February is a month that seems to call more for cozily hibernating than heading out into the night. But admitting defeat in the face of a storm is not the Denver way, and hearty city dwellers who brave the weather have plenty of opportunities to warm up with an evening of laughter. Despite the presence of top draws and comedy nerd icons in our clubs and theaters this month, the true highlight for diehard Denver comedy fans will be celebrating the premiere of Those Who Can't with our hometown heroes, The Grawlix. Locals who've supported the trio since their "Los Comicos Super Hilariosos" days can enjoy a smug sense of satisfaction that the rest of the country is only now catching up with something we've known was great for nearly a decade.
Keep reading for the top ten comedy events — and remember, these shows are listed in chronological order and not ranked.
10. John Witherspoon
The Denver Improv
Veteran standup and character actor John Witherspoon exudes funny; his wide-eyed commitment and crackerjack timing allow him to wring even uninspired jokes from the Soul Plane script for every laugh they're worth. After starting his screen career as a regular performer on The Richard Pryor Show, Witherspoon worked constantly, making dozens of television appearances and stealing scenes in classic comedies like House Party, Boomerang and especially Friday, where Witherspoon's portrayal of Ice Cube's irascible father was so beloved that his role was significantly expanded in the film's many sequels. All the while, Witherspoon has continued touring around the country to tell jokes with the vigor of a man thirty years his junior.
Showtime is 7:30 p.m. with additional late shows at 9:45 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $25, and available through the Denver Improv website.
9. Adam Sandler, Norm MacDonald, Rob Schneider and David Spade
Thursday, February 11
Saturday Night Live is such a legendary talent incubator that it's become an essential way station for comedic performers as they ascend through the industry. Four of its biggest stars — Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, David Spade and Norm MacDonald — had roots in standup comedy before parlaying their SNL notoriety into national stardom. For an entire generation of comedy fans who grew up obsessively re-watching Billy Madison, Tommy Boy, Dirty Work and,to a hopefully lesser extent, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, seeing all four of their favorites telling jokes on one stage is an unmissable nostalgia-fest. MacDonald, whose film and television career arguably hasn't quite achieved the luster of his peers, has inarguably the most weirdly singular comedic voice on the bill. Though his recent appearances as a judge on Last Comic Standing and the role of Colonel Sanders in KFC ads are little indication, MacDonald's wooly, halting rhythm and bizarre anti-logic push the boundaries of the standup form in exciting and unpredictable new directions. Meanwhile, we suppose it's nice to see the other three guys back on stage again.
Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. showtime. Admission prices range from $49.50 to $250 depending upon seating arrangements. Tickets are available from AXS events.
8. The Grawlix
Comedy Works Downtown
The Grawlix have come a long way since ascending from the ignominy of Colfax open mics. Andrew Orvedahl, Ben Roy and former Westword scribe Adam Cayton-Holland may be introducing themselves to national audiences only now, but Denver's known what the rest of the country has been missing for nearly a decade now. With the premiere of the scholarly sitcom Those Who Can't on the horizon, the Grawlix are returning to their home club for a party celebrating their television debut, followed by a headlining engagement through Valentine's Day weekend. TruTV's aggressive expansion into original comedy programming includes an omnipresent marketing campaign that frequently provokes the surreal sensation that comes from seeing faces, so familiar to their peers and longtime fans, plastered across massive billboards on Hollywood Boulevard, Times Square and the 16th Street Mall. A second season has already been given the green light, so it's doubtful that the Grawlix will remain Denver's secret much longer.
Go to Comedy Works' website for showtimes, prices and to buy tickets.
7. Allen Strickland Williams
Friday, February 12
Despite Denver's reputation as a haven for groundbreaking comedy, a whole generation of brilliant L.A. comics haven't yet cracked our comedy-club rosters despite the requisite smattering of television appearances. Fortunately, scene-building local comedians and producers have been welcoming crushers like Allen Strickland Williams here for years, much to the delight of forward-thinking crowds all across the city. The shows may be held in breweries, dive bars and community art spaces, but they're packed with appreciative audiences seeing some of the best comedy in the city. Ian Douglas Terry has forged a close and supportive relationship with Ratio Beerworks and brought a series of similarly ambitious showcases (including our beloved Lucha Libre & Laughs) into Ratio's garden light-festooned stock room for the past year. There's no more fitting headliner for Ratio's proud one-year anniversary than Williams, whose sharp attire and sharper one-liners have endeared him to local fans.
Showtime is at 8 p.m. Admission is free, but the room fills quickly so we recommend arriving early.
