The Ten Best Comedy Events in Denver in January
Janeane Garofalo headlines the Downtown Comedy Works January 8-9
January is a month of new beginnings, and Denver comedy is putting its best foot forward with a crowded calendar of great shows. From generational icons and comedy legends to pro wrestlers and local buffoons, there's a standup up show to tickle every kind of fancy, even if you don't like tickles or fanciness. So, resolve to take full advantage of your live entertainment options this year, and grab your giggles with both hands. After all, going to more comedy shows in 2016 is a resolution that requires no suffering or self-denial to keep!
10. 50 First Jokes
Saturday, January 2
The Bug Theater
The first annual Denver edition of 50 First Jokes was memorable for its overfull audience, for the hatchlings of new jokes from a large and lively gathering of Denver's funniest comedians, and for being ground zero of a super-flu that plagued the comedy scene for weeks afterward. Local hosts Timmi Lasley and Mara Wiles continue a tradition dating back to 2007, when a boozy throng of New York standups convened in a Lower East Side bar to debut their first joke of the new year. Under the stalwart guidance of original producer John F. O'Donnell, 50 First Jokes has expanded to dozens of other cities and while still drawing sell-out crowds every year. With the stipulation that every joke has to be written after the ball drops to herald the arrival of 2016, audiences are guaranteed fresh material from a cavalcade of Denver's finest and funniest, while the participating comics must rise to meet the challenge. Perhaps they'll walk away from the Bug stage with a great new bit. Known super-flu carriers are strongly discouraged from attending. (In the interest of full disclosure and wanton self-promotion, I'll be onstage with 49 other comics, telling jokes none of us has yet written).
The giggle gauntlet commences at 8 p.m. Admission costs $7; only 14 cents per comedian. Tickets are available at the door.
9. Jake Johannsen
Comedy Works South
A comedy works favorite, Jake Johannsen in a consummate entertainer who’s been headlining comedy clubs since the peak of the ‘80s comedy boom. He's one of a very few comedians who made over forty appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman, a designation made all the more historic in the wake of the host’s retirement. His debut special, 1994’s This’ll Take About an Hour, was a widely celebrated classic of the form, yet Johannsen didn’t tape the follow-up, called simply, I Love You, until 2010. Sharper than ever, he has built his career on the fine line of broad appeal and sophisticated joke writing that many of his peers can only try to emulate.
Showtimes and admission prices vary. Go to Comedy Works' website for more information and to buy tickets.
8. Comedy Night at Chain Reaction
Friday, January 8
Chain Reaction Brewing Company
Westword awarded this feisty brewery show with the Best New Show of 2015 designation, and its been thriving ever since. In its one-year lifespan, Comedy Night at Chain Reaction, the perfectly Coloradan brew of local standup and craft beer has settled into a raucous but supportive rhythm, and witnessed a slew of great comics from near and far grace the woodcut state flag-adorned stage. Co-owners Zack Chad Christofferson teamed up with their childhood hockey buddy, local standup Steve Vanderploeg to collaborate on both the showcase and a signature Denver Comedy Pale Ale — though we humbly recommend the Peppercorn Saison as well. This month's lineup boasts the comedic talents of local crush-smiths Ben Bryant, Rachel Weeks, Matt Wayman and Tim Messenger with Mile High Sci-Fi creator Harrison Rains in the headlining spot, so it's a perfect beckoning call to venture into Athmar Park for some quaffs and laughs.
Showtime is at 8 p.m. but feel to show up and chug brews earlier. Admission is free.
7. Janeane Garofalo
Comedy Works Downtown
Comedy Works Downtown welcomes the bespectacled Godmother of alternative comedy, Janeane Garofalo, who pioneered the woolier but more authentic joke-writing style that characterized standup for the following decade. Most recently seen in Wet Hot American Summer and its Netflix spin-off series First Day of Camp, Garofalo started out landing key roles in ‘90s TV talent crucibles like The Larry Sanders Show and Mr. Show with Bob and David before she went on to star in the Generation X-courting romantic comedies Reality Bites and The Truth About Cats and Dogs. Throughout the reactionary Bush years, Garofalo suffered more backlash for her political outspokenness than other liberal comics of her generation, yet admirably held her ground, maintaining her astute poise even in Fox News’ ambush-style interviews. Garofalo may be an icon for a bygone generation, but her standup is as fearless and vital as ever.
Tickets are still available for the late Saturday show at 9:45 p.m. Admission costs $25. Go to Comedy Works' website to buy tickets. Act quickly: all the other shows have sold out.
6. Patton Oswalt
Saturday, January 9
The Paramount Theatre
While the majority of American consumers recognize Patton Oswalt from syndicated reruns of King of Queens, or remember the lilt of his snarky voice from Ratatouille, comedy nerds venerate him. On classic albums like Feelin’ Kinda Patton, Werewolves and Lollipops and My Weakness is Strong, Oswalt helped forge the politically disillusioned yet minutiae-obsessed identity of comedy nerdom. His hero's journey will reach its nexus when Oswalt joins the cast of a newly resurrected Mystery Science Theater 3000 later this year. Over the past few years, Oswalt has demonstrated remarkable range as an actor in film and television. On HBO’s Veep, Oswalt’s trademark jocularity was undercut with a latent menace while his roles in Young Adult and Big Fan revealed an unexpected melancholy beneath the performer’s perpetually cherubic visage. Despite critical accolades and televisual ubiquity, Oswalt has also penned two books, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland and Silver Screen Fiend. Throughout his varied and busy career, Oswalt has always remained a sharp and vital standup comedian. His last special Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time, premiered on Comedy Central after a troubled online rollout from EPIX last year, so Denver fans have an opportunity to see Oswalt in the process of building a new hour.
Showtime is at 8 p.m. Admission prices vary according to seating section. Tickets are available through Altitude Tickets.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Denver art and theater scene.