As Coloradans face a cold and unknowable 2017, it's heartening to remember that opportunities to lose themselves in the warmth of a chortling crowd will present themselves all month long. With fond farewells, grand homecomings and special guests headlining our clubs and theaters, January has comedy shows galore in store for every stripe of comedy nerd. Resolve to see everything this city has to offer, support local showcases and laugh your way into the new year.
1. Fifty First Jokes
Saturday, January 7
Fifty First Jokes swiftly became a beloved annual tradition for the Denver Comedy community. Like many great New Year's traditions, this show brings people together under one roof and directs their gaze toward the future. 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, Fifty First Jokes has expanded to dozens of other cities and still draws sell-out crowds every year. Because every joke has to be written after the ball drops to herald the arrival of 2017, audiences are guaranteed fresh material from a cavalcade of Denver's finest and funniest, while the participating comics must rise to meet the challenge. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I'm scheduled to perform on this show, along with 49 other comics.)
Doors open at 7 p.m. for an 8 p.m. showtime. Tickets are $10 at nightout.com.
Very few comedians have amassed television résumés as impressive as Dana Gould's, and almost none have made it as far without a starring role on their own eponymous sitcom. Yet with an HBO special, two one-hour Showtime specials and guest appearances on The Late Show With David Letterman, Conan, Maron and Real Time with Bill Maher all under Gould's belt, he has hours of material waiting to delight the newly initiated. He has also had prominent guest roles on shows like Anger Management, Seinfeld and in the dirty-joke-etymology documentary The Aristocrats. Behind the camera, Gould was a co-executive producer of The Simpsons and a producer on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. His monthly podcast, The Dana Gould Hour, is a hilarious and inventive exploration of what the medium can do. Lately, Gould has been working behind the scenes as the creator and executive producer of IFC's Stan Against Evil, a horror-comedy series that doesn't skimp on the scares. Check Westword's Arts & Culture section later this week for a full Q&A with Gould.
Showtime for the Dairy Arts Center show is 7:30 p.m., and admission is $15; visit the Dairy Center's box office page for tickets and more information. Comedy Works showtimes and admission prices vary; visit Comedy Works' events calendar for details and to buy tickets.
3. Sexpot Comedy Presents Ben Kronberg
Thursday, January 12
The Oriental Theater
Ben Kronberg is among the most successful of Denver comedy expatriates, having amassed an impressive list of credits and accomplishments since moving to New York. After his high-profile appearances on Late Night with Seth Meyers, John Oliver's New York Standup Show and the Comedy Central Half Hour, it's always a pleasant surprise to see Kronberg drop in at ignominious Denver open mics to weird people out — but he has always made a point of returning home to the scene where he developed his outré comedic voice. With his puckish wit and an impermeable poker face on stage, he's the sort of comic who inspires outlandish stories and admiration from his peers. Kronberg is currently at work on a web series called "Ted and Gracie," about a woman who is unaware that her fiance is a serial killer. Join the prodigal Denverite and local comics Rachel Weeks, Zac Maas and Janae Burris for this fitting homecoming show at the Oriental.
Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. showtime. Tickets are $10 via the Oriental Theater events calendar.
4. Sexpot Comedy Presents Gad Elmaleh
Thursday, January 19
One of Europe's most famous working comedians, Gad Elmaleh recently relocated to New York to make his mark on the American entertainment industry. Stateside, Elmaleh is probably best known as a character actor who stole scenes in films like Midnight in Paris, The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn and The Dictator, but he's been performing one-man shows in Paris since the ’90s, and he wrote, directed and starred in Coco, a European box-office smash. Born in Morocco, the multilingual Elmaleh is a truly international performer for whom America is the last frontier of stardom. Though newly arrived to the States, Elmaleh has been welcomed with his A-list pedigree, appearing on Conan, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
Showtime is at 8 p.m. Get tickets, $30-$35 at axs.com.
5. What a Joke: A National Comedy Festival Supporting the ACLU
Thursday, January 19
Syntax Physic Opera
In these dubious times, even Americans' most vital civil rights feel threatened, which makes the efforts of organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union more crucial than ever before. That's why New York comedians Jenn Welch and Emily Winter spearheaded the What a Joke National Comedy Festival, a series of simultaneous standup showcases in cities all over the country (with a European outpost held in Oxford, England) with the shared goal of raising funds for the ACLU while laughing all the way through Trump's inauguration. Join co-hosts Timmi Lasley (creative director of El Charrito's Comedy Room Room) and Kyle Pogue (co-founder of Fort Comedy), who've invited Christie Buchele and Chicago's Brittany Meyer to join other surprise guests, for the Denver edition of What a Joke. Though the shows aren't directly affiliated with the ACLU, proceeds from ticket sales and prize raffles will be donated to the organization. Hate may have taken the electoral college, but laughter can still win the day.
