September is dedicated to getting back to business. For everyone from returning students to migratory birds, the long days of sun-dappled leisure are over and work begins anew. While comedy never takes time off, it's in particularly fine form this month. From living legends to cutting-edge talents, from classy theaters to sweaty art spaces, the business of funny is thriving in this city — with far too many shows to include here. Check out 5280 Comedy for a full list of local showcases and open mikes; we regrettably concede that our list of the top ten shows in September, presented in chronological order, is a complete sausagefest, which was not our design.
Comedy Works South
Star of '90s family movie staples like Houseguest, First Kid and Jingle All the Way, Sinbad has had a long and varied career since catching his first big break on Star Search, where he defeated Dennis Miller in a contest. Sinbad is a standup veteran, ranked as one of the best 100 comedians of all time by Comedy Central. He's appeared on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and the Food Network's Chopped Tournament of Stars: Comedians, and his most recent special, Sinbad: Make Me Wanna Holla!, aired on Comedy Central. A lesser-known Sinbad fact: He's a University of Denver alum, and he'll be returning to his old stamping grounds to headline the weekend, presumably to a chorus of hollas.
Showtimes are 7:15 and 9:45 p.m. with an additional 7 p.m. Sunday show. Tickets cost $33 on the Comedy Works' website.
9) Brian Regan
Saturday, September 5
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Brian Regan is one of the very few comedians who's achieved an arena-headlining level of success on the appeal of his jokes alone. Regan's observations on everyday peccadilloes and emphatic joke delivery have won him generations of fans, from Mormon elders to precocious young comedy nerds in training. Unlike many other standups with his level of fame, Regan also enjoys the widespread respect of his peers, both for his good-natured work ethic and his keenly crafted observational jokes. He manages to sell out huge venues despite a comparatively low media profile, and he made his silver-screen debut only last year, in Chris Rock's directorial debut Top Five. Over his decades-long career, Regan appeared on the Late Show With David Letterman over 27 times before the venerated host retired earlier this year. Known for his clean material and energetic performances, Regan demonstrates that a comic can have mass appeal and integrity. Check the arts section later this week for a full interview with Brian Regan.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for the 8 show. Admission costs between $39.50 and $65 depending upon seating section; tickets are available from Red Rocks Entertainment's website.
8) Kevin Hart
Monday, September 7
The Pepsi Center
As his film career has skyrocketed, Kevin Hart has consistently replenished his standup bona fides with grueling tour schedules and ostentatious live specials, including classics like the career-defining Laugh at My Pain and the pyrotechnically charged Let Me Explain. An energetic and instantly recognizable character actor, Hart stood out in small roles in movies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Death at a Funeral, and went on to be the top-billed star of comedies like Get Hard, Ride Along and Think Like a Man, two of which are already due for sequels. The What Now? Tour has been selling out arena-sized venues in over 45 different cities, in what has been called the biggest comedy tour in history. The name is fitting for the unique place Hart occupies in the comedy firmament. Perhaps it’s his diminutive stature or self-effacing jokes, but Hart has remained relatable despite his growing celebrity. And there’s no better way to cap off Labor Day than by seeing one of the hardest-working comedians of our generation.
Doors open at 6 p.m. for the 7 p.m. showtime. Ticket prices start at $69.50; find more info on the Pepsi Center website.
7) Louis Johnson's Birthday Celebration
Wednesday, September 9
Comedy Works Downtown
One of Denver's most well-traveled comedians, Louis Johnson is living the road-dog dream life. While still based in Denver, Johnson has developed an enviable career, performing standup on major cruise-ship lines, headlining the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and joining more than twenty USO tours. Johnson has appeared on Comedy Central and B.E.T. and a Showtime Comic of the Month special, but he's never better than on stage at his home club, Comedy Works. It's a fitting venue, then, for this birthday celebration. Join Johnson and a hand-selected group of Denver's best comics to see why Johnson consistently calls himself "One Lucky Mofo."
Showtime is 8 p.m.; tickets cost $12 on Comedy Works website.
6) Pablo Francisco
The Denver Improv
Pablo Francisco has earned a following throughout the years with his high-energy performances, character work and entrepreneurial hustle. He 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 fan base on the club circuit over the years, he has developed a roster of memorable bits and impressions that reward his diverse crowd with thunderous laughter.
