January is an overrated month. From New Year's to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January bundles up against the treacherous snow and punishing cold, assuaging its regret over resolutions broken with indica, hot toddies and Netflix marathons. But you can break out of the doldrums with comedy; the January lineup includes perennially listed local favorites and returning visits from high-profile headliners. Here are ten reasons (in chronological order) to bundle up and check out a comedy show in the first month of 2015:
10) Comics Against Civility Round 3 Finals Friday, January 2 Oriental Theater
Hosted by Zac Maas and Jake Browne of the Whiskey & Cigarettes podcast, Comics Against Civility pushes comics into the spotlight without the crutch of their road-tested act, offering the audience something new each time. Loosely based on the literal bullshit-peddling party game Cards Against Humanity, the show asks comics to pick an audience-suggested topic card, and select pre-written answer cards. The jokes tend to be dark, twisted and decidedly uncivil. In January, finalists from rounds past Greg Baumhauer, Cody Spyker, Jill Tasei and John "Hippieman" Novosad will square off for the title of "Denver's Least Civil Comedian." We've said it before and we'll say it again: When comics take on civility, everyone wins.
Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. show. Tickets are $5 on the Oriental Theater website.
9) Lucha Libre & Laughs Sunday, January 4 Oriental Theater
Denver's most inventive and elaborate comedy showcase comes off the ropes with a lineup as muscular as the luchadors themselves. The brainchild of wrestling superfan Nick Gossert, Lucha Libre & Laughs has consistently put on great shows and drawn a loyal fanbase out to the Tennyson hinterlands each month. This time comics Ian Douglas Terry, Timmi Lasley, and Brett Heicher join headliner Ben Roy, telling jokes between bouts and cracking wise with color commentators Sam Tallent and Nathan Lund; Xander Creed squares off against Aiden Young before the headlining match. Fans should also check out the new Sexpot comedy web series Valentino's Lounge, which features LLL emcee Bobby Valentino interviewing wrestlers from the upcoming show and plenty of shit-talking heel turns.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for the 7 p.m. show; tickets are $10 on the Oriental Theater website.
8) Carly Aquilino January 7-10 Comedy Works Downtown
The first thing audiences notice about on-the-rise standup Carly Aquilino is her shock of bright red hair, dyed a shade that does not occur in the natural world. Fortunately, Aquilino transcends her stage hair with witty and relatable material that delves into the muck of personal relationships and champions self-actualization. After making a big splash on the New York standup scene, where she's a regular at the Gotham Comedy Club, the quick-witted and telegenic Aquilino soon found a home on television. The break-out star of MTV's The Girl Code, Aquilino has a facility with jokes and insight into relationships that liven up the show's stale format. She's parlayed her success into further television appearances on shows like Guy Court and Ain't That America. This week, she'll be joining the illustrious ranks of Carson Daly by hosting the New Year's Eve festivities on MTV. In town in January to headline for four nights at the downtown Comedy Works, Aquilino is just getting started on a long career in comedy and broadcasting. Here's a chance to catch her on the rise.
Showtimes and ticket prices vary. Go to the Comedy Works website for ticketing information. Keep reading for seven more of the best comedy events in January.
7) Ralphie May Wednesday, January 14 Boulder Theater
Ralphie May has never shied away from a good fat joke. Despite album titles like Too Big to Ignore and Girth of a Nation, however, May's rotund profundity has always seemed like an especially fruitful premise rather than an integral part of his branding. Kicking off his career by opening for his hero Sam Kinison, May got famous by (controversially) finishing in second place on the inaugural season of Last Comic Standing. Since then, May has recorded several albums and specials while performing all over the world. Most recently, May brought local favorite Chuck Roy along on the Filthy Animal Tour. Seeing him now is well worth a trek up to Boulder through the tundra of January.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. show. Ticket prices vary according to seating; find info on the Boulder Theater website.
6) Willie Barcena January 15-18 Denver Improv
In his twenty-year standup career, Willie Barcena has recorded two specials, hosted the Latino Laugh Festival and its television show, and appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno twelve times. Barcena's last special, I Gotta Be Honest, aired on Showtime in 2012. Performing for the troops in Afghanistan and never forgetting his working-class roots, Barcena's act remains relatable even at this late stage of his career. Among his many hard-earned accolades, Barcena also has the dubious distinction of being one of the most high-profile victims of Carlos Mencia's joke thievery. Luckily for the Improv crowd, Barcena's material is always better when he's delivering it.
