Though most Denverites prefer to while away their hazy August days with poolside day-drinking and late-summer languor, their ventures into the temperate night will reward them with a bounty of belly laughs. Our city's fine comedy clubs, theaters and breweries have shows to suit every taste and budget. Despite the caliber of chucklesmiths visiting our sun-dappled city this month, many of the shows listed here are produced locally, including the Third Annual High Plains Comedy Festival, whose schedule is so packed with comedic delights it'd be impossible for one person to see everything. The ten best comedy events in Denver this August demonstrate, yet again, that standup comedy is thriving in this city.
10. Willie Barcena
July 30-August 2
The Denver Improv
In his twenty-year standup career, Willie Barcena has recorded two specials, hosted the Latino Laugh Festival and its television show, and appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno twelve times. Barcena's last special, I Gotta Be Honest, aired on Showtime in 2012 and he hosts on ongoing podcast with the same name. Performing for the troops in Afghanistan and never forgetting his working-class roots, Barcena's act remains relatable even at this late stage of his career. Among his many hard-earned accolades, Barcena also has the dubious distinction of being one of the most high-profile victims of Carlos Mencia's joke thievery. Luckily for the Improv crowd coming to see him during this month-straddling engagement, Barcena's material is always better when he's delivering it.
Showtime is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, with additional 9:45 p.m. late shows on Friday and Saturday. Tickets cost $16 on the Denver Improv website.
9. Uncalled Four
Thursday, August 13
The Oriental Theater
The brainchild of Zac Maas and Jake Browne, who also co-host the Whiskey & Cigarettes podcast, Uncalled Four is loosely inspired by the popular game Cards Against Humanity. Each show calls upon comedians and audience members to generate their own cards, each more irreverent then the last. Join host Browne, referee Maas and cardmaster Samantha Taylor as they oversee this month's contestants descend into gleeful wickedness. Daniel Reskin, Phil Palisoul, Jordan Doll and Preston Tompkinson step up the dick-joke dais and kick off a new round of competition in Uncalled Four's never-ending quest to find "Denver's Worst Person."
Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets cost $5 plus fees from EventBrite.
8. Craig Robinson
Comedy Works South
Though he's most recognized for his scene-stealing roles in The Office, Pineapple Express and Hot Tub Time Machine, Craig Robinson has been performing music and comedy for years. In town this month to tickle ivories and fancies in equal measure, Robinson is a singular and unpredictable comedic talent. This is an ideal chance for Denver comedy fans to catch Robinson before the next phase of his career begins — his eponymous sitcom Mr. Robinson, which is loosely based on the pre-fame years he spent moonlighting as a substitute music teacher, premieres August 5 on NBC.
Showtimes and ticket prices vary. Go to Comedy Works' website for more information.
7. Comedy Night at Chain Reaction
Friday, August 14
Chain Reaction Brewing Company
Though brewery shows run the risk of poor acoustics and beery hecklers, Comedy Night at Chain Reaction Brewing Company succeeds due to well-curated lineups and the full support of its fledgling venue. Comics who can meet the raucous energy of the crowd are rewarded with gales of hearty chortles. Joining host Steve Vanderploeg this month are local jokesters Roger Norquist, Matt Monroe, Nora Lynch, Dick Black and out-of-town guest Jason Ley. Come see why Westword called Comedy Night at Chain Reaction 2015's Best New Comedy Show.
6. Cristela Alonzo
Named one of L.A. Weekly's 10 Comics to watch in 2014, Cristela Alonzo started her career touring with Carlos Mencia, going on to be a staff writer on Mind of Mencia before branching out into shows at colleges and comedy clubs. After making strong appearances on @Midnight, Conan and Last Comic Standing as well as shooting her own Comedy Central half-hour special, Alonzo got the chance to create in the eponymous ABC sitcom Cristela — which, despite its brief episode count, maintains the designation of being the first network television series with a Latina star and show runner. Standup has always been Alonzo's wheelhouse, however, so comedy fans should seize the opportunity to catch her new act at one of the best comedy clubs in the country.
Showtimes and ticket prices vary. Go to Comedy Works' website for more information.
