This November, let us give thanks for the cornucopia of Denver comedy overflowing with imported and locally-sourced bursts of mirth. Though games of sport typically dominate the autumn entertainment landscape, stuffing comedy into the locker of obscurity like some schoolyard bully, the bounty of joke shows this month is burly enough to hold the attention of even the most dedicated sports fans. Every permutation of comedy proliferates, from sketch and improv to a wide array of standup, boasting local favorites along with some of the medium's biggest stars. Here are the ten best comedy shows for December, in chronological order.
10) The Funnyside Sessions
Thursday, November 5
Image Brew Studio
Mara Wiles is among Denver's most dogged and prolific show organizers. In addition to booking, producing, hosting and performing on her monthly Funky Brunch showcase at Grandma's House Brewery and emceeing the weekly Wednesday night open mic at Syntax Physic Opera, Wiles co-founded the now-defunct sketch group Ladyface and saw her Moxie, Buddy Buddy! and Great Shake 'Em Ups shows thwarted before their time. Nevertheless, the indefatigable comedian is boundlessly inventive and with the arrival of her new effort, The Funnyside Sessions, she may be closer than ever to perfecting the sketch and standup hybrid showcase of her dreams. Featuring local jokesters Georgia Rae Comstock, Jordan Doll, Aaron Urist and Janae Burris, The Funnyside Sessions combines standup with live and video sketches at a forward-thinking alternative venue, drawing from Denver's vast talent pool and challenging the comics to create in exciting new platforms.
Showtime is 8 p.m. Admission is $5 at the door; free beer with a donation.
9) Joe Torry
The 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. He 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 riff-driven act made unique each night by interactions with the crowd. With a role in the new Cinemax series The Jump Off and a one-hour standup special on the horizon, you won't want to miss this chance to see him live.
There are 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday, with additional 7:30 p.m. shows on Thursday and Sunday. Tickets are $20 on the Denver Improv website.
Though Denver's standup comedy scene generally enjoys more low-key acclaim than its snappier (and generally happier) improvising brethren, the genres have begun to overlap in fruitful ways. Presented by Sexpot Comedy, the Annual Denver Improv Festival offers locals a chance to see the talents of the local scene and benefit from their knowledge in informative workshops. This year's headliners — Punam Patel, Tim Baltz, Chris Booth, Mike Kosinski and Kevin Laibson, as well as Saturday Night Live's Paul Brittain — are all champion improvisers whose expertise of the often misunderstood form will benefit the workshop participants and delight audiences at the showcases. Facilitated by the nonprofit GroupMind Foundation, the Denver Improv Festival is emerging as a major player in Denver's flourishing arts scene.
7) Margaret Cho
Friday, November 13
The Paramount Theatre
Margaret Cho is a multi-talented entertainer whose massive skill set includes singing, burlesque, acting, writing and standup comedy. From her early days as a teenager at the zenith of San Francisco's comedy scene, Cho has brought a fearless honesty to her many endeavors. While Cho is a performer first and foremost, her outspoken advocacy and various humanitarian efforts have won her both awards and a considerable fan base among LGBTQ and Asian-American communities. Cho currently co-hosts the late-night talk show All About Sex for TLC, but her television resume is massive, with highlights including a starring role on Drop Dead Diva and a memorably hilarious arc as Kim Jong-Il on 30 Rock. Cho has also published two books, including the autobiography I'm the One That I Want and the essay collection I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight.
Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. show; ticket prices start at $35 plus fees from Altitude Tickets.
