Tantalized by a glimpse of spring before our sunny hopes were dashed in snowbound oblivion, soggy and shivering Denverites are in need of a laugh. Fortunately, the entertainment calendar is chockablock with chuckles this April. With comedy legends new and old headlining our clubs and theaters, local shows that celebrate partnerships between comics and the weed and beer that fuels them, and a homegrown success story celebrating its biggest headliner yet, this month is flooded with rib-tickling revelry. Keep reading for the top ten, listed in chronological order.
10. April Fools Comedy Fever with Phil Palisoul
Saturday, April 2
Jake's Sports & Spirits
Jake's Sports and Spirits is a sports bar first and foremost, its every wall adorned with multiple televisions and its menu full of tasty game-day classics catering to every kind of fan. To the delight of its regular clientele, Jake's doesn't change its sporty ways on the semi-regular comedy nights. Sealed behind a remarkably noise-muffling curtain in an adjacent dining room, host Leif Cedar cultivates a remarkably club-like atmosphere during his comedy shows and stacks his lineups with multiple generations of Denver talent. Featuring local comedians Jason Keyes, Stacy Roquemore, Dickey Bill Wagner, Brian Justice and Vicki Edgar, the April foolery culminates with a headlining set from Phil Palisoul. Palisoul, who's written for sitcoms and performed all over the world, is an ace observational joke writer with surgical timing; this show is a rare treat for such an inauspicious yet surprisingly warm setting.
Showtime is 8 p.m.; admission is $3. Tickets are available via Jake's Sports & Spirts Facebook page and at the door.
9. Michael Blackson
The Denver Improv
Michael Blackson, the Ghanaian-born standup, adopted the King of Pop parodying stage name in the early '90s as he developed his act in the Philadelphia comedy scene. In addition to doing regular cross-country tours, Blackson has performed on The Arsenio Hall Show, BET's Comicview and The Mo'Nique Show. He's also dabbled in acting, turning up in Next Friday, 30 Rock and The Savages. A high energy performer with a truly unique comedic perspective, Blackson is the highlight of the month at the Stapleton comedy club.
Showtimes are 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. on the weekend, with an additional 7:30 p.m. show on Sunday. Admission is $25; tickets are available through the Denver Improv website.
8. Comedy Night at Chain Reaction
Friday, April 8
Chain Reaction Brewing Company
The Denver comedy landscape is currently littered with breweries that host some kind of standup showcase, but Comedy Night at Chain Reaction is where the trend started. Though its protean model spawned dozens of imitators, the Best New Comedy Show of 2015 has maintained a degree of success only rivaled by the simpatico Ratio Beerworks. The brainchild of former hockey buddies Chad Christofferson (who co-owns the brewery with his cousin Zack) and local standup Steve Vanderploeg, Comedy Night at Chain Reaction demonstrated the city's unquenchable thirst for craft beer and comedy pairings. This month's lineup includes Harris Alterman, David Glasspool, Jodee Champion and Philadelphia's Chris O'Connor joining headliner Aaron Urist for an evening of quaffs and laughs.
Showtime is 8 p.m. Admission is free, so go ahead and splurge on a fancy brew in a snifter glass.
7. Bill Maher
Saturday, April 9
The Paramount Theatre
Even after Bill Maher's decades in the limelight, the American public is still very much divided on what to make of him. But while people from every shade of the political spectrum may disagree with Maher's beliefs, few could deny his impact on the media landscape. Maher became a household name during the network run of his signature program Politically Incorrect — until he was fired in 2002 for making a controversial comment about the 9/11 hijackers. For over ten years, he’s seemed more at home on Real Time with Bill Maher, a wide-ranging political discussion that benefits from looser network restrictions on HBO. An outspoken atheist, Maher produced and starred in the comedic documentary Religulous, but he's remained a stand-up comic first and foremost. Maher recorded nine one-hour specials and continues to tour the country every year, including annual stops in Denver, presumably to sample our local cash crop.
Showtime is 8 p.m. Admission prices start at $55 plus fees via Altitude Tickets.
6. Dana Gould
Comedy Works Downtown
Dana Gould may not be a household name, but he's done more to shape the current generation's comedic sensibilities than many who are. Gould penned several classic episodes of The Simpsons during his seven-year tenure on the writing and production staff, and has also had memorable roles on Parks and Recreation, Maron and Family Guy. He hosts The Dana Gould Hour podcast and makes regular late-night appearances on Conan, @midnight and Real Time with Bill Maher; he also has two hilarious one-hour specials, Let Me Put my Thoughts in You and I Know it's Wrong, under his belt. Gould's last few engagements have been rescheduled, so Denver fans are delighted for the opportunity to finally see him at the historic club.
Showtimes and ticket prices vary. Go to Comedy Works' website to learn more and buy tickets.
Keep reading for five more shows.