For showtimes and tickets, $15, go to the Denver Improv website.
5) Demetri Martin Saturday, January 17 Paramount Theatre
Demetri Martin first caught the national eye in his "Trendspotting" segments during the heyday of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Polished over years on the New York standup circuit, Martin demonstrated his unique sensibility and facility with drolly absurdist one-liners. Though Martin's forays into stardom were either short-lived like Important Things with Demetri Martin or ill-fitting, like his starring role in the disappointing Taking Woodstock, he never strayed far from standup, regularly touring and releasing specials over the years. He's also written two bestsellers, This Is a Book and Point Your Face at This. Martin's act, despite its typically absurdist tone and geometrically precise comedic timing, has remained engaging and unpredictable.
The show begins at 8 p.m.; ticket prices vary according to seating. To buy them, go to the Paramount Theater website. Keep reading for four more of the best comedy events in Denver in January.
4) The Pump & Dump Wednesday, January 21 Comedy Works South
Moms are an underserved demographic whose entertainment options are usually governed by screaming children. Momedian and songstress Shayna Ferm gets it. She knows that moms have more on their minds then the comparative absorbency of major diaper brands and, furthermore, that they could use a damn break already. That's why she started Pump & Dump, which showcases comics with children bonding with their maternal audience over cathartic jokes that are far from the stale, family-friendly entertainment moms usually get. The Pump and Dump show, in addition to touring across the country to cities like New York, Los Angeles and Boston, has now settled into a new local home at Comedy Works South.
The show begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15 per person on the Comedy Works website.
3) Aziz Ansari Saturday, January 24 Bellco Theatre
Aziz Ansari, whose last hour-long Buried Alive was one of our favorite comedy specials of 2013, is back in Colorado in January. While seeing Ansari last year required schlepping down to Colorado Springs, this time he's right in the center of town at the appropriately tony Bellco Theatre. The Parks and Recreation star is among the most prolific standups working today, touring regularly and constantly honing new material in addition to his sitcom-ly duties. Whatever his new material entails, Ansari is guaranteed to be the most dapper man in the room.
The show begins at 9:30 p.m.; ticket prices vary according to seating. Find more information on the Bellco website.
2) 3 Course Comedy Two Year Anniversary Wednesday, January 28 Deer Pile
Food and comedy are historic enemies. Comedy club menus are typically limited to chicken fingers and jalapeño poppers, because elaborate meals are a distraction and foodstuffs stifle laughs. 3 Course Comedy, the live show and podcast co-hosted by Adrian Mesa and Eric Henderson, flouts this conventional wisdom by tasking comics to prepare a three-course meal for a coterie of steadfast Deer Pile loyalists. For three years, Mesa and Henderson have cultivated food jokes, trivia games, interviews with the performing comics and served vegetarian meals each month, developing a community along with a durable showcase and theme for a comedy show. An ongoing podcast cataloging the shows of months past is available on itunes and at 3coursecomedy.com. The comics on the next episode include Cody Spyker, who's bringing the appetizer; Bobby Crane with the main course and dessert by sentient cupcake Kristin Rand. Featuring a special appearance by food critic Herbert Elvis Walrus, this is a truly special event. Also, there's free food.
The show begins at 8 p.m.; food is served beforehand. Admission is free but donations are encouraged.
1) Sean Patton January 28-31 Denver Improv
Denver has plenty of love for Sean Patton. After winning local hearts and minds with a strong showing at the inaugural High Plains Comedy Festival, Patton returned to co-headline Sausage Fest, the inaugural Sexpot Comedy showcase. Although he's here frequently, it's worth seeing one of his headlining shows at Denver Improv, because few comedians are more thrilling to watch in person. He's appeared on Conan and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; his debut album, Standard Operating Procedure, was released by A Special Thing Records, and he recorded his own Comedy Central Half Hour special last year. They're all solid standup performances, but convey only a fraction of the experience of seeing Sean Patton live.
For showtimes and tickets, $17, go to the Denver Improv website.
Follow Byron Graham on twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words.
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