July is known for balmy days when the sun lingers in the sky like a drunken barbecue guest. Luckily, comedy fans can retreat to air-conditioned comfort in our city's fine clubs, bars and theaters while merrily chortling at the rogue's gallery of stand-ups visiting Denver. The whole month is packed with shows appealing to every generation and demographic, from politicos and local film nerds to anglophiles and '90s nostalgists. With enough great shows to fill two of these lists, there are plenty of opportunities get your supply of wry this July. Here are ten, presented in roughly chronological order.
The Denver Improv
Godfrey is a dynamic live performer, known for his command of the stage and quick-witted crowd work. In 2011 he recorded his first one-hour special, Black by Accident, for Comedy Central. He's also appeared on shows like 30 Rock, The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore and Louie, and in movies like Soul Plane, Zoolander and Phat Girlz. With the comparatively cheap tickets and high probability that each show will contain a moment that's impossible to reproduce, Godfrey might be worth seeing twice.
Showtimes vary. Tickets cost $16 on the Denver Improv website.
9. Russell Howard
Tuesday, July 7
Comedy Works Downtown
Russell Howard is one of Britain’s most famous and beloved comedians. Nearly ubiquitous on UK television, Howard’s early appearances on shows like The Milk Run, Mock the Week and Never Mind the Buzzcocks soon led to hosting his own show, Russell Howard's Good News, which remains one of the BBC’s highest-rated shows. Despite what his youthful visage and goofy charisma might indicate, Howard is a fifteen-year veteran of the stage who’s recorded four stand-up albums, including the delightfully titled Wonderbox and Russell Howard Live 2: Dingledodies (a Jack Kerouac reference). He made his American television debut on Conan back in 2011 and he recently completed the first season of Russell Howard’s Standup Central for Comedy Central UK. Howard is visiting Denver for a special one-night only engagement at Comedy Works Downtown in a rare stateside appearance.
Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $28 on Comedy Works' website.
8. Martin Lawrence
Comedy Works South
Martin Lawrence is a comedy superstar. From his auspicious beginnings as the inaugural host of HBO’s game-changing Def Comedy Jam, Lawrence has ascended to the highest levels of show business. After co-creating and starring in the sitcom Martin, which ran for five seasons on Fox, Lawrence starred several hit movies such as Blue Streak, Wild Hogs and the Big Momma’s House franchise. Recently, Lawrence co-starred in the FX series Partners and he’s currently in pre-production on Bad Boys 3, a long-awaited second sequel to the buddy cop masterpiece. Lawrence’s first love has always been the stage, however. He’s released two classic stand-up films, You So Crazy and Runteldat, which showcase his unique magnetism and fearless stage persona. In town for a rare comedy club appearance, there has never been a better chance for Denverites to see the comedy legend live and in person.
Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. each night. As of press time, all passes for the 7:30 p.m. shows have sold out. Tickets cost $50. They’re available on Comedy Works website.
The Denver Improv
After starting out in the fertile comedic breeding ground of Def Jam Comedy, Mike Epps quickly rose from obscurity to become the popular entertainer he is today. Appearing in films such as Next Friday, How High, Friday After Next, The Hangover as well as Resident Evil: Apocalypse and its sequel, Extinction, Epps has knack for reviving ailing franchises with his comic charisma. As a stand-up, Epps has released four specials, including Inappropriate Behavior, Funny Bidness and Underrated and Never Faded.
Showtimes vary. Ticket prices range from $35-$50 on the Denver Improv website.
6. Table Read: Raising Arizona
Friday, July 17
The Bug Theater
Presented by erstwhile sons of Nebraska Kevin O'Brien and Corey Helie, Table Read is a new comedy show that features Denver comedians and improvisers performing a Hollywood screenplay for a live theater audience. They will kick off in fine style with the Coen Brothers' contemporary classic 1987's Raising Arizona. Featuring local chuckle merchants Mara Wiles, Jordan Doll, Sam Tallent, Aaron Urist, Janae Burris, Adrian Mesa and more reprising roles from the beloved movie, Table Read is the show Denver comedy-loving cinephiles have been waiting to see.
Showtime is 9 p.m. Tickets cost $5 at the door.
