Historically, the arrival of May Day signaled a call for celebration, for dancing around maypoles and leaving fresh flowers on strangers' doorsteps. And in Denver, comedy fans will find themselves presented with a May basket full of sun-ripened giggle blossoms to choose from all month long.
The Queen May is easily Comedy Works, with top-notch headliners at both clubs all through the month, including an ongoing visit from an increasingly less reclusive icon. Readers may in fact notice a suspicious absence of Dave Chapelle on this list, but those shows sold out mere hours after they were announced -- so including them in this list would be little more than an unnecessary reminder to all the Johnny-come-lately comedy fans missing out. (By all accounts, Chapelle's few late April shows were fantastic, so smug May ticket-holders are in for a treat.)
Fortunately, the comedy calendar is packed with other choice choices every week. Opportunities to see award-winning screen stars and living legends abound, along with conceptually novel local showcases which feature everything from the unlikely coupling of comedians and Luchadores to something fun for the moms -- who deserve it. Keep reading four our ten best comedy events in May...
10) Comics Against Civility Sunday, May 4 Voodoo Comedy Playhouse
When comedians take on civility, everyone wins. Loosely based on the game Cards Against Humanity, the show asks comics to pick an audience-suggested topic card, then riff some uncivil jokes based off what they see. This month, comedians Mike Jones, Todd Couch, David Glasspool and Nate Balding will compete for the title of "Denver's Least Civil Comedian," though this is just the second installment in an ongoing contest with many rounds yet to come. Hosted by Zac Maas and Jake Browne of the Whiskey & Cigarettes podcast, Comics Against Civility pushes comics into the spotlight without the crutch of their road-tested act, offering the audience something new each time. In honor of the unofficial May the Fourth be With You holiday, the topic cards will feature Star Wars-themed prompts. The show is under Sex Pot comedy's rotating Sunday night series of showcases, which differ from other shows at Voodoo. Past installments -- including Cartoons & Comedy and The Fine Gentleman's Club showcases -- have been pleasantly weird.
Doors open at 9:30 for the free 10 p.m. show.
9) Pump & Dump Mother's Day & Pump it Dance Party Saturday, May 10 Holiday Event Center
Moms are an underserved demographic whose entertainment options are usually governed by screaming children. Comedian and songstress Shayna Ferm gets it. She knows that moms have more on their minds then the comparative absorbency of major diaper brands and, furthermore, that they could use a damn break already. That's why she started Pump & Dump, which showcases comics with children bonding with their maternal audience over cathartic jokes that are far from the stale, family-friendly entertainment moms usually get.
Join Ferm, MC Doula and special guest and fellow Momedian Debbie Scheer for an evening of comedy, dancing and drinks. Mother's Day breakfast in bed will probably taste even better with a slight hangover. And mark your calendars: Next month's Father's Day show will be co-headlined by Grawlix dads Ben Roy and Andrew Orvedahl.
The Pump & Dump show starts at 8 p.m., followed by the Pump it Dance Party at 9:30 p.m. Tickets cost $20 for general admission and $30 for VIP, which includes preferential seating, two free cocktails and a swag bag. Both are available from the Pump & Dump website.
8) Lucha Libre & Laughs: LaughMania Sunday, May 11 Oriental Theater
Celebrating its one-year anniversary this month is the Lucha Libre & Laughs comedy and wrestling showcase. The brainchild of producer and often referee Nick Gossert, LLL hits the sweet spot where the concentric circles of comedy fans and wrestling nerds overlap. This month's event features comedy jams from Kristin Rand and Chuck Roy, followed by body slams with Delta Jr., El Tecolote and International Superstar Colt Cabana. Come to Laughmania to celebrate LLL's big achievement and get suplexed in the funny bone.
Doors open at 6; tickets cost $10 and are available from the Oriental Theater website. Keep reading for more of the best comedy events in May.
7) Godfrey May 8-11 Denver Improv
Godfrey is a dynamic live performer, known for his command of the stage and quick-witted crowd work. In 2011 he recorded his first one-hour special, Black by Accident, for Comedy Central. He's also appeared on shows like Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn and Louie, and in movies like Soul Plane, Zoolander andPhat Girlz. As a matter of fact, Godfrey's Phat Girlz co-star, Mo'Nique, will visit the Improv later this month. With the comparatively cheap tickets and high probability that each show will contain a moment that's impossible to reproduce, Godfrey might be worth seeing twice.