Read on for five more of January's best comedy shows.
6. Jamie Lee
Comedy Works Downtown
Jamie Lee is a writer and standup comedian who's performed on late-night staples such Conan, The Late Late Show with James Corden and Chelsea Lately. A semi-finalist on Last Comic Standing, Lee is a natural crowd-pleaser who can currently be seen on MTV's Girl Code and TruTV's Ten Things. She also hosts the podcast Jamie Lee's Best of the Worst, a weekly celebration of flaws and failures available from Headgum. Her new book, Weddiculous, which deftly mines the absurdity of the bridal experience for laughs, was recently published by Harper Collins.
Showtimes and admission prices vary. Visit Comedy Works' events calendar to learn more and buy tickets. Copies of Weddiculous can be purchased along with tickets, and Lee will be available for signings after the shows.
7. John Witherspoon
Veteran standup and character actor John Witherspoon exudes funny; his wide-eyed commitment and crackerjack timing allow him to wring even uninspired jokes from the Soul Plane script for every laugh they're worth. After starting his screen career as a regular performer on The Richard Pryor Show, Witherspoon worked constantly, making dozens of television appearances and stealing scenes in classic comedies like House Party, Boomerang and especially Friday, where Witherspoon's portrayal of Ice Cube's irascible father was so popular that his role was significantly expanded in the film's many sequels. All the while, Witherspoon has continued touring around the country to tell jokes with the vigor of a man thirty years his junior.
Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m.; tickets are $25. To get yours and for more information, visit the Denver Improv events page.
8. Gary Gulman
Comedy Works South
Six-foot-six frame notwithstanding, Gary Gulman has been a massive influence on subsequent generations of comedians. A former high-school teacher who reportedly used to test material on his students, Gulman commits to absurd premises like the imagined documentary he describes in the embedded Conan clip above. A twenty-year veteran of the stage and mic, Gulman has earned the rare distinction of having appeared on every late-night comedy program, recorded five standup albums and done two specials for Comedy Central.
Showtimes and admission prices vary. Visit Comedy Works' events page to learn more and buy tickets.
Friday, January 27
Soiled Dove Underground
Best-of-Denver award-winning showcase Propaganda! returns this month. Though producer Matt Monroe resides in Portland these days, he still books the lineups and promotes the show remotely while local mainstay Eric Henderson hosts the show in Monroe's stead. After years of Sunday nights at the Clocktower Cabaret, Propaganda! has relocated to the home and time slot of Monroe's Underground Comedy Showcase, the Soiled Dove Underground. With a lineup boasting Denver favorites like Rachel Weeks, Nathan Lund and headliner Adam Cayton-Holland, it's a fitting welcome home for one of Denver comedy's longest-running and most beloved comedy shows.
Doors open at 7 p.m. for an 8 p.m. showtime. Tickets are $10 via Ticketfly.
10. Kathy Griffin
Saturday, January 28
Kathy Griffin is a writer, actor, television mainstay and astoundingly prolific standup comedian who has achieved a record-breaking number of career milestones since getting her start in the venerated Groundlings improv troupe during their mid-’80s salad days. Appearing in everything from Pulp Fiction and The Muppets to Seinfeld, Griffin endeared herself to audiences with her refusal to suffer fools, leavening her sharpest barbs with a healthy dose of self-deprecation. She currently holds the Guinness World record for number of televised specials, and her album Calm Down Gurrl won a Grammy in 2014. Fresh off her New Year's Eve co-hosting gig, Griffin storms into town this month with a new hour of hot takes.
Showtime is at 8 p.m.; tickets are $39.50 to $79.50. To get yours, call 303-623-0106 or visit the Paramount Theatre box office page.
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Hot Ticket Alert: Chris Rock
The monthly nature of these events calendars means that certain shows will always be overlooked. It's pretty common for top-tier comedians to sell out a venue months before their show dates. For instance, Louis CK is appearing at the Bellco Theatre on January 17, but the event sold out weeks ago, and there's little sense in writing up a show our readers won't be able to attend. In order to avoid such instances in the future, Westword introduces the Hot Ticket Alert, a feature that notifies our readership of big upcoming shows likely to sell out long before the monthly lists are written. Tickets remain for a pair of showcases from Chris Rock at the Bellco Theatre. Arguably the sharpest comic of his generation, Rock has branched out into acting, writing and auteur filmmaking, but he hasn't performed in Denver for years. Heed the alert and make haste!
Showtimes are at 7 p.m. Admission prices range from $49.50 to $125 at axs.com.