Scruffy Murphy's Comedy Open Mic Survives Disappearing Hosts

Revelers at Scruffy Murphy's celebrating because it isn't open-mic night.
Revelers at Scruffy Murphy's celebrating because it isn't open-mic night. Aaron Thackeray
Can a comedy open mic be cursed?

Your answer might depend upon what era of Scruffy Murphy's Irish Pub you encountered. These days, the Tuesday night open mic at 2030 Larimer Street draws swarms of comics — along with a small but essential handful of onlookers — to the LoDo watering hole, achieving newfound stability thanks to its current host, up-and-coming comic Derek Walton.

Scruffy Murphy's open-mic night folded for the first time around 2012, and the original hosts quit performing altogether. A few years later, Meghan DePonceau attempted to revive the dormant show, and it got canceled again in fairly short order. Even the current iteration was abandoned by its original co-hosts, Grayson Nite and Roger Stafford, before Walton took over. Thanks to his enthusiasm, what had once been a sparsely attended afterthought (languishing in the shadow of the concurrent Best of Denver Award-winning mic at Black Buzzard), evolved into a decent place to watch comics try new jokes. 

The room: Don't let the bar's Emerald Isle theme or prominent location along the Larimer Street thoroughfare fool you; Scruffy Murphy's stands — however wobbly — among the few remaining dive bars of the Ballpark neighborhood, which means that the drinks are cheap and the human smells are pungent. (Rest in power, El Charrito.)

While the bar's weekday-drinking regulars tend to line up at the bar with their backs turned to the show they're trying to ignore, Scruffy Murphy's layout allows its various customers to co-exist despite their crossed purposes. The stage is set against the street-facing windows of a room adjacent to the main bar area, allowing patrons to peek into the showroom before deciding to sit down and watch the performers, thereby preventing the sense of getting ambushed by dick jokes.

The host: Walton is fairly new to the comedy game and only a few months into his tenure behind the mic at Scruffy Murphy's, yet his commendable improvements are a testament to what a fresh set of eyes can achieve. He also avoids comedy show emcee pitfalls like talking too much between performers, keeps things moving briskly, and tries to inject a bit of conviviality into a room that's mostly full of impatient comics.

Memorable sets: There were no hecklers or drunken injuries to disrupt what ended up being a fairly typical open mic. Open mic comedy may court chaos like few other entertainments, but sometimes it's nice to just kick back and watch comics hone their craft without any mishaps. Scruffy Murphy's may not be Denver's best mic, but it's the only one to escape a curse and live to tell the tale. 
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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