5. Lucha Libre & Laughs: Ratio Rumble
Tuesday, August 18
Westword is unabashed in its love for Lucha Libre & Laughs. Comparing LLL to other standup shows is almost unfair, since so few of them offer the bright costumery and thrilling derring-do that the growing brand is known for. It's hard to think of any event that wouldn't be improved with a little choreographed fisticuffs —everything from bar mitzvahs to presidental debates could use a few body slams to spice up the proceedings. Squaring off in brewery-cum-wrestling rings this month are Lonnie Vadez, The Gothic Superstar Ronin, Elektro and Bruce Rogers before Danger Dean clashes with Xander Creed for the main event. As always, each match is leavened by hilarious color commentary from Fine Gentleman Sam Tallent and Nathan Lund. Come see why Westword called Lucha Libre & Laughs Denver's Best Comedy night of 2015.
The first match kicks off the turnbuckles at 7 p.m. Admission is free, so buy a beer.
4. Ron Funches Live Album Recording
Exuding giggly lovability as well as a zen-like center of calm, the comedic persona of Ron Funches is completely sui generis. Like a human Pokémon, Funches is almost cartoonishly adorable — it's no wonder he's found a home doing voiceover work for animated shows like Bob's Burgers and Bojack Horseman. In addition to gently telling his jokes on Conan and The Tonight Show, Funches Kroll Show and Portlandia sketches. He's also the reigning champion of the Internet on @Midnight, and an ensemble cast member of the sitcom Undateable, which was recently renewed for a second season by NBC. Continuing a tradition that includes Dave Attell's dick-joke masterpiece Skanks for the Memories, Funches is recording his debut standup album at Denver's venerated Comedy Works, whose subterranean ambience also creates fine acoustics for recording.
In addition to his headlining engagement at Comedy Works, Funches will also be participating in the High Plains Comedy Festival, sitting down with Kevin O'Brien and Taylor Gonda for a live These Things Matter podcast recording at 4 p.m. at the Hi-Dive on August 22.
Showtimes and ticket prices vary. Go to Comedy Works' website for more information. Since this is a live album recorded, use of cell phones is prohibited.
3. Fortune Feimster
Comedy Works South Fortune Feimster gained her acclaim as a semi-finalist on the seventh season of NBC's newly resurrected Last Comic Standing. A writer and panelist on Chelsea Lately throughout the show's shade-throwing heyday, Feimster is an alumni of Los Angeles' prestigious Groundlings comedy troupe. Over the years of writing and touring, Feimster has cultivated a unique comic voice, one capable of reaching her particular audience in a way none other can. With a rapidly developing career that includes such highlights as being featured with Handler at Caesar's Palace and opening for Dave Chapelle on the Oddball Comedy Fest, Feimster is at the top of her game.
Showtimes and ticket prices vary; go to Comedy Works' website for more information.
2. The Third Annual High Plains Comedy Festival
Check the High Plains website for a full list of participating venues.
High Plains Comedy Festival co-founders Andy Juett and Adam Cayton-Holland have greedily stacked the lineup with over seventy of the best comics in the country, including but not limited to Jonah Ray, Karen Kilgariff, Brody Stevens and Nikki Glaser and comedy trio Power Violence. They join such returning fest champions as Beth Stelling, Sean Patton and Kurt Braunholer, and all invade the Baker neighborhood for a weekend-long giggle gauntlet. To top it off, the organizers scored fearsome headliner Anthony Jeselnik, recently seen livening up NBC's unloved-yet-undying Last Comic Standing franchise with his acerbic barbs for the judges and contestants alike. With local heroes such as the Grawlix, Louis Johnson and a reunited Fine Gentleman's Club representing the best of what Denver's comedy scene has to offer, the High Plains Comedy Festival is poised for its best year yet. In the interest of full disclosure and self-aggrandizement, I gladly report that I am amongst the seventy comedians selected to perform on a High Plains showcase.
1. Weird Al Yankovic: The Mandatory World Tour
Sunday, August 23
The Paramount Theatre
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Weird Al Yankovic, the cultishly beloved pop parodist and star of that underrated classic of '80s comedies, UHF, closes out the list this month with a pair of theater shows that are due to sell out any minute. A pop-culture mainstay, Weird Al has parodied artists both beloved (Michael Jackson) and nearly forgotten (Coolio). His unmistakable visage has appeared on The Simpsons (in cartoon form), Comedy Bang Bang, Behind the Music and most recently popped up for a cameo in Netflix's revival of Wet Hot American Summer. With fans of all ages, Yankovic has something for everyone, playing classics like "Eat It" and "Amish Paradise" as well as songs from his latest album, the chart-topping Mandatory Fun, which includes parodies like "Handy" as well as such original songs as "First World Problems."
Follow Byron Graham on twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words.