5. Sexpot Comedy Presents: The Lucas Brothers
Wednesday, April 20
The Oriental Theater
Sexpot Comedy is celebrating 4/20 with a standup showcase packed fuller than a gravity bong. The nimble joke-jousting of Aaron Urist, David Gborie, Billy Wayne Davis, Noah Gardenswartz and Ester Steinberg joins newly-minted Sexpot host David Rodriguez for an embarrassment of comedic riches. Headliners Keith and Kenneth Lucas have a mellow absurdism onstage that's a perfect fit for the Denver-based brand; the identical twins have appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Arrested Development and 22 Jump Street and they co-created and voiced the FXX animated series Lucas Bros. Moving Co. Stoners are obviously welcome to attend, but the venue will likely face extra scrutiny on the holiday, so caution is the watchword for all ganja gremlins.
Doors open at 7 for the 8 p.m. show. Admission prices range are $25 in advance, $30 day of show; get them through the Oriental Theater website.
4. Wanda Sykes
Comedy Works Downtown
Wanda Sykes started her career under the tutelage of Chris Rock, who recognized her gifts and supported them with feature spots and eventually a slot on the writing staff of The Chris Rock Show. In the years since, Sykes has made a career of standing out in movies like Pootie Tang and Evan Almighty, as well as lending her instantly-recognizable voice to animated characters in Futurama, Rio and Bob's Burgers. In 2009, Sykes made history by crushing the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, becoming the first lesbian and the first black woman to host the prestigious event. These days, Sykes works as a producer and guest mentor to the contestants on the newly rebooted Last Comic Standing. Sykes, who returns to Comedy Works in May for another series of sold-out shows (the April dates were added due to such high demand), is as busy as ever, with a recurring role on the ABC sitcom Blackish and another Ice Age sequel in the works. These Denver shows represent a rare opportunity to catch a massive star in such an intimate setting.
Showtime is 9:45 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; every other show has already sold out. The few remaining tickets can be purchased from Comedy Works' website, but act quickly.
3. An Evening of Classic Lily Tomlin
Saturday, April 23
The Paramount Theatre
Lily Tomlin is a comedic pioneer, a movie star, a living legend and a feminist hero. The multi-talented Tomlin began her career as a panelist on that wacky staple of late '60s and early '70s television, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, before going on to star in a series of classic films that includes gems such as Nashville, 9 to 5, All of Me and I Heart Huckabees. Decades into her illustrious career, Tomlin is awash in accolades, having won an Emmy award for her role on the Netflix original series Grace and Frankie and received an Honorarium from the Kennedy Center. Join Tomlin for an evening in her capably hilarious hands and help support Colorado Public Television at the same time.
Showtime is 8 p.m. Admission prices start at $44 plus fees via Altitude Tickets.
2. Ian Abramson
Comedy Works Downtown
Standup can be a stubbornly hidebound medium, its rhythms predictable and its conventions established. Every once in a while, however, a comic emerges and deconstructs those conventions in deliriously funny ways, reveling in the untapped freedom that the stage provides. Perpetually costumed in a thrift-store blazer and vest, with a theatrical mustache penciled deliberately askew across his upper lip, Ian Abramson shatters preconceptions of what a comedian can do. He created the mindbending showcase 7 Minutes in Purgatory during his early days in Chicago, and seized upon a format that combines all the gutbustery of a standard comedy show with the morbid psychological fascination of the Milgram experiments. The festival favorite has featured comedians such as Lauren Lapkus, Brody Stevens and Kyle Kinane performing their jokes away from the audience (past locations have included a Chicago rooftop and the stretch of Ellsworth by Mutiny Information Cafe), wearing noise-cancelling headphones, utterly disconnecting them from the audience. The show was recently picked up by the Comedy Central Snapchat Discover Channel — a concept that we admittedly barely understand. Come check out Abramson's game-changing standup during the weekend and return Sunday evening for 7 Minutes in Purgatory.
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Showtimes and ticket prices vary; go to the Comedy Works' website to learn more.
1. The Underground Presents: Eddie Pepitone
Friday, April 29
The Soiled Dove Underground
Eddie Pepitone is a hero to a certain stripe of comedy nerd, so his debut in the Mile High City would be newsworthy on its own. But rather than appearing at a club or theater, he's headlining a local showcase produced by homegrown Denver comics Matt Monroe and Stephen Agyei. Monroe may now divide his time between Denver and Portland, but he intends to return to town every month to co-host the show, which often sells out weeks in advance. This month's lineup includes Michelle Biloon (Chelsea Lately) and Colorado favorite John "Hippieman" Novosad opening for the Underground Comedy show's biggest guest to date. With a lengthy IMDB resume that includes appearances in comedy classics such as Conan, Chapelle's Show, Old School and Bob's Burgers, Eddie Pepitone also has a new special, In Ruins, that sprinkles moments of cathartic hilarity into an apoplectic doomsday sermon. It's little wonder ,then, that the documentary Pepitone inspired is called The Bitter Buddha, and that his fan base sometimes borders on the devotional.
Doors open at 7 for the 8 p.m. show; admission is $10 via TicketFly.