Between promising upstarts from the local scene and internationally famous headliners dropping in at our clubs and theaters, Denver's comedy scene will blossom in May — before closing out the month with a new comedy festival. More so than in other months, the list was difficult to narrow down to just ten shows this time around. Check out 5280 Comedy for a full list of locally-produced showcases. And as always, these shows are listed in chronological order rather than ranked.
10. DeRay Davis
The Denver Improv
DeRay Davis is a fast-rising star of stage and screen who has appeared in shows like Premium Blend and Reno 911 and in films such as Semi-Pro, Barbershop and 21 Jump Street. Born and bred in Chicago, Davis caught the attention of Cedric the Entertainer early on. He also has the strange distinction of writing the comedy skits on Kanye West's College Dropout and Late Registration albums. Most recently, Davis hosted the relationship quiz show Mind of a Man on GSN and is currently in production on a game show called Joking Off for MTV2.
Showtime is 7:30 p.m. with an additional 10 p.m late show on Friday and Saturday. Ticket prices range from $25-$30 and can be purchased from the Denver Improv website.
9. Wanda Sykes
Saturday, May 9
The Paramount Theatre
Wanda Sykes started her career under the tutelage of Chris Rock, who recognized her gifts and supported them with feature spots and eventually on the writing staff of The Chris Rock Show, enlivening any segment in which she appeared. 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 films such as Rio and Ice Age: Continental Drift. 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.
Showtime is 7 p.m. Ticket prices start at $49.50 and vary based upon seating. They can be purchased from Altitude Tickets.
8. Doug Loves Movies
Sunday, May 10
Comedy Works Downtown
After cruising through town on 4/20 for a headlining gig, many Denver comedy fans may not have expected to see Doug Benson again so soon, yet he returns to today for a live podcast taping at the world-class Denver Comedy Works at their Downtown location. Benson may be an avowed fan of our state’s favorite cash crop, but he’s a man of multitudes who also celebrates his love of the cinema with the hit podcast Doug Loves Movies. Joined by a panel of finely trained snarkitects, Benson moves the show along with red-eyed riffs and surprisingly thoughtful film criticism. In order to play along in the “Leonard Maltin Game” fans are encouraged to bring name tags. Tags featuring movie references are more likely to get selected. Though the prizes are often absurd after thoughts, the main attraction of the event is getting carried away by the stoney spirit of fun guiding the proceedings.
As per usual with Benson, the show begins at 4:20 p.m. Tickets cost $20 on Comedy Works' website.
Sunday, May 10
The Savoy Event Center
One of the things the Denver comedy scene does best is invent new formats in an appeal to crossover audiences. It's in this sprit of innovation, as well as boozy bonhomie, co-hosts Anthony Crawford and Meghan DePonceau present Amuse-Booze, a tasty hybrid of standup comedy showcase and bar tending competition. This month, bartenders Jessica Wilkinson from Euclid Hall, Haylee Ortiz from Oak & Session Kitchen and Carly Raemer from The Golden Moon Speakeasy competing to see who can mix Stephen Agyei the best bloody mary, Jordan Wieleba the most cosmopolitan Cosmopolitan and serve Sam Tallent lime daiquiris to slurp 'til he burps. A word to the wise, any Denver comedy fans who should choose to make Amuse-Booze and Doug Loves Movies a Sunday double-funny-feature might find themselves more turnt than appropriate for Mother's Day.
Cocktail service will commence at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $10 at the door and include a free beverage. Bring your mom, she'd probably like a daiquiri, after the day she's had.
6. Cameron Esposito
Comedy Works Downtown
Already beloved in Denver thanks to her room-crushing sets at the 2013 and 2014 High Plains Comedy Festivals, Cameron Esposito has developed one of the most distinctive comedic voices of any performer to emerge from the thriving standup scenes of Chicago and Los Angeles. The avowed vest enthusiast certainly keeps busy, writing a regular column for the AV Club and turning in standout performances on shows like Conan, The Tonight Show and Maron. Her podcast and live standup showcase Put Your Hands Together is required listening for comedy nerds, but consistently hilarious enough for casual listeners to drop in whenever they're in need of a laugh.
Showtimes and admission prices vary. Tickets are available through Comedy Works website.
