The season of giggle-giving is upon us, and the city's comedy offerings are especially generous in the days ahead. Whether you prefer the experimental brilliance of alt-comedy pioneer Maria Bamford, the steady hands of veteran talk-show hosts like Arsenio Hall and Conan O'Brien, or the vampy vaudeville of a Drag Queen Christmas, there are many opportunities to laugh your way into the new year. Our picks for the best comedy events in December represent just a fraction of the comedic gifts this month; keep reading for ten holly jollies, in chronological order.
Saturday, December 1, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
The Stanley Hotel
Few standups have charted more unexplored comedic territory than Maria Bamford, an inimitably sui generis pioneer of her chosen medium. After co-starring with Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn and Zach Galifianakis in generation-defining alt-comedy series The Comedians of Comedy, Bamford continued to cheerfully subvert the comedy special format with her unpredictable joke structure and penchant for unconventional venues, such as her parents' living room in 2012's The Special Special Special!, along with park benches and bowling alleys in 2017's Old Baby. She's also appeared on shows like Arrested Development, Adventure Time, Fresh Off the Boat and the brilliant but tragically short-lived Lady Dynamite. Bamford kicks off a great month of comedy with a pair of headlining shows at the Stanley Hotel Concert Hall in Estes Park; visit the Stanley Live box-office page for tickets, $40, and more information.
Neal Brennan: Here We Go Tour
Saturday, December 1, 7:30 p.m.
The Oriental Theater
Neal Brennan may have started his career as a comedy-club doorman, but these days he's basking in the spotlight. Co-creator of Chapelle's Show and a writer for comedy staples like Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, Brennan eventually turned to the one field where his behind-the-scenes juice wouldn't matter: standup comedy. He's subsequently released two one-hour specials, including Comedy Central's Women and Black Dudes and the critically-acclaimed 3 Mics, which is available on Netflix. Brennan rolls through Denver with a new hour of fresh material when the Here We Go Tour stops by the Oriental Theater on Saturday, December 1. To buy tickets, $25, visit the Oriental Theater events calendar.
Thursday, December 6, through Friday, December 8
Comedy Works South
Dirty jokes and family members don't always mix, which is why the clean comedy of Henry Cho should be a safe bet when your relatives are in town. Cho, who's appeared on The Tonight Show and The Late Late Show, and recorded a one-hour special for Comedy Central called What’s That Clickin Noise?, specializes in the sort of lighthearted observations even a stodgy grandmother will find funny. Enjoy an evening full of laughter free from familial side-eye; head over to the Comedy Works box-office page for the complete schedule (showtimes vary) and tickets, $17 to $27.
Thursday, December 6, through Sunday, December 9, 7:30 and 9:45 p.m.
Pablo Francisco's uncannily broad vocal range lends itself to masterful impressions, evocative sound effects and human beatbox antics, and he takes full advantage of it at every show. A MadTV alum who went on to appear on Last Comic Standing, Comedy Central Presents and Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, Francisco has become a Denver Improv favorite, returning to the Mile High roughly once a year to bring the noise and the jokes. Find tickets, $25, and more information on the Denver Improv box-office page.
A Drag Queen Christmas: The Naughty Tour
Friday, December 7, 7 p.m.
Sashay this-a-way for a bell-tingling ball with the fierce and festive stars of RuPaul's Drag Race at "A Drag Queen Christmas: The Naughty Tour," which happily includes a stop in Denver. Join host Miz Cracker, along with a queenly cavalcade of such fan-favorite former contestants as Latrice Royale, Thorgy Thor, Monét X Change, Aja, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo and Farrah Moan, for a guffaw-filled evening of fabulous lewks and bawdy jokes. Love yourself, even if Santa disapproves; visit the Fillmore Auditorium events calendar for links to buy tickets, $87 to $233, and to learn more.
Conan & Friends: An Evening of Stand-Up and Investment Tips
Wednesday, December 12, 7:30 p.m.
The rigors of producing a one-hour talk show don't typically leave hosts with much time to hit the road, so an appearance by Conan O'Brien has local comedy nerds string-dancing in celebration. Presented by TBS and Team Coco, "Conan & Friends: An Evening of Stand-Up and Investment Tips" brings the ginger-coiffed showman with a crew of his favorite comedians in tow. Denver's edition welcomes Laurie Kilmartin, Moses Storm, Flula Borg and Ron Funches for an undiluted dose of O'Brien's madman antics, unencumbered by celebrity plugs and commercial breaks. Visit the Paramount Theatre box-office page to buy tickets, $49.50 to $74.50, and learn more.
Thursday, December 13, through Sunday, December 16, 7:30 and 9:45 p.m.
Comedy is never more cathartic than when it's steeped in pain, and the multi-talented Cocoa Brown is decidedly in the catharsis business. A comedian, playwright and character actor, Brown has performed standup on shows like Comic View and Showtime at the Apollo, and delivered both comical and dramatic turns in Tyler Perry's For Better or Worse and Single Moms Club, along with Breaking Bad and The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. There's a reason that Brown's fans have taken to simply calling her "The Truth." Hear the truth for yourself when Brown returns to Denver for another weekend full of glorious guffaws. Get tickets, $20, and find out more on the Denver Improv box-office page.
The Grawlix, Home for the Holidays: A Fundraiser
Saturday, December 22, 10 p.m.
Hark, the herald Grawlix sting at a dual celebration of the holiday homecomings and the upcoming third season premiere of Those Who Can't. The Denver-hewn standup trio, composed of Ben Roy, Andrew Orvedahl and Adam Cayton-Holland, returns to the Bug Theatre (former home of the collective's eponymous standup show) with a secret lineup of merrymakers for an off-season helping of High Plains Comedy Festival-curated hijinks. The early show sold out so quickly that the Grawlix added a reprise performance at 10 p.m., but tickets are going fast. Get them $20 pre-sale via Nightout, or $25 at the door in the unlikely event any are left. In cheerful accordance with the seasonal spirit of giving, the totality of the evening's proceeds will be split between the Mental Health Center of Denver and Trans Lifeline.
Sunday, December 30, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
The Stanley Hotel
Get ready to pump your fists and shake your bellies when broadcasting legend Arsenio Hall alights in the concert hall of Estes Park's reportedly haunted Stanley Hotel for a pair of performances on New Year's Eve eve. Best known as the host of The Arsenio Hall Show, Hall got his start on the Los Angeles standup circuit before landing supporting roles in Coming to America and Harlem Nights, and subsequently enjoyed a lengthy and varied on-screen career. Don't miss out on this benediction from comedy royalty; buy tickets, $40, and find out more on the Stanley Live box-office page.
Felipe Esparza: Bad Decisions Tour
Monday, December 31, 8 p.m.
Chuckle your way into the new year with Felipe Esparza, a woolly-maned madman of comedy rolling through Denver on the Bad Decisions tour to help fans notch up a couple more regrets before making their do-gooding resolutions. Winner of the 2010 season of NBC's Last Comic Standing, Esparza subsequently appeared on BET's Comic View, The Arsenio Hall Show and This Is Not Happening, and recorded a string of specials including They're Not Gonna Laugh at You and Translate This. Doors open at 7 for the 8 p.m. showtime, and tickets are $39 to $50 at Altitude Tickets.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.