Whether you've been staunchly making merry since Halloween or crankily sneer at holiday cheer each year, December is unquestionably dominated by its traditions -- driven by consumerism, religiosity and compulsory family bonding. This year, amid economic anxiety, polar vortexes and heartbreaking news reports, people might find themselves in dire need of a laugh. And while Entertainment is usually an afterthought in December, typically limited to agreeably mediocre Hollywood spectacles, Denver comedy bundles up and trudges on through the month. While we may have fewer high-profile visitors than during last month's banner programming calendar, we have a proliferation of locally-produced showcases that run the giggle gamut, including two live sketch comedy shows, on-the-rise comics and international TV stars with a devoted cult following. So brave the polar vortex and take a break from the seasonal doldrums at one of our top ten comedy shows, listed in chronological order.
See also: Playbill'sThree Holiday Stage Classics for Everyone
10) The Trailer Park Boys Tuesday, December 2 Bellco Theatre
The Trailer Park Boys are a cultural institution in their native Nova Scotia, and enjoy a cult following of stateside stoners and ne'er-do-wells. Their mocumentary-style television show has endured for nine seasons on various stations (including its current home, Netflix); they've also spun it off into over four movies, including 2014's The Trailer Park Boys: Don't Legalize It. The trio of protagonists -- Julian (John Paul Tremblay), Ricky (Robb Wells) and Bubbles (Mike Smith) -- have also toured extensively together and documented their experience in concert films like Live in Fuckin' Dublin. Denver, with its relaxed cannabis policies and general social politesse, is like America's Canada in many ways, so the Trailer Park Boys should feel right at home in the stony embrace of their local fanbase.
The show begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available from here; prices vary according to seating.
9) Nate Bargatze December 3-6 Comedy Works Downtown
Nate Bargatze has been on the cusp of stardom for a few years now. For a comic whose fanbase includes such luminaries as Marc Maron, Bargatze's act is much more approachable than his comic's comic reputation might suggest. Affable and generally TV-clean, Bargatze has a playfully dark sensibility that's buoyed by the innate comic timing of a Southern accent. He's appeared on Conan, Maron and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, who also featured Bargatze on his Clean Cut Comedy Tour. His debut album, Yelled at by a Clown, made it to the Billboard Top Ten Comedy Charts, and he's toured extensively with the USO, performing for deployed troops in Iraq and Kuwait. Bargatze has already endeared himself to Denver crowds with a strong showing on last year's High Plains Comedy Festival. (Check back with Show and Tell early next week for a full interview with Bargatze.)
Check the Comedy Works website for showtimes and tickets.
8) The Agency Thursday, December 4 Voodoo Comedy Playhouse
The Agency is a sketch-comedy group comprised of fledgling Denver standups Corey Rhoads, Robert Abbot, Matt Wayman and Walter Booth. After making a smashing debut last month, the Agency fellas have landed a regular show at the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse on Thursday nights. In addition to writing and performing a new live sketch each week, they'll also be producing a new video sketch for each show. This week's episode also features drop-in improv from The Chronicles of Ace Windu and Groptimus Prime (Asa Erlendsen and Chris Gropp) and an appropriately sketchy headliner in Sam Tallent.
The show begins at 9 p.m. Tickets cost $5 at the door and $3 through the Voodoo website.
7) Christopher Titus December 4-6 Comedy Works South
Christopher Titus is a singular voice in standup comedy, with a unique style and profound personal connection to his fans. Titus stood out early on with appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Premium Blend, and managed to turn his one-man show, Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding, into the eponymous sitcom Titus, which ran from 2000 to 2002 on Fox until it was cancelled following a dispute with executives. Titus remained prolific in the aftermath, releasing standup specials The Fifth Annual End of the World Tour, Love is Evol, Neverlution and The Voice in My Head in the space of a few years. He now co-hosts the Titus Podcast and is working to fund a movie called Special Unit, co-starring Denver's own Josh Blue, as well as gearing up for his next special, The Angry Pursuit of Happiness and fulfilling hosting duties on the History Channel's Pawnography.
Go to the Comedy Works website for showtimes and tickets.
Keep reading for six more of the best comedy events in December.
6) Paul Mecurio December 11-14 Denver Improv
Paul Mecurio is a hard-working comedian with a truly impressive list of credits. Having performed on Comedy Central Presents and Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, he's now the warm-up comic for several high-profile TV shows, including Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, The Daily Show and Red Eye on FoxNews. A canny political satirist, Mecurio is a frequent guest on cable news programs, and he won an Emmy for his outstanding individual work on the Daily Show's landmark Indecision: 2000, which ushered in the unquestionably superior Jon Stewart era of that show. In addition to his considerable behind-the-scenes efforts, Mecurio also hosts the The Paul Mecurio show, a podcast that has featured high-profile guests such as Jay Leno and Sir Paul McCartney.