6) The Kinsey Reporters Present Silk: An Exploration in Comedic Behavior
Every Saturday Throughout November
Beryl's Beer Co
Since beginning its eight-week run last month, Silk: An Exploration in Comedic Behavior has been a delight; the sketch comedy series emerged from the collective brain trust of Grafenberg Productions' founder and artistic director Justin Franzen and sketch troupe The Kinsey Reporters. Comprised of improvisers Todd Couch, Max Schwartz, Colin Stanley, Danielle Van Morter, James Imes and Corey Martin, the Kinsey Reporters cook up a fresh batch of sketch, directed by Franzen, each week. Relocating from its initial home in the Atlas Theater to a comedy-friendly craft brewery on Saturday, November 14, and starting two hours later at 10 p.m. might confuse audiences of lesser shows, but the Grafenberg cohort are a loyal sort, so Silk should be just fine.
Showtime is at 10 p.m. Admission is $10; get tickets, as well as more information, from the Grafenberg Productions' website.
5) Christopher Titus
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 and his most recent, Angry Pursuit of Happiness, within 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.
4) Maz Jobrani
Comedy Works Downtown
A founding member of the Axis of Evil Comedy tour, Maz Jobrani rose to prominence during the heyday of the Bush administration, offering witty rejoinders to one of American culture's most jingoistic eras. Appearing on The Colbert Report, The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Lopez Tonight and in the film Friday After Next, Jobrani quickly stood out as a performer. Born in Tehran but raised in the United States, he has a unique perspective on race relations, puncturing Islamophobia with his sharply written jokes. Observational in style, Jobrani shares his experience as a parent on the All Things Comedy network podcast Minivan Men, which he co-hosts with Chris Spencer and Al Madrigal.
Showtimes and admission prices vary; go to Comedy Works' website to buy tickets.
3) Sean Patton
The Denver Improv
Denver has plenty of love for Sean Patton, who won local hearts and minds with a strong showing at the inaugural High Plains Comedy Festival as well as the most recent edition. Although he's here frequently, it's always worth seeing one of his headlining shows at Denver Improv, because few comedians are more thrilling to watch in person. He's appeared on Conan and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; his debut album, Standard Operating Procedure, was released by A Special Thing Records, and he recorded his own Comedy Central half-hour special. Those were all solid standup performances, but conveyed only a fraction of the experience of seeing Sean Patton live.
Showtime is 7:30 p.m. with an additional 9:45 p.m. late show on Friday and Saturday. Tickets cost $17 on the Denver Improv website.
2) Joe Rogan
Saturday, November 21
Joe Rogan is a performer who defies easy categorization. Avoiding the scourge of bro comedy, Rogan has cultivated a loyal following by synthesizing his disparate passions of martial arts, brutally honest comedy and drug-induced mind expansion into a unique perspective found nowhere else in the media landscape. Arguably ill-served by his first major television hosting gigs, Rogan was a ubiquitous onscreen presence throughout the decadent 'aughts, becoming the face of the well-rated but culturally contemptible programs The Man Show and Fear Factor. Seemingly more at home with his roles these days, Rogan is well-known for his color commentary on Ultimate Fighting Championship matches and hosting The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. An outspoken legalization advocate who recorded his last album at Comedy Works downtown, Rogan has a stronghold of fans among the ripped bongs and physiques of Denver, so tickets will likely sell out quickly.
Showtime is at 8 p.m.; tickets run from $35 to $49.50 plus fees on the Bellco Theatre website.
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1) Carmen Lynch
The Denver Improv
Carmen Lynch is a Spanish actress — and the definitive New York City comedian. She's performed standup on Last Comic Standing, The Late Show with David Letterman and appeared in several sketches on Inside Amy Schumer. Droll and deliberate, Lynch is self-deprecating yet never maudlin. Her stage presence and timing commands audiences to listen closely to her wry delivery. The bilingual Lynch also regularly travels abroad and performs in seamless (to an English-speaker, anyway) Spanish. Returning to the Improv after crushing her headlining engagement last Valentine's Day weekend, Lynch is a tall glass of hilarious.
Showtime is 7:30 p.m. with an additional 9:45 p.m. late show on Friday and Saturday. Tickets cost $18 on the Denver Improv website.
Follow Byron Graham on Twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words.