5. Bill Maher
Saturday, July 18
After generations in the public eye, the American public is still very much divided on Bill Maher. People from every shade of the political spectrum may disagree with his beliefs, but few could deny his impact on the media landscape. Maher became a household name during the network run of his signature program Politically Incorrect until he was fired in 2002 for making a controversial comment about the 9/11 hijackers. For over ten years, he’s been seemingly more at home on Real Time with Bill Maher, a wide-ranging political discussion that benefits from looser network restrictions on HBO. Maher is a stand-up comic first and foremost, however. He’s recorded nine one-hour specials and continues to tour the country every year. Maher's rolling through Colorado to perform at the University of Colorado's Macky Auditorium, despite his recent complaints about political correctness on college campuses.
Ticket prices vary based upon seating arrangements. They're available through the Macky events website.
4. Arsenio Hall
Comedy Works South
Aresnio Hall was a beloved stand-up best known for his extensive TV career and for co-starring with Eddie Murphy in the cult classic Coming to America, which Hall also co-wrote. His biggest break, however, came when the Fox network asked him to replace Joan Rivers on "The Late Show," which grew into the Emmy Award-winning Arsenio Hall Show, which aired from 1989 to 1994. Probably best remembered for capturing the zeitgeist when Presidential Candidate Bill Clinton played the saxophone with Hall's house band. Hall has returned to stage and screen as of late, with a renewed Arsenio Hall Show airing on CBS and a busy performing schedule giving fans the chance to see a broadcasting legend live.
Showtimes are 7:15 and 9:45 p.m. Tickets cost $35 on Comedy Works website.
Most comedy nerds are already familiar with Marc Maron's biography. He rose to prominence in the alt-comedy scene of the '90s before floundering through a few TV and radio gigs that never felt like a perfect fit. Despite racking up over forty appearances on the various incarnations of Conan and never leaving the airwaves for long, Maron's career was at a low point when he started the WTF podcast in his garage. In addition to in-depth interviews with comedians, musicians and the occasional movie star, WTF gives plenty of mic time to Maron's chronic over-sharing as well. Though off-putting at first to some listeners, his rambling engenders a more personal connection with the legion of listeners who have flocked to his shows. The podcast hit a historic high point recently when President Barack Obama dropped by the garage fro a historic interview with the grouchy comic. Currently starring in the IFC sitcom Maron, which is based on his life and podcast, Maron's career has never been better. In Colorado for two special engagement shows, this is a perfect chance to catch Maron in a classic theatre setting, whether at the Boulder Theater or here in Denver at the Paramount.
Showtimes and ticket prices vary. Check out the Comedy Works calendar for tickets.
2. Jim Gaffigan: The Contagious Tour
1st Bank Center
Known for riffs on laziness and shitty food, Jim Gaffigan has achieved a level of everyman permeation that most comics can only dream of. Gaffigan is one of those comics whose jokes are referenced in day-to-day exchanges, and whose "inside voice" joke-telling style is instantly recognizable. His first book, Dad Is Fat, was published last year and he self-released a stand-up special, Mr. Universe, the year before that. Gaffigan has also appeared on Portlandia, all three Law and Order franchises as well as in films like Away We Go. Recently, Gaffigan became the executive producer and star of the eponymous Jim Gaffigan Show, which debuts this month on TV Land and Comedy Central.
Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets prices vary upon seating arrangements. They're available from the 1st Bank Center website.
1. Tickle Monster
Friday, July 31
The Bug Theater
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Denver comedy fans are used to waiting for the final Friday of the month, marking it down on their cackle calendars. Until recently, that's because the Grawlix trio held their monthly showcases there, welcoming some of the country's best comics to the quirky Bug Theater. But beginning last month, the Tickle Monster have stormed the stage. The brainchild of Fine Gentleman Nathan Lund, Sam Tallent and Bobby Crane, Tickle Monster takes up the Grawlix mantle of importing great comedians to Denver while maintaining the anarchic glee fans have come to expect from the Fine Gents. Join them as they welcome headliner Solomon Georgio, just weeks after his late-night television debut on Conan.
Follow Byron Graham on twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words.