As the first meek rays of April pierce through the gray clouds of March, comedy blossoms in the hopeful light. This month's calendar overflows with shows to suit each and every comedic taste, from sophists to sophisticates. Such national names as Godfrey and Norm Macdonald will return to our fair city, and several locals will celebrate the end of an era. And if you mumble three old tweets into a bong, Doug Benson will probably appear, like a dab-besotted Beetlejuice. Read on for the ten best comedy events in April, listed in chronological order.
10) Jim Norton
through April 4
Comedy Works Downtown
Jim Norton is an advocate of brazen, uncompromising honesty. A comic's comic who honed his skills in the unforgiving rooms of New York City, Norton has developed a cult following over his long career. In addition to his longstanding co-hosting gig on the massively popular radio program The Opie Show (formerly Opie & Anthony), Norton has also turned up on comedy-nerd favorites such as Louie and Inside Amy Schumer. A rabid defender of free speech, Norton recently hosted a delightfully weird interview talk show for VICE and penned an opinon column for Time magazine. For showtimes and tickets, go to the Comedy Works website.
The 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 and Phat Girlz. 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. Showtimes are 7:30 and 9:45 p.m.; tickets cost $16 on the Denver Improv website.
8) Marlon Wayans
Comedy Works South
Few performers of any kind have careers as varied as Marlon Wayans. An actor with a filmography that veers wildly from genre to genre, including action tent poles GI Joe:The Rise of Cobra and heart-wrenching dramas like Requiem for a Dream, he specializes in ribald horror parodies such as the Scary Movie franchise and high-concept comedies that require elaborate special effects make-up, like White Chicks and Little Man. A consummate entertainer, in recent years Wayans has branched out into standup, following in the footsteps of his famous siblings. As the premiere date of his new NBC variety show I Can Do That approaches, Wayans will be in full-on grind mode when he takes the stage at Comedy Works South. For showtimes and ticket prices, go to the Comedy Works website.
7) Something Fabulous
Saturday, April 18
Blush & Blu
Something Fabulous is the brainchild of local comedian and activist Jordan Wieleba, who designs her own posters in addition to booking, hosting and promoting her show each month. Fusing the disparate but oddly complementary disciplines of standup comedy and burlesque, Something Fabulous is a fun-filled and inclusive evening with something to offer all but the most close-minded of audiences. And it's a banner show this month, featuring local standups Jill Tasei, Leif Cedar, along with Stacy Roquemore, Adrianne Airhart and Aristotle Georgeson from Los Angeles and burlesque from Kitty Crimson and Honey Heartbreaker from Ooh La La Presents, scored by music from Blush & Blu house DJ Jody B. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. for show at 8:30; tickets are $5 at the door.
6) Arguments and Grievances
Sunday, April 19
Vine Street Pub
Standup comedy requires a skill with rhetoric usually reserved for debate-team captains. It's fitting then, that a monthly showcase for local and traveling comics has become such a steadfast home for Denver's contentious chuckling muckrakers. An evening of laughs, cheer and craft beer hosted by local wiseacre Kevin O'Brien, Arguments & Grievances is a local comedy institution. With a lineup featuring Chuck Roy, James Draper and debut debater Zac Maas, the headlining debate this month is between heavy-hitters and arguably Denver's best joke-writers: Aaron Urist and the Los Angeles-bound Chris Charpentier square off on Life vs. Death. The show is at 10 p.m. and admission is free, but that's no excuse to behave like a bag of human garbage.
5) Greg Proops
Comedy Works Downtown
Greg Proops first gained national attention as a wry yet theatrical improviser on the late-'90s smash Whose Line Is It Anyway? but he's avoided the family-friendly pitfalls of his former co stars. A raconteur and standup with almost vaudevillian lounge-lizard sensibilities, Proops also fancies himself as something of a public wit, as evidence dby his fantastic podcast, the humbly titled Smartest Man in the World. Proops' act is always worth catching, but dedicated listeners won't want to miss a live recording of the "Proopcast." For showtimes and tickets, go to the Comedy Works website.
4) The Last Grawlix
The Bug Theatre
It's hard to overestimate the influence of The Grawlix. There had been brilliant comics in Denver for decades before they arrived, but since their nascent days as Los Comicos Super Hilariosos, these comedians have done more than anyone else to grow the local comedy scene. And now comes their final show. Though the precise lineup is not yet in place, the power trio of Andrew Orvedahl, Ben Roy and Adam Cayton-Holland are the true draw. As they go into production on the first season of their Tru TV comedy series, Those Who Can't, the Denver-bred comics have relocations to Los Angeles to navigate and ten episodes to produce, and so they must bid their hometown adieu. Those experiencing difficulty letting go can kick off this farewell weekend with a screening of every episode of the Grawlix web series starting at 8 p.m. on April 22 at the Alamo Drafthouse before two final shows at the Bug. If you've never been to a Grawlix show before, here's your last chance to see what the scene's old gadabouts are so sad about this month. Shows are at 10:30 p.m., and tickets are $10 at the door.
3) Norm Macdonald
Comedy Works South
Though best remembered from his long stint on Saturday Night Live as one of Weekend Update's most brilliant yet divisive anchors, Norm Macdonald is a deconstructionist standup comedian whose podcast Norm Macdonald Live! is an underrated gem.Though his brief post-SNL screen career peaked with the eponymous sitcom Norm and the cult-classic film Dirty Work, Macdonald has never ceased to be bafflingly funny. Hilarious in the face of tragedy, as demonstrated in his last special, Me Doing Standup, he has a commitment to shaggy absurdism can unnerve some viewers. But they're missing out: Tuning into Macdonald's weird wavelength is a truly singular comedic experience. Showtimes are at 7:15 and 9:45 p.m., and tickets are $35 on the Comedy Works website.
2) Paula Poundstone
Saturday, April 25
The Paramount Theatre
Paula Poundstone is an icon of the standup medium. Despite achieving only fleeting success on television, Poundstone has toured the country telling jokes for over thirty years, winning awards and penning a handful of bestselling books along the way. Instantly recognizable for her pantsuits and cat-jokes persona, and beloved by the totebag-toting listenership of National Public Radio, where she serves as a panelist on the weekly quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me, Poundstone remains quick on her feet and prone to riffs that make sure no two shows are exactly alike. Included on lists of both the best and the worst comedians of all time, Poundstone's influence on the craft of standup is undeniable. Shows are at 8 p.m.; tickets start at $38 at Altitude Tickets.
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Sunday, April 26
Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret
Over the past few years, Matt Monroe has emerged as one of the savviest ambassadors of the Denver comedy scene, leveraging connections made during his frequent travels to pack his show with out-of-town crushers. His Westword-lauded monthly showcase Propaganda! returns with a lineup that boasts some of the finest chuckle merchants from across the land, including Sean Green and Tess Barker from Los Angeles and Matt Gubser and Keith D'Souza from San Francisco. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the show at 8; admission is free.
Follow Byron Graham on twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words.