Why Kelsey Cook's Return to Denver Comedy Works Is Extra Special | Westword

Why Kelsey Cook's Return to Comedy Works Is Extra Special

The comedian has a three-night run at Comedy Works this weekend.
"Some cities you look forward to a little less than others, but Comedy Works is such a special club that I always look forward to performing in Denver," Kelsey Cook says.
"Some cities you look forward to a little less than others, but Comedy Works is such a special club that I always look forward to performing in Denver," Kelsey Cook says. Courtesy of Kelsey Cook
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As Kelsey Cook prepared to film her comedy special, The Hustler, at Comedy Works, she could never have anticipated the mayhem that would ensue. The same day she was set to film her special — June 18, 2022 — was the same date as game two of the Stanley Cup finals between the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning. 

"That was something we could have never predicted when we booked the dates that far in advance," Cook recalled. "We hadn’t been worried about ticket sales, and then, in the days leading up to, once people realized that the Avalanche was playing the same night as my special taping, I was just seeing all these like comments pop up on my feed of, ‘I've got two tickets to Kelsey Cook’s show for sale. Does anybody want these?’ And we were like, ‘No, no, no! Oh, fuck! Are people not going to come?’"

Despite concerns about empty seats, a sizable crowd turned out for the first show she was filming, which ended up being the special released on YouTube last March, which has received approximately three million views. Cook had nailed the recording, but she wanted to film the second show in case some jokes hit harder during that set. However, at the end of the first set that night, an audience member passed out, necessitating a call to paramedics and a delayed start to the second set.

"By the time we were starting, the Avalanche game had ended," Cook says. "The arena is right next to the club, so we started getting people who were blackout drunk walking by; they would see the comedy and decide to come in to keep the party going. There were two women who sat near the front, and as soon as I started telling jokes, they tried to talk to me. We had to stop the show and kick them out, which took forever. Also, I hired a makeup artist, but her makeup bag did not arrive, so it was one of those days where everything went wrong. But it all worked out in the end."
click to enlarge woman comedian at a microphone
Kelsey Cook discovered comedy as a twenty-year-old student.
Courtesy of Kelsey Cook

Cook is returning to the room where she recorded The Hustler for a three-night headlining run from Thursday, May 16, through Saturday, May 18. The shows are part of her Mark Your Territory Tour, a significant milestone of Cook's evolving career, which began when she was a twenty-year-old college student at Washington State University. While in undergrad, Cook spontaneously attended an improv show on campus.

She says this impromptu experience inspired her to switch her major from math to broadcast production and paved the way to her comedy career. One of the first classes in broadcast production is public speaking, and Cook kept finding ways to turn her assignments into comedy sketches.

"I thought I wanted to teach high school math, which now sounds fucking horrible, and I'm so glad I didn't go that route," Cook says. "After one of my goofy assignments, my public speaking professor pulled me aside after class and said, ‘You remind me of Kristen Wiig, and you're clearly having so much fun making people laugh, so maybe you should pursue that.’ Those words from my professor helped me go do that first open mic on campus. It was in a cafeteria, which is not an ideal place to start comedy for the first time, but I tried it and became addicted."

After graduating, Cook moved to Seattle, where she spent four years performing in the local comedy scene, honing her craft away from the watchful eyes of industry executives in bigger comedy markets. By performing regularly in various Seattle clubs, Cook built confidence and a solid repertoire of material. In 2016 she made the leap to Los Angeles, where she quickly gained recognition, opening for comedy giants such as Jim Norton and Bob Saget.

These high-profile touring appearances led to other opportunities on national platforms, such as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Comedy Central’s This Is Not Happening. Her latest tour is a testament to her growing influence, showcasing new material across forty cities. Cook recently filmed a new special, on April 6 at Comedy on Stage in Madison, Wisconsin, which her team is actively pitching to distributors.

"With The Hustler, I was prepared but also nervous," Cook says. "My goal for this one was to really try to have as much fun up there as I can and really enjoy it. I am a perfectionist, and I tend to over-rehearse and just nitpick everything. My favorite comics to watch are so loose on stage, which I think is fun, so I'm trying to lean into that."
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Cook also hosts the podcast Pretend Problems with her comedian boyfriend.
Courtesy of Kelsey Cook

This year has been a whirlwind of new experiences for Cook. In addition to playing to numerous sold-out shows, she continues to host the podcast Pretend Problems with her comedian boyfriend, Chad Daniels, and recently appeared on Taylor Tomlinson's After Midnight.

"I couldn't have asked for a cooler situation, where I got to go on with my boyfriend and one of my best friends is hosting," Cook says. "I don't think I'll ever have another late-night experience that fun and easy where you're just completely at home. We had a great time, and the rest of the year has been awesome so far."

As Cook prepares to return to Denver, she's revisiting a landmark location in her career. "I just love being in Denver, and Comedy Works is every comic's favorite club," she says. "They have very low ceilings in there, so it feels like you are being hit with a cannonball of laughter. Also, Denver crowds are super smart but not pretentious.

"Some cities you look forward to a little less than others, but Comedy Works is such a special club that I always look forward to performing in Denver," Cook concludes. "And now that I have those memories of shooting The Hustler there, it will always be an extra-special place for me."

Kelsey Cook, Thursday, May 16, through Saturday, May 18, Comedy Works Downtown, 1226 15th Street. Get tickets at comedyworks.com.
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