Ten best comedy events in Denver this January

Jonah Ray and Kumail Nanjiani
Jonah Ray and Kumail Nanjiani

Any Denverite whose New Year's resolution was to laugh more has both admirably modest ambitions and a bounty of entertainment options this January. If you didn't resolve to laugh more, do it retroactively: Achievable goals build confidence. With exciting developments from Denver's two favorite local comedy troupes and visits from luminaries such as Aziz Ansari, Doug Stanhope and Kumail Najiani -- all of whom released hilarious standup specials last year -- January has comedy events to suit any and every taste.

See also: The ten best geek events in Denver in January

10. Pablo Francisco

Pablo Francisco has earned a following throughout the years with his high-energy performances, character work and entrepreneurial hustle. Francisco has performed on sold-out shows all over the world, and appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Mind of Mencia. Having built up a loyal fanbase on the club circuit over the years, he has developed a roster of memorable bits and impressions that his crowd awaits like Skynyrd tunes.

Francisco will be in town for shows at January 16-19; there are 7:30 p.m. shows each day, as well as additional 9:45 p.m. shows on January 17 and January 18. Tickets are $25 at the Denver Improv.

9. Fortune Feimster

Fortune Feimster gained her acclaim as a semi-finalist on the seventh season of NBC's newly resurrected Last Comic Standing. Now a writer and panelist on Chelsea Lately, Feimster has cultivated a unique comic voice, one capable of reaching her particular audience in a way no one else could. Feimster, who recently opened for Dave Chapelle on some of the Oddball Fest dates, tours regularly and built up a loyal contingent here in Denver.

She'll be in town for shows at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. January 10-11. Tickets are $23 at Comedy Works Larimer Square.

8. Three Year Anniversary of the Fine Gentleman's Club

The Fine Gentleman's Club has done a lot for the Denver comedy scene in the three years the gentlemen have been performing together. Every week, it gives new comics the opportunity to share a bill with out-of-town headliners and a well-curated cadre of local crushers with the Too Much Fun showcase, running Denver's best weekly comedy show for donation beer money. Next week, the club will celebrating its anniversary with a special event. "We don't want to overhype the show," says founding member Chris Charpentier, "but it's going to be bigger than Lillith Fair and Burning Man combined! We're going to have a bunch of our favorite Denver comics and a top-notch headliner." The lineup has yet to be determined, but as is often the case with the weekly Too Much Fun, sets of newish material from the Gents themselves is more than enough reason not to miss a show that commemorates three years of this strangely beautiful union.

The free show starts at 10 p.m. Wednesday, January 8 at Deer Pile.

7. Headlining sets from each member of the Grawlix at Comedy Works

Though locals have plenty of opportunities to see members of the Grawlix performing standup, headlining sets at one of the best comedy clubs in the country are always a big deal. Andrew Orvedahl, Adam Cayton-Holland and Ben Roy each take the spotlight for gigs scheduled at a Comedy Works this month, giving fans the chance to spend an hour with their favorite Grawlix. Fortunately, Roy, Orvedahl and Cayton-Holland are prolific joke writers capable of crushing any room, from Comedy Works to a Colfax open mic, so even their well-served fanbase will have something to anticipate.

At 8 p.m. on Wednesday January 8, Andrew Orvedahl will headline at Comedy Works Larimer Square.. At 8 p.m. the following night, January 9, Adam Cayton-Holland will be performing his own headlining set there. Later in the month, Ben Roy will be heard shouting at suburbanites at Comedy Works Landmark DTC at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, January 29. All tickets are $12.

6. Tone Bell

Comedian Tone Bell has performed on the Late Show with Craig Ferguson and he was featured on the dais for Spike TV's Eddie Murphy: One Night Only. Fans of sketch comedy might recognize Bell from his appearances on Comedy Central's Key & Peele, while fans of recently canceled sitcoms might recognize Bell from NBC's Whitney -- yet fail to recognize their poor taste in recently canceled sitcoms.

Bell will perform at 7:30 p.m. on January 9 and 12, as well as at 9:45 p.m. on January 10 and 11 at the Denver Improv. Tickets are $15 to $17.  