Shows begin at 7:30 p.m., with additional late shows at 9:45 p.m. on the weekend. Tickets cost $17 and can be purchased on the Improv's website.
6) John Mulaney May 8-10 Comedy Works Larimer Square
John Mulaney is an astoundingly accomplished young comedian who's performed on Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live and his own hilarious special, New in Town, for Comedy Central. A former writer for Saturday Night Live, Mulaney co-created Weekend Update correspondent Stefon, who became an instant entry into SNL's pantheon of classic characters. He also has a new sitcom, called simply Mulaney, premiering this fall on Fox. These just-announced shows are likely to be hot tickets, so act quickly.
Tickets, which cost $25 or $30 depending on the showtimes, are available from the Comedy Works website.
5) Mo'Nique May 16th-17 Denver Improv
Continuing its unofficial Phat Girlz cast reunion, Denver Improv has booked Academy Award-winning actress and Queens of Comedy star Mo'Nique for a special engagement. A twenty-year veteran of the club circuit, Mo'Nique has performed on Def Comedy Jam, Showtime at the Apollo and The View.
The early shows start at 7:30 p.m., with late shows at 9:45 p.m. Tickets to either cost $40 and are available from the Improv website. Keep reading for the rest of the best comedy events of May.
4) Dave Ross Wednesday, May 28 Deer Pile
During his month-long, cross-country tour that will culminate with his first headlining set at the venerable Hollywood Improv, Dave Ross will visit Colorado. In addition to standup, Ross performs with the all-male sketch group Women, whose brief, absurd video sketches have aired on Tosh.0.; he also co-hosts the podcast Terrified, on the Goliath Nerdist network, during which he talks to comedians and musicians about their fears and anxieties. In Denver to appear on the Fine Gentlemans' Club Too Much Fun showcase, where he absolutely destroyed last time, Ross should be every bit as funny as he is enterprising. Hot off the heels of a surprise headlining appearance by Dave Chapelle, the Gents started May off with a bang, and it looks like this will continue to be a banner month.
Too Much Fun begins at 10 p.m. and is always free; donations are welcome.
3) Sex Pot American Summer with Andy Kindler Sunday, May 30 Oriental Theater
As with a pair of twentysomethings in their first serious relationships, making it to six months is an important milestone for a monthly comedy showcase -- one that few ever reach. Organizers Andy Juett and Kayvan Khalatbari have had the right idea from the beginning, however, and consistently booked comedy nerd heroes to headline their Sex Pot shows. And this month's lineup, which includes a planned visit from Andy Kindler, the grouchy uncle of the comedy community, is no exception. While he's best known for recurring roles on Everybody Loves Raymond and Bob's Burgers, Kindler also wrote the infamous Hack's Handbook and is renowned for his harsh critiques of other comedians in an ongoing effort to elevate the form from within. With openers Bobby Crane, Mara Wiles, Christie Buchele and Chuck Roy, and Jordan Doll on hosting duty, Sex Pot American Summer promises to be a blazing good time.
Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. show. Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased through the Oriental Theater website.
2) Ron Funches May 21-24 Comedy Works Larimer Square
The Denver comedy scene has loved Ron Funches for years -- and pretty soon, so will the rest of America. As a writer for the Kroll Show who's turned in memorable performances in several sketches and landed a role on the upcoming NBC comedy Undateable, Funches has seen his star rise quickly. Continuing Comedy Works' month-long campaign to hoard all the comedy, Funches is bringing his dulcet-toned comedic stylings to the downtown club for a late May weekend.
Showtimes vary. Tickets, which cost $14 during the week and $22 for weekend shows, are available from the Comedy Works website.
1) Bobcat Goldthwait May 29-31 Comedy Works South
Actor, filmmaker and alt-comedy pioneer Bobcat Goldthwait closes out a stellar month of comedy at Comedy Works in particular and Denver at large. While he's been pretty busy behind the camera for the past few years, directing several episodes of IFC's Maron as well as neo-cult classic films God Bless America and the World's Greatest Dad, 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. Tickets cost $25 and are available from the Comedy Works website.
Quick note on methodology: Rather than submit great shows to an admittedly arbitrary ranking system, they're presented here in chronological order.
Follow Byron Graham on twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words.
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