town. Based loosely on the March Madness format, the contest appoints four captains who draft teams of a dozen new talent comics plus two headliners, and Comedy Works hosts a showcase each Wednesday of the month. Teams with the strongest showings are then selected to compete again next month. This year's captains -- Christie Buchele, Matt Monroe, Stephen Agyei and Tim Messenger -- all have teams stacked with ringers and bringers, so it's really anyone's game. There's also a fifth non-competing Cinderella team, which is a new addition to this year's contest.
In the interest of full disclosure and humble-braggery, I've been drafted to one of the competing Funny Final Four teams.
6. Maz Jobrani February 20-22 Comedy Works downtown
A founding member of the Axis of Evil Comedy tour, Maz Jobrani rose to prominence during the heyday of the Bush administration, offering witty rejoinders to one of American culture's most jingoistic eras. Appearing on the Colbert Report, The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Lopez Tonight and in the film Friday After Next Jobrani quickly stood out as a performer. Born in Tehran but raised in the United States, he has a unique perspective on race relations, puncturing Islamophobia with his sharply written jokes. Observational in style, Jobrani shares his experience as a parent on the All Things Comedy network podcast Minivan Men which he co-hosts with Chris Spencer and Al Madrigal.
Jobrani is headlining at Comedy Works downtown with a show at 8 p.m. Thursday, February 20, at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Friday, February 21 and 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. on Saturday, February 22. Tickets are $22 on Thursday night and $28 on Friday and Saturday.
5. Jeff Ross Roasts You February 5 Boulder Theater
Jeff Ross, host of Comedy Central's The Burn, is something of an anachronism. An old-school insult comic in the vein of Don Rickles and Rodney Dangerfield, Ross has done more than any comedian of our era to preserve the tradition of the New York Friars Club roasts and, not surprisingly, has become a staple of the Comedy Central roast shows. Ross has also made numerous television appearances, riffing quick-witted insults on everything from Adult Swim's alt-comedy gem Childrens Hospital to ABC's Dancing With the Stars, and he'll have plenty of earnest, dreadlocked white dudes to mock at the Boulder Theater -- though a recent appearance on Doug Benson's Getting Doug With High would suggest that Ross is equally interested in roasting our favorite cash crop.
*4. Originally, Westword had recommended Hippieman's Plan for America, but that was a private, invite-only show; not intended to be publicized. Westword regrets the error.
A mere three months into Sexpot Comedy's foray into theater shows, the monthly showcase has already become an indispensable fixture of Denver's comedy scene. Producer Andy Juett continues to curate great lineups month after month, bringing hilarious pros from New York and Los Angeles and giving local strivers a chance to share billing.
This month's feature, David Gborie, is a widely known Bay Area crusher, both because he's funny and because he's the one who caused all those earthquakes. Headliner Nikki Glaser is a New-York based comedian who has appeared on @Midnight and Last Comic Standing, as well as the The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and until recently co-hosted The Nikki and Sarah Show on MTV.
2. Paul Mooney
Paul Mooney is a veteran comedian who's outlasted many of the comics who claim him as an influence. Mooney, who started out his career writing jokes for Richard Pryor, gave comics such as Sandra Bernhard, Robin Williams and John Witherspoon their first jobs writing for the Richard Pryor Show. Mooney's influence continued throughout the decades, both behind the scenes as a writer for many of the best remembered sitcoms of the 1970s and acting in films like Spike Lee's Bamboozled. Mooney enjoyed a huge resurgence when another talented young comic who blossomed under Mooney's mentorship, Dave Chappelle, cast Mooney in several sketches on Chapelle's show. Despite his advancing years and wizened appearance, the 72-year-old Mooney is still driven by the furious energy that has fueled his act for years, remaining culturally vital and painfully funny. He'll only be in Denver for one night, so don't sleep on the chance to see a living legend.
1. Norm MacDonald February 28-March 1 Comedy Works South
The most underrated Weekend Update host in the history of Saturday Night Live, Norm MacDonald is bringing his signature brand of off-kilter witticism to the Denver suburbs. MacDonald's shaggy anti-comedy may not be for everyone, but neither is sushi, so pity the naysayers for their flavorless lives. Those paying close enough attention can recognize the conceptual brilliance at the core of his jokes, or at the very least admire his commitment to unnerving audiences. Professionally speaking, MacDonald's post-SNL career probably peaked with a starring role on his own sitcom, the short-lived Norm, but MacDonald has been funnier than ever in recent years, as demonstrated in his hilarious 2011 special, Me Doing Standup.
Follow Byron Graham on twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words.
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