Showtime is 7:30 p.m. each night, with additional 9:45 p.m. late shows on Friday and Saturday. Tickets cost $25 on the Denver Improv website.
Friday, September 11
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 nerd-dom. Over the past few years, he 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.
Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. showtime. Ticket prices start at $39.50 plus fees from the Live Nation website. No cameras or recording devices will be permitted.
4) Dave Chapelle
Thursday, September 17
Red Rocks Amphitheater
After years of avoiding the spotlight in the aftermath of Chapelle's Show, his zeitgeist-capturing and catchphrase-generating Comedy Central sketch series, Dave Chapelle has exploded back on the standup scene and is turning Denver into one of his regular stops. Less reclusive than ever, Chapelle has forever endeared himself to the local comedy scene by dropping by the Too Much Fun showcase, and appearing for surprise sets at Comedy Works, where he recently co-hosted the finale of the club's Funny Final Four competition. After spending his last birthday at the historic amphitheater and spending the last year pursuing his revitalized standup career, Denver fans have more to Chapell-ebrate than ever.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for the 8 p.m. show. Tickets cost between $60 and $70 on the Red Rocks Entertainment website.
3) Offensively Delicious with Kyle Kinane
Wednesday, September 23
The Oriental Theater
Comedy and beer have always shared a frothily symbiotic relationship. Local breweries sponsor, host and lubricate standup showcases in their taprooms all over town. However, the event that best honors this marriage of quips and quaffs is Offensively Delicious, which celebrates its second anniversary at the end of the month. Presented by Sexpot Comedy and Renegade Brewing Company, Offensively Delicious invites brewers and drinkers alike to sample suds and laugh with their buds before hopefully catching a cab back to their homes. Hosted by Sexpot impresario and idea man Andy Juett, the event features standup from Sam Tallent and Adam Cayton-Holland along with a beery beast in the form of headliner in Kyle Kinane.
Arrive at 6 p.m. for unlimited samples from over eleven different breweries. Showtime is 8 p.m. Admission (which includes the samples) cost $45; tickets are available through the Oriental Theater's website.
2) Cartoons & Comedy
Thursday, September 24
The Deer Pile
Cartoons & Comedy is a purely fun show for crowds and performers alike, a rare glimpse into childhood from the safely ironic distance of years past. The show offers a way to bond over shared memories and laugh at the absurdity we used to innocently accept at face value, all leavened by cheap beer and sugary cereal. Keeping a comedy show going, particularly one that requires such elaborate pre-planning, is impressive feat; in its two short years, Cartoons & Comedy has changed time slots, venues and formats, while retaining its childlike bonhomie and essential spirit and presenting the nimble riffs of Denver's funniest locals and drop-ins from comedy nerd heroes like Ron Funches, Rory Scovel and Power Violence. At the helm of this monthly endeavor is Chris Baker, who hustles his cherubic ass off — cutting together a video package of old cartoons, wrestling videos and '80s toy commercials, and booking a lineup of quick-witted comics every month. Join Baker along with local comics Nathan Lund, Mitch Jones and Daniel Reskin for an evening of Mystery Science Theater-style mockery.
Showtime is 10:15 p.m. but arrive early as seating is arranged on a first-come, first-served basis. Admission is free but donations are suggested.
1) Russell Peters
Friday, September 25
Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre
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Like the aforementioned Brian Regan, Russell Peters has achieved comedy superstardom despite a comparative dearth of high-profile film and television appearances. Peters, who hails from Canada, has made a career mining the foibles of race relations for observational comedy, often drawing from his own Anglo-Indian heritage. The Gemini Award-winning comedian has done numerous USO tours, appeared on all the late-night talk-show staples and spent a season at the judges' table on Last Comic Standing. His last special, Notorious, was a pioneering venture into producing standup specials for the streaming service. For the past two years, Peters has taken the aptly titled Almost Famous Tour all over the world, including performances in his ancestral homeland of India, which were documented for a recent live special. Denver comedy fans should catch Peters live before he's completely famous.
Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets, which range in price from $54.45 to $65.45, are available from the AXS Events website.
Follow Byron Graham on twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words.