The holiday season offers something special for everyone, but the Comedy Works Holiday Roast
is decidedly not for the whole family. The venerable Denver standup club is hosting ten comedians from around the city to perform as classic holiday characters who battle each other with insults.
, who plays the Grinch in this year's show,
says the concept began as "The Gutcracker," a holiday-themed show at Comedy Works thrown by the late Deacon Grey
in 2015. Grey kept the "elaborate" Nutcracker costume, later setting out to find another use for it and create more holiday content. In 2016, the first Holiday Roast was performed, with Grey participating in the first two years.
The current iteration, which will be held at the underground Larimer Square venue on Sunday, December 19, is a far cry from most roasts and holiday comedy shows. While the jokes are at the expense of other characters, there's no "winner" crowned at the end. "It's not who wins; it's let's win this as a team," says Gill, who is also a producer behind the roast.
Gill explains that most of the comics perform corporate holiday shows that are watered down to be more audience-friendly. The Holiday Roast
, however, is completely unfiltered, and Gill says if there's one thing people should be prepared for, it's the vulgarity. After all, the butt of the jokes are not just beloved literary characters; they are also religious icons. "Don't bring your grandma unless you have the coolest grandma in the world," he warns.
"The fun part about this show is the angles of the characters," notes Gill. Although the characters have largely remained the same since the first show, their depiction changes with almost every performance. This year's Jesus is a skater punk who turns water into White Claws. The Grinch still loathes everything Christmas but is an enthusiastic Donald Trump loyalist.
Characters include Santa Claus, Scrooge and a Christmas turkey.
The characterization depends on the performers, and there's no permanent roster. While the majority of the comics lined up in 2021 have done the show previously, there are a few newbies: Miriam Moreno
, Michael Issacs
, Patrick Richardson
and Jacob Rupp
. "It's fun giving them an opportunity, because they really take it seriously, and they knock it out of the park," Gill says.
The lineup includes Isaacs as Scrooge, Rupp as an elf, Richardson as Frosty the Snowman, Moreno as the Virgin Mary, Matt Cobos
as Jesus Christ, John Novosad
(aka Hippieman) as a Christmas turkey, Ben Bryant
as Santa Claus, Nathan Lund
as a Christmas tree, Troy Walker
as Rudolph and Steve Gillespie
as a backup/standby performer.
The show lasts a little over an hour, with Santa Claus typically opening. Jesus closes the night — after all, it is his birthday celebration, Gill says. With both a producer and a comic mindset in play, Gill dictates the order of performers with precision. The performers also meet several days before the show to ensure there are no repeat jokes. Of course, there are a few downsides to being a producer, namely organizing comedians who thrive off spontaneity. "Corralling nine to ten comedians, it's like herding cats," Gill laments. "It sucks."
But the holiday roast is still one of his favorite shows of the year, in his favorite venue in the country. From the ridiculous concept to the sometimes stupid costumes, he maintains that the sheer creativity of it all is like "watching magic in front of you."
Holiday Roast is a 21+ event, 7 p.m. Sunday, December 19, Comedy Works, 1226 15th Street; get tickets, $14, and more information at the Comedy Works website.