5. CRUSH CITY!
Saturday, May 23
The Savoy Event Center
In the parlance of standup comedians, there are few higher compliments than "you crushed." Crushers reduce crowds to a guffawing delirium and salt the earth behind them. Whether the phrase originated as a bit of comedic hyperbole or perhaps a cross media homage to the late, great Big Pun, the way of "crush" is embodied by Denver based standups who have earned a reputation for laughter slaughters to the point where many of our local features can prove to be intimidating acts for out of town headliners to follow. The Savoy Event Center continues its bold steps forward as a local comedy venue and has stacked the decks in favor of this debut showcase. With a lineup boasting a roster of the city's finest crushers including Nathan Lund, Anthony Crawford, Elliot Woolsey and Janae Burris, Crush City throws down quite a giggle gauntlet right out of the gate. They've also secured a perfect inaugural headliner with John "Hippieman" Novosad. Join hosts Aaron Urist and Jordan Doll as they prove once and for all that Denver is truly the city of Crush.
Showtime is at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $7 at the door.
4. Eddie Izzard
The Paramount Theatre
Eddie Izzard was recognized early on in the United States for his energetic performances and colorful drag wardrobe. Though he generally sticks to tailored menswear these days, Izzard's digressive monologues remain as engaging as ever. With over ten different specials to his name, including the Emmy award-winning Dress to Kill, Izzard cemented his status as British comedy royalty with his appearances on the prestigious Secret Policeman's Ball, and has since been warmly referred to as "the lost Python" by none other than John Cleese. A celebrated thespian, Izzard has delivered memorable performances on television series like The Riches and Hannibal as well as in films like Velvet Goldmine, Oceans 12 and Cars 2. Izzard is making a somewhat rare stateside appearance as part of the epic "Force Majeure" tour, which began in Bucharest, Romania, back in 2013 and will finally roll through Denver this month.
Showtime is 8 p.m. Admission starts at $37 and varies upon seating arrangements. Tickets are available through Altitude TIckets.
3. Natasha Leggero
Comedy Works South
Natasha Leggero is no stranger to Denver. She recorded her comedy album Coke Money at Comedy Works back in 2011 and has returned several times in the intervening years. Her cutting routines are always a highlight of the otherwise hit-or-miss Comedy Central Roasts, where Leggero stands out as much for merciless wit she does for her elegant couture, including her signature elbow-length opera gloves. Leggero enjoys the hard-won respect of her fellow comics both for the quality of her jokes and her refusal to apologize for them. She has an impressive resume, featuring memorable roles on Reno 911, Burning Love and Inside Amy Schumer and in films like Let's Be Cops and Neighbors.
Leggero is preparing to film her next special the week following her headlining engagement at Comedy Works, giving fans a chance to see the doyenne of standup in top form delivering her most polished material months before it's due to premiere on Comedy Central. Showtimes and tickets prices vary. Purchase tickets on Comedy Works' website.
2. Tig Notaro
Friday, May 29
The Paramount Theatre
Tig Notaro has enjoyed the respect of her peers and acclaim from comedy fans, but she only recently joined the ranks of auteur standups. Her instant classic comedy album, Live, chronicled Notaro's life at a time of tremendous personal adversity, finding healing laughter in the face of fearful circumstance. In addition to touring regularly, Notaro has appeared on the Sarah Silverman Program, Inside Amy Schumer and Conan. She also co-hosts the podcast, Professor Blastoff with Kyle Dunnigan and David Huntsberger. Come see a former Denver resident return to town with the "Boyish Girl Interrupted Tour." Notaro had to cancel a scheduled show back ing November due to health concerns, so local fans have been eagerly awaiting here return, both to wellness and the city where she developed her early voice.
Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets start at $25 and vary based upon seating arrangements. They can be purchased via Altitude Tickets.
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1. Crom Comedy Festival 3D: Crom West
See the Crom West website for a full schedule and list of participating venues
For the past two years, the Crom Comedy Festival has drawn comedians from Denver and across the country to the plains of Omaha, Nebraska. The festival's co-organizers, Zach Reinert and Ian Douglas Terry have recently upgraded hometowns and decided to expand their still-young annual festival while maintaining its original outpost. Crom West fuses the best of Denver comedy, hosting festival editions of Too Much Fun!, Lucha Libre & Laughs, Cromaganda and Arguments & Grievances, with the national alternative scene exemplified by a pair of fest-capping showcases from headliners Aparna Nancherla and Allen Strickland Williams. Between the "Conan the Barbarian meets Tron" aesthetic of the posters, or the showcase lineups packed with a murderers row of rippers from near and far, it would seem that Crom has indeed been listening to your prayers. (In the interest of full disclosure, I submitted for Crom West several months ago and was accepted to perform in one of the more than seventeen different shows under Crom banner).
Admission prices vary according venue. Tickets can be purchased at the venue door or from each show's specific Facebook event page. Check the Crom West website for updates on ticketing information.
Follow Byron Graham on twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words.