6. Bill Burr
Friday, February 12
Over the past few years, Bill Burr has transformed from a particularly daring comedian's comedian to a ubiquitous face (and voice) for Netflix binge-watchers. With a recurring role on Breaking Bad and scattered one-off appearances on a variety of shows ranging from Maron to Zombeavers, Burr took a giant leap forward in 2015 when F is For Family, the animated sitcom he voiced and co-created, was picked up for six episodes by the goliath streaming service. Burr's most recent specials, You People Are All the Same and I'm Sorry You Feel That Way, are excellent showcases for the Boston-hewn comic's fiery wit, but his weekly Monday Morning Podcast gives insight into the perspective that fuels his raving persona. With a hot new hour of jokes ready for Denver's discerning crowds, there's never been a better opportunity to catch one of few comics who successfully combines the gall to skewer sensitive topics with the skill to make viewers chortle over their own objections.
Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. showtime. Admission prices range from $39 to $59; tickets are available from AXS events.
Keep reading for five more shows.
5. Joel McHale
Comedy Works South
While his starring role on the low-rated but cultishly adored sitcom Community as well as his snarky tenure as the host of The Soup winding down, Joel McHale remains enviably overcommitted. With regular standup gigs and a recurring role on the newly resurrected X Files, McHale seems determined to maintain his pop-cultural ubiquity. While the joke game is something of a new endeavor for the Hollywood veteran, few comedians start out with as much panache or the built-in fan base of Joel McHale.
Showtimes are at 7:15 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. Admission is $39; tickets are available through Comedy Works' website.
4. The Doom Room Rides Again!
Thursday, February 18
The Crossroads Theater
The Doom Room has made a bumpy transition from Omaha to Denver. Despite delighting locals audiences in venues as disparate as the Bug Theater and the basement of 3 Kings Tavern, the show has faced difficulty finding a home and securing its place among Denver's unmissable local showcases. A new era may well be dawning, however, as Ian Douglas Terry and newly appointed guest host Matt Monroe move into the Crossroads Theater, which has proven to be an ideal — if unconventional — venue for live comedy thanks to the Agency's monthly showcases. Join Monroe and Terry along with comics Timmi Lasley, Ben Bryant, Steven Agyei and more for a thrillingly schadenfreude-filled show that challenges comics to forgo their set lists and riff on random topics that pop up on the screen of Doom.
Showtime is at 9 p.m. Tickets cost $5 at the door.
3. Bobcat Goldthwait
Comedy Works Downtown
Actor, filmmaker and alt-comedy pioneer Bobcat Goldthwait has forged a second career as the twisted auteur behind neo-cult classic films Sleeping Dogs Lie, God Bless America and World's Greatest Dad. While he's been pretty busy behind the camera for the past few years, directing several standup specials (including Patton Oswalt's Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals TIme) and episodic television — most recently for the first season of Those Who Can't — Goldthwait has found time to keep honing his craft as a standup comic, releasing a one-hour special called You Don't Look the Same Either in 2012. Though he's come a long way from nearly burning down the set of The Tonight Show twenty years ago, Goldthwait's anarchic energy still captivates.
Showtimes vary. Admission is $25, with tickets available through the Comedy Works website.
2. Tommy Davidson
The Denver Improv
Tommy Davidson is a skilled performer with a prolific television and film career that includes roles in shows like Martin and The Proud Family as well as such movies as Black Dynamite and Booty Call. After starting out in Washington, D.C., during the 1980s comedy boom, Davidson joined the all-star cast of In Living Color and earned accolades for his impressions of Sugar Ray Leonard, Michael Jackson and Sammy Davis Jr.. Davidson maintained his standup prowess, however, and is heavily featured in the documentary I Am Comic. His 1991 special, Illin' in Philly, is a classic, and his timing and poise have only improved over the intervening years.
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Showtimes vary; tickets are $20 on the Denver Improv website.
1. The Funky Brunch
Saturday, February 27
The brainchild of local comic and gadabout Mara Wiles, the Funky Brunch upends the rhythms of a traditional standup showcase to the delight and surprise of its hearty midday audience. Loosely inspired by Chicago's "Late Late Breakfast," Wiles brings the typically nocturnal beast of a comedy show roaring out into the light of day. Surprises abound each month, as the Funky Brunch presents its comedians with a roulette wheel of challenges, such as "The Wonder Woman," which requires standups to strike a heroic pose while the audience pelts them with marshmallows. Join guest host Timmi Lasley along with Los Angeles-bound headliner Jordan Doll and ayet-to-be-announced coterie of merry locals, quaff a tasty brew in Grandma's taproom, and get your day's supply of laughter before the sun goes down.
Showtime is at 2:30 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are strongly suggested.