Shows begin at 7:30 p.m. each night, with additional 9:45 p.m. shows on the weekend. Tickets cost $15 on the Denver Improv website.
Kevin Fitzgerald, the veterinarian/standup comic with classic rock roots, is a Denver comedy institution with a truly unique career. Local fans know Dr. Kev from his near-weekly appearances on the Too Much Fun! showcase, where Yoda, his wizened pet chihuahua, is as well-known as he is. Nationally, Fitzgerald is probably best recognized for his appearances on the Animal Planet programs Emergency Vets and E-Vet Interns. Join Fitzgerald and a select crew of local chuckle mongers for a night of holiday festivities at either one of the Comedy Works locations.
The December 15 show begins at 8 p.m., the December 23 show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $12 on the Comedy Works website.
4) SexPot Comedy Presents a Chilly Evening with Todd Barry Friday, December 19 The Oriental Theater
In its first year of existence, SexPot Comedy evolved from a sporadically scheduled invite-only showcase, fueled by dabs and good will, into a powerhouse that rivals comedy clubs with its enviable bookings and tight production. In addition to providing the pizza-soaked lifeblood of the Denver comedy scene and sponsoring some of the town's best local showcases, the SexPot brand has really hung its hat on its namesake showcases at the Oriental Theater. Producer Andy Juett has pulled out all the stops for the one-year anniversary show, and landed SexPot's biggest headliner yet. Todd Barry is a veteran standup best known for his appearances on such TV shows as Flight of the Conchords and Louie, as well as films like The Wrestler. Fresh off his last special tour, The Crowd Work -- which consisted of nothing but crowd-generated riffs and good-natured mockery -- Barry has a fresh bundle of jokes for SexPot's loyal crowd. This month's lineup also includes Karl Hess, Shayna Ferm, Elliot Woolsey and host Jordan Doll. (Check Show and Tell in December for a full interview with Barry.)
Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. show. Tickets cost $20 on the Oriental Theater website. Keep reading for three more of the best comedy events in December.
3) Buddy Buddy! Saturday, December 20 Syntax Physic Opera
Though Denver's comedy landscape is dominated by standup showcases, many of our finest comics have a host of performance skills that fall outside the rhetorical parameters of joke-telling. As these performers come into their own and the local scene flourishes, a proliferation of new sketch shows has emerged as an appealing alternative to the set-up/punchline paradigm. Buddy Buddy! is a new sketch show at Syntax Physic Opera, which has emerged as crucial supporters of local talent in the few short months it's been open for business. Comedians Janae Burris, Timmi Lasley, Haley Driscoll and Kristin Rand -- who all have roots in theatre, improv and sketch performance -- join host Mara Wiles for an evening of food, laughs and camaraderie.
The show begins at 9 p.m.; tickets are $5 at the door.
2) The Doom Room Saturday, December 20 Venue TBD
The Doom Room began in an Omaha dive bar before its new hosts, Zach Reinert and Ian Douglas Terry, got wise and relocated to Denver's thriving yet unforgiving comedy scene. Though the original version of the show continues in its barren Midwestern home base, its Denver spinoff has access to the local surplus of hardworking jokesmiths who are up to the challenge presented by its format. The show calls upon comedians to be funny absent the safety net of their joke books and riff on a random assortment topics that pop up on a nearby TV screen. The December 20 lineup has yet to be announced: "You can just say we have local killers, surprise guests and Ben Kronberg," Terry assures us. Whoever ends up braving the riff rift, the show promises a convivial, 420-friendly atmosphere and plenty of laughs as comedians surprise both the crowd and themselves with their extemporaneous jokery.
The show begins at 9 p.m.; admission is free.
1) Joe Torry December 26-28 Denver Improv
Joe Torry is a veteran of the stage who's appeared in films like Poetic Justice, Tales from the Hood and House Party 3. Torry first rose to prominence when he took over hosting duties after Martin Lawrence left Def Comedy Jam. A frequent Improv headliner, Torry has a magnetic yet loose stage presence and a highly riffy act driven by interactions with the crowd.
There are 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday, with an additional 7:30 p.m. showt on Sunday. Tickets cost $20 on the Denver Improv website.
Follow Byron Graham on twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.