Arts and Culture

Open Mic Check: Comedy Works New Talent Night

Yuk it up along with some of the best crowds in the city at Comedy Works' New Talent Night.
Yuk it up along with some of the best crowds in the city at Comedy Works' New Talent Night. Andrew Bray
The Denver comedy scene would be unrecognizable without the influence of Comedy Works. Since long before standup open mics started popping up in local bars and breweries every night of the week, the acclaimed club has provided aspiring funny people with their first shots at the spotlight, introducing Colorado comedy fans to the city's future crushers. While weekend headliner shows are the bread and butter for the club's Downtown and South locations, the weekly New Talent Night is the secret lifeblood of Comedy Works.

A career launching pad for Denver-bred favorites like Josh Blue, John Novosad and the Grawlix, New Talent Night is standing strong well into its third decade of existence, shining a steadfast beacon for fledgling comics and local chuckle-hunters in the mood for a surprise.

Open Mic Check, Westword's ongoing inventory of the overlooked corners of the Mile High standup scene, continues with a drop-in at the show that started it all: Comedy Works' New Talent Night.

The room:

Much like fungi, comedy thrives in a crowded and dimly lit subterranean environment, and Comedy Works' LoDo outpost — where the vast majority of New Talent Night showcases take place — offers an ideal ecosystem for laughter to multiply. Low ceilings and intimate seating unite the club's booze-lubricated crowds in cozy anonymity, freeing spectators to guzzle and guffaw the night away without fear of judgment from their fellow patrons. Ushers gently guide guests toward the front of the room into tightly packed rows, preventing large gaps in the audience and fostering a sense of community, even when the turnout is low. In another performer-friendly feature, the club requires each ticket holder to zip their phones into a Yondr pouch, which reduces distractions.

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Miriam Moreno hosts New Talent Night at Comedy Works Downtown.
Andrew Bray
The host:

Unlike most open mics, New Talent Night rotates among different emcees every week. Hosts generally sign up on a standby list and get selected to lead the show a mere fifteen minutes before curtain call. Miriam Moreno made an auspicious debut in her first emcee spot, winning the crowd over with a series of pitch-black jokes delivered with wry panache. New Talent Night co-coordinators Roger Haak and Elliot Woolsey check in with each comic after their respective sets to provide helpful feedback, a tradition created by sorely missed local comedy mentor Deacon Gray.

The crowd:

Abetted by a two-drink minimum and freed from the distraction of their smartphones, Comedy Works audiences are uncommonly attentive. This is the place where local comics come to slay with their new jokes. Even during the holiday season, when the seats are packed with corporate parties and family reunions, the club draws some of the most appreciative crowds in the city.

Memorable sets:

Last Tuesday's New Talent Night boasted a lineup filled with prodigal comics who were back in town for the High Plains Comedy Festival, so Denver comedy diehards relished the opportunity to see returning favorites like Stephen Agyei, Kevin O'Brien, Mara Wiles, Matt Monroe and Nolawee Mengist.

Call Comedy Works New Talent Hotline, 303-477-7844, to sign up. Unlike most open mics, the list is curated, so it might take eight to ten weeks to get on. New Talent Night happens at 8 p.m. every Tuesday at Comedy Works, 1226 15th Street. Tickets are $12 and available at the Comedy Works box-office page.
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Byron Graham is a writer, comedian and gentleman thief from Denver. Co-host of Designated Drunkard: A Comedy Drinking Game, the deathless Lion's Lair open mic and the Mutiny Book Club podcast, Byron also writes about comedy for Westword. He cannot abide cowardice, and he's never been defeated in an open duel.
Contact: Byron Graham

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