Christmastime is finally here, and while most readers would expect the local entertainment to cool down right along with the climate, Denver's creative community is hustling and bustling all the way through Christmas Eve. Indeed, even artsy locals who've gone to seek their fortunes elsewhere are home for the holidays, creating more opportunities than usual for Denver diehards to make merry. Luckily, anyone with a crisp Hamilton and an open mind can go for broke without going broke over the next few days. Keep reading for the ten best things to do in Denver this weekend for $10 and under.
Emerging Filmmakers Project Holiday Spectacular
Thursday, December 21, 7 p.m.
A local arts-scene institution that dates back to 2002, the Emerging Filmmakers Project has had untold influence on Denver's film scene. An essential networking and collaborative hub for every stripe of cinephile, the EFP celebrates community-building as much as it does films. Join host and local filmmaker Patrick Sheridan for a lineup of shorts including such intriguing titles as "(Because in the end) It's Only Helium," "The Dead Don't Dance" and more. The screenings are followed by lively discussions with the filmmakers, many of whom will be clad in ugly sweaters for the holidays. As usual, the EFP's $5 admission includes free beer and Sexy Pizza. Visit the EFP's Facebook events page to learn more.
The Tyranny of Tradition
Thursday, December 21, 9 p.m.
Syntax Physic Opera
An evening of titillating tickles awaits at the Tyranny of Tradition, a variety showcase packed with enough entertainment gifts to tuck under any Tannenbaum. The comely comedic cavalcade includes standup from Katie Bowman, Anthony Armstrong and Jillian Leigh, new sketches from Gaybies, and burlesque performances from Fuchsia La Fae, Jeanne Vaux and more. Tickets are $5 via Eventbrite and $7 at the door. Visit Chuckleheads Presents' Facebook events page for more details.
Thursday, December 21, 9 p.m.
The Deer Pile
Brian Flynn, a local comedian and co-host of The Revisionists podcast, has continued quiet but steadfast work on Nighttime Tonight for months now, assembling a team of eager locals to write jokes and pitch segments for a new showcase modeled after late-night staples like Conan and The Daily Show, along with just a dash of Shandling-esque internecine struggle. Mostly, however, Nighttime Tonight is intended to be a place where members of the Denver comedy community can gather and indulge their creative whims. The show has an altruistic component, as well: Flynn and company collect donations for a different charitable organization each month. In lieu of cash donations this month, Flynn and his co-producer Jen Kolic are collecting coats, toys, hand-warmers and any other goods that will help ease the suffering of people experiencing homelessness during the winter. Join Flynn along with December's guests Andres Becerril, Timmi Lasley, Arielle Kaplan and headliner Jordan Doll. Visit the Nighttime Tonight Facebook events page for more details.
The Nut House Comedy Show
Friday, December 22, 7 p.m.
The Walnut Room
While the classy stage at downtown Denver's Walnut Room typically hosts musical performances, the venue has recently branched out into standup with the Nut House Comedy Show. Booked and hosted by Alabama transplant Derrick Stroup, the Nut House has only been operational for a few short months, but has already welcomed some of Denver's funniest people to the mic. December's show is no exception, with local mirth merchants Nate Brown, Allison Rose, Matt Cobos and Harris Alterman opening for headliner Brent Gill, a local favorite who recently moved to Los Angeles. Visit the Nut House's Facebook events page to find more information.
Joke and Tell
Friday, December 22, 7 p.m.
El Charrito's Comedy RoomRoom
Inspired by nostalgic memories of Show and Tell from grade school, Steve Vanderploeg has been trying to get Joke and Tell off the ground for years. After taking a couple months off and tinkering with the format, the core idea of comics riffing about their prized possessions remains intact, only now there's a much bigger lineup and a Denver comedy-party atmosphere. Embark on a treasure hunt through the past with a bill of over twenty local comics including Jodee Champion, Nolawee Mengist, Nick Taravella and headliner John "Hippieman" Novosad. Be sure to stick around at El Charrito after the show ends to watch drunken comics warble their way through karaoke songs. Find more information, including the full lineup, on Joke and Tell's Facebook events page.
Friday Night Weird: Die Hard
Friday, December 22, 8:45 p.m.
