Since 1990, Wits End Comedy Club has held down a corner of Westminster, nurturing the fledgling careers of local comedians while drawing only the heartiest or free-ticket-havingest of crowds to the north suburbs. Wits End claims to be the first comedy club in history opened by women, though sustained ownership of the club has proved to be something of a fiscal hot potato.
In a press statement, current owner and hot potato dropper John Bauers cites the club's continued fiscal insolvency as the reason for its imminent closure. While Denver's booming stand-up scene inspired a slow resurgence of new talent, it did not do enough for business. "Progress has been steady, but just not fast enough to make keeping it open feasible," Bauers admits. "We suspect the other comedy clubs in town are importing their jokes from China, and given our commitment to American humor, we just can't compete with the cheap comedy."
Many comedians are sad to see Wits End go, and a few agreed to share their memories, fond and otherwise, of their time performing at the club.
"Wits End was always a great room for new comics to get stage time in a club," says local comic Christie Buchele, who hosts the Voodoo open mic. "When you are new. it is harder to get time in the A clubs and Wits End always supported us."
Comedy contests, like factories of bruised egos and broken dreams, are nevertheless formative in the experience of a developing comedian -- and Wits End's Survival of the Wittiest contest was no exception. Sam Tallent of the Fine Gentleman's Club "ate it in grand style for about twenty minutes" in front of his bemused mom, he says, adding that his mother told him "the audience did not care for you in the least."
Gadabout Jordan Doll, who described his contest set as "a regular jokepocalypse," was nonplussed when he couldn't see the "weedy" five-minute light and subsequently had the sound cut off during his performance. "So basically yeah, Wits End, a place I stopped by to drop off twenty bucks that one time," he jokes.
Jodee Champion says that what she'll always remember about Wits End is Davis's dirty joke book. "When working at the club, comics handwrite their entries into it," she notes. "I don't think anyone who wasn't a comic would be able to stomach more than two pages of these jokes. This three-ring binder collection is proof that the uncensored mind of a comedian is a filthy, violent, racist, sexist and offensive place. It was beautiful. I will miss it dearly."
While the closure of Wits End is sure to leave a trail of disappointment in its wake, new opportunities could yet emerge. "In a 'small' big city like Denver with so much talent, we need clubs that's allow comic to grow and hone their skills," says Ladyface lady Mara Wiles. "Hopefully, with the passing of Wits, other clubs and venues will open to fill the void left behind with its closing."
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Wits End is throwing a farewell party this weekend. Its final show is Saturday night.