5. Jen Kirkman

Recently seen on Drunk History, John Oliver's New York Stand-up Show, Conan and Late Night with Craig Ferguson, comedian Jen Kirkman has been killing it lately. While Kirkman has been familiar to comedy nerds for several years already, her recent ubiquity is an encouraging sign that mainstream audiences are catching on to her brand of world-weary storytelling. Her first book, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself, was recently published by Simon and Shuster.

Kirkman is booked for shows at at 7:15 and 9:45 p.m. on January 24-25. Tickets are $23 at Comedy Works Landmark DTC.

4. Ice Queens of Comedy

Organized by Ganjapreneur, pizza tycoon and comedy benefactor Kayvan Khalatbari, Sexpot Comedy presents another killer showcase this month. Boasting co-headlining sets from Beth Stelling and Kate Berlant -- whom, despite what the show's title would suggest, are interpersonally friendly and as far as I know do not reign over any wintry Kingdoms to speak of -- the Ice Queens of Comedy is well worth the comparatively cheap admission fee. Stelling has the rare gift of expressing jokes that are clearly polished yet devoid of the artifice that dogs even the best comics; anyone unfamiliar with her work should check out her album Sweet Beth or her recent set on Conan to get an idea of what's in store. Berlant, meanwhile, is a singular and unclassifiable performer who thrillingly abandons joke structure in favor of brilliant deconstructionist motherfuckery; she's truly unlike any other comedian I've seen. The lineup, which also includes local feature Troy Walker and emcee Jordan Doll, is solid from beginning to end, and a perfect way to wrap up the first month of 2014.

Doors open at 7 p.m. on January 31 at the Oriental Theater. Tickets are $15 and include a to-be-determined giveaway package.

3. Aziz Ansari

If you don't mind the schlep down to Colorado Springs, Aziz Ansari will be performing at the Pikes Peak Center, which is usually more accustomed to hosting symphonies than animated R. Kelly jokes. The Parks and Recreation star doesn't travel through Colorado all that often, and getting increasingly famous between visits has necessitated booking larger venues and charging higher admission fees (these tickets are the most expensive on this list). Ansari's been on a real hot streak lately, and his last special, Buried Alive, was a huge step forward stylistically, so a chance to hear his new jokes and admire his haberdashery is still probably worth the trouble.

The show starts at 7 p.m. on January 9 at the Pikes Peak Center. Tickets are $38.50.

2. Doug Stanhope

Doug Stanhope is an old-school road-dog comic -- in ethos, if not in content. With a busy touring schedule that brings him through the Centennial state a few times a year, Stanhope has honed the chops required to confront uncomfortable topics with the sort of unflinching honesty that many comics aspire to but never achieve. It's a testament to Stanhope's work ethic that his diabolically funny special Beer Hall Putsch was released just last year and he's already back out on the road, working out new bits and maintaining contact with our local comedy nerds.

Stanhope will be live at 8 p.m. January 17 at the Oriental Theater; tickets are $25.

1. Grawlix Meltdown Mash-up Spectacular with Kumail Najiani & Jonah Ray

Kumail Nanjiani and Jonah Ray recently shot a pilot for a Comedy Central show that would bring their widely-touted Meltdown comedy showcase -- frequently named one of the best alternative comedy shows in Los Angeles -- to a national audience. Before the show premieres, however, local comedy fans will have the chance to check out a "sneak-peek" of the program featuring Denver's own Grawlix as special guests. Ray is the co-host of the Nerdist podcast, whom you might recognize as the gawky dude from those Bing commercials. While Ray is much funnier than his frequent second banana status would belie, Nanjiani, whose 2013 standup special Beta Male was one of the best of the year, is the real draw here. Fans are already hip to this show; online tickets sold out shortly after being made available a month ago.

The sold-out show is set for Friday, January 10; doors open at 7:30 p.m. at the Bug Theater. A limited number of remaining $10 tickets will be available at the door.

Follow Byron Graham on twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words.

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