Boedecker Theater, Boulder
While most Christmas movies are little more than empty schmaltz-fests designed for the whole family to tolerate, a curious subgenre of films has emerged over the past few years to subvert the faux-festive paradigm. Programming a list of movies that adopt the setting and iconography of the Christmas season while varying wildly in tone, Friday Night Weird's "Christmas/Not-Christmas Movies" series has a whole month of counter-programming in store for cinephiles whose holiday entertainment preferences skew more toward "humbugs" than "holly jollies." On December 22, the series peaks with the movie that started the whole anti-Christmas movie trend in the first place: Die Hard. Though its initial impact may be somewhat diminished by decades of inferior sequels and rip-offs, for action-addled cinephiles, Die Hard ranks right alongside It's a Wonderful Life in the holiday-movie pantheon. For more details and links to buy tickets, $6.50 to $12, visit the Dairy Center's box office page.
Midnight Madness: An American Tail
December 22 and 23, midnight
Though Landmark Esquire's Midnight Madness series is typically devoted to cult classics of dubious repute, Friday's programming offers a hit of pure childhood nostalgia just in time for the holiday season. An enduring classic from legendary animator Don Bluth, 1986's An American Tail portrays the American immigrant experience through the perspective of singing, doe-eyed critters like protagonist Fievel Mousekewitz. Showcasing lovingly hand-drawn characters and one of cinema's most wistful duets — seriously, if your eyes don't well up a bit during "Somewhere Out There," you might be a sociopath — An American Tail was in heavy VHS rotation for children of the ’80s and ’90s, and its charms haven't diminished with age. To learn more and buy tickets, $9.50, visit the Landmark Esquire box office page.
Harpoontang Rides Again
Saturday, December 23, 9 p.m.
One of the Denver creative community's fondest holiday traditions is celebrating the homecoming of local artists who've gone to seek their fortunes in cities with more opportunities, cheaper rent or both. In a fun-filled showcase that harks back to the salad days of Mile High DIY, Harpoontang is reuniting for a rollicking evening of music, comedy and good vibes. Hosted by erstwhile Fine Gent Chris Charpentier — who'll be joined by a surprise guest for a comedic debate — the show also spotlights Kitty Crimes doing hip-hop renditions of classic Christmas songs and Christmas renditions of classic hip-hop songs. Admission costs $10 via Brown Paper Tickets, where readers can also find more information.
Comedy Saved the Video Star
Saturday, December 23, 9:30 p.m.
Mutiny Information Cafe
While the music video is something of a lost art, relegated into nostalgia objects for millennials, the form is rife for comedic potential. Though the medium's highlights (anything directed by Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry, for example) can be considered art of the finest order, the majority of the genre consists of what are essentially commercials for songs starring musicians who lip-synch with unintentionally hilarious self-seriousness. J.D. Lopez, a local comic and host of the Left Hand, Right Brain podcast, is here to celebrate and mock music videos in equal measure with the monthly Comedy Saved the Video Star, an inventive showcase that invites comics to perform a set before riffing on a music video of their choice. Fans who show up early or hang out late can also watch all their old favorites in a low-key Total Request Live-inspired segment. For the December show, Lopez welcomes guests Mitch Jones, Georgia Rae and Adrian Mesa for a joke-driven trip down memory lane. Visit Comedy Saved the Video Star's Facebook events page to learn more.
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Christmas Eve at Saint Augustine's
Sunday, December 24, 11:30 p.m.
Saint Augustine Orthodox Church
While Westword clearly loves a bit of Christmas counter-programming, as the holiday itself draws nearer, the allure of ancient Yuletide traditions becomes harder to resist. Even non-believers should be able to appreciate the beauty of passing centuries-old music and ceremony on toward another generation. Gather with a crowd of the caffeinated faithful at Baker's Saint Augustine of Hippo Orthodox Christian Church for a pre-midnight-mass concert featuring seasonal hymnals like "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," "O Holy Night" and more performed by the Ambrosian Choristers, organist Francis E. Slectha, and conductor Jeff Talley. The production continues with a somber midnight mass featuring works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Peter Latona and John Rutter. Admission is free, but intrigued guests should register on Saint Augustine Church's Eventbrite page.
Looking for more to do? Visit Westword's calendar online.