Wanda Sykes headlines the Paramount Theatre on Friday, January 25.Roger Erickson
Make a New Year's resolution that requires no sit-ups or dietary sacrifice to keep, and commit to laughing more in 2019. A boon to the spirit, not to mention the abs, comedy is a vital source of catharsis from the rigors of modern life. From a massive crop of brand-new jokes to lucha libre wrestling matches and benedictions from comedic royalty like Wanda Sykes, Denver is putting its funniest foot forward this January, and readers can find all the details they need to chuckle along below. Start the new year off with a laugh, and keep the giggles going at the ten best comedy shows of the month.
Lucha Libre & Laughs: Being and Nothingness
Friday, January 4, 8 p.m. Oriental Theater
$15 Lucha Libre & Laughs continues its brawny campaign of comedic excellence into 2019 with "Being and Nothingness," an evening of standup and wrestling guaranteed to pummel existential despair. Unlike its namesake, Jean-Paul Sartre's treatise, January's edition of Lucha Libre & Laughs is filled with exciting bouts between Allie Gato and Ruby Raze, Filter and Dakota Draper, and a fatal four-way match between Adrian Matthews, Anaya, Caleb Crush and current championship belt-wearer "Yoga Monster" Mike Sydal. Local comedians Mitch Jones, Geoff Tice, Rick Bryan and headliner Nancy Norton will also be on deck to tickle the audience's ribs between rounds of choreographed bloodsport. Find tickets, $15 each and $60 per five-pack, and more information on the Oriental Theater box-office page.
50 First Jokes
Saturday, January 5, 8 p.m. Bug Theatre
A new year calls for new material, a tradition that thrives in Denver thanks to 50 First Jokes, which returns in 2019 for its fifth anniversary. A challenge to fifty of the city's best comics to test out their first joke of the new year — which must be written after the stroke of midnight on January 1 and never told prior to showtime — the show inspires performers to test the limits of their creative imaginations and rewards local comedy fans with a gauntlet of fresh bits. Born of the spirit of invention, the show began in New York City and was quickly franchised nationwide. Apart from returning host Timmi Lasley, the full lineup has yet to be announced, but the Bug Theatre is expected to sell out in short order regardless, so don't hesitate. Visit Dual Brain Productions' Nightout page for tickets, $15, and more details.
Cinema Twain with Val Kilmer
Sunday, January 6, 7:30 p.m. Oriental Theater
$35 to $80
History dons a dapper white suit and springs to life at Citizen Twain, a one-man show about the great American novelist created by and starring Val Kilmer. Barely recognizable beneath a shock of white hair and a paintbrush mustache, Kilmer fully transforms into the image of Mark Twain, capturing not only the look, but the timeless spirit of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn author. After a sold-out run in a Los Angeles playhouse, Kilmer is touring the country with a filmed version of the play, dubbed Cinema Twain, whose screening is followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience. The tour will roll through Denver the first weekend of January (an October 14 screening was rescheduled after "unforeseen family obligations" forced Kilmer to cancel). Tickets are $35 for general admission and $80 for VIP passes, which include early seating and a meet-and-greet and photo opportunity with Kilmer. Visit the Oriental Theater box-office page to learn more.
January 9 to 10 Comedy Works Downtown and Comedy Works South
While his long-abandoned former stage name, "Hippieman," certainly evoked John Novosad's wild-eyed and woolly-haired appearance, the one-note moniker did a disservice to the brilliance of his comedy. Puncturing the mundanity of politics and everyday life with delightful tidbits of absurdity doled out in perfectly timed increments, Novosad is a treasure of the Colorado comedy scene. He's appeared on Comedy.TV and The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, and recently won the annual standup competition at the Laughing Skull Comedy Festival in Atlanta. Join Novosad for a pair of mid-week performances at both the downtown and Denver Tech Center branches of his home club. Visit the Comedy Works box-office page for tickets, $14, and more information.
January 11 to 12, 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. Denver Improv
$30 to $50
Deon Cole's comedy career originated with a $50 bet with a friend who didn't believe he'd have the nerve to take the stage, and it's been paying dividends ever since. Rising to national prominence thanks to a recurring fan-favorite segment on Conan, where he served on the writing staff, Cole has subsequently appeared in every film of the Barbershop franchise and landed regular roles on Black-ish (along with its spinoff series Grown-ish), and Angie Tribeca. Cole is performing in Stapleton at a weekend-long headlining engagement at the Denver Improv. Find tickets, $30 to $50, and more details on the venue's box-office page.
Thursday, January 17, 7:30 p.m. Buntport Theater
The trials of singlehood may feel like a lonely endeavor, but the Singleing podcast is here to help shoulder the burden of finding love. Hosted by Vanessa Valerio, the podcast has been touring the country in search of stories and solidarity from comedians, podcasters and regular people navigating the increasingly murky waters of modern dating. The Singleing Live tour winds its way through Denver with a lineup that includes Moth regulars Beth Bradley and Kevin Carlin, comedians Kenny Beahm and Christie Buchele, and Cat Jaffee from the House of Pod, with a special appearance from dating coach and A Little Nudge founder Erika Ettin. Visit Buntport Theater's Eventbrite page to buy tickets, $14, and learn more.
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Byron Graham is a writer, comedian and gentleman thief from Denver. Co-host of Designated Drunkard: A Comedy Drinking Game, the deathless Lion's Lair open mic and the Mutiny Book Club podcast, Byron also writes about comedy for Westword. He cannot abide cowardice, and he's never been defeated in an open duel.