The Matchbox

Usually attended only by nervy fledgling standups and neighborhood inebriates who resent the incursion, open-mike nights often have the feel of a glum joke workshop — which is why emcee Kevin O'Brien likes to mix things up, kicking off each comedy open mike at the Matchbox with a throaty rendition of "America the Beautiful." Curating the lineup like he would a mixtape and doling out "bag of human garbage" and "beer with ol' Kev" awards to their deserving recipients, O'Brien proves that just because anyone can sign up to perform doesn't mean that showmanship should be an afterthought. The Matchbox draws the best ratio of newcomers to seasoned pros, which means that spectators have the best chance to see a hilarious, chaotic comedy show for free, particularly during warmer months, when the program takes over the patio.

The Deer Pile

Too Much Fun is a success story years in the making. By creating a bridge between the local comedy and music scenes (both of which have a fair bit of overlap with the service industry), the Fine Gentleman's Club has achieved the impossible dream of hosting a successful weekly comedy show for free. The Club's hip, loyal fans have been rewarded for their steadfast attendance with highlights such as Dave Ross's album recording and a surprise drop-in set from Dave Chappelle. The Gents — Nathan Lund, Chris Charpentier, Sam Tallent and Bobby Crane — hustle each week to arrange lineups, generate fresh material and even design posters for this crown jewel of Denver's comedy and DIY scenes.

Oriental Theater

Most comedy shows thrive on simplicity: a stage, a stool and a microphone. That's why Lucha Libre & Laughs is unlike any comedy show in the city, fusing producer and bumbling referee Nick Gossert's twin loves of wrestling and standup in a unique and unholy hybrid that simultaneously delights two fan bases, each cultivating their own relationship with irony. While it appears as though wrestling is the main attraction, the comedy is fully integrated into the show throughout the matches. In fact, the ongoing color commentary from Nathan Lund and Sam Tallent often becomes the highlight of the evening. At Lucha Libre & Laughs, the chuckles leap off the turnbuckles.

Readers' choice: Comedy Works

Comedy Works Downtown

Comedy thrives in dark rooms with low ceilings. At Comedy Works' historic downtown location, the generally cocktail-besotted crowd is tightly packed into the venue's cozy showroom; once the lights darken, they become an anonymous mob freed from any sense of propriety. Kept satiated by tiptoeing waitstaff, otherwise reasonable people are reduced to giggling delirium by comedians drawn to what is fondly known by fans and professionals alike as one of the best clubs in the entire country. Recent headliners Hannibal Buress, Jim Norton and frequent surprise guest Dave Chappelle are only the start of the funny business at Comedy Works.

M Uptown
Keith Garcia

The Queerbots are giving a voice to gay comedy with their new monthly improv show at Hamburger Mary's — and proving that laughter is truly a great unifier. Using typical stereotypes, the all-gay group invites audiences to laugh at them and with them in order to demonstrate just how funny being human is.

Denver's exploding drag scene is teeming with a card deck's worth of queens hoofing and hot-assing all over town, but Janessa Befierce isn't taking a slow pony ride to the top; she's grabbing the reins of a stallion and racing it there. Seemingly in drag seven days a week, Befierce has worked out the kinks of her persona and delivers a polished performance on stages all over town.

M Uptown
Keith Garcia

Gone are the days of bingo halls filled with old ladies and church-like reverence. In today's game, you'll find that comedy, booze and laughter rule the night. Dolls With Balls at Hamburger Mary's is one of Denver's longest-running bingo games, where you'll find three vivacious vixens — Harley Quinn, Alexandra Winters and Victoria Sexton — dropping balls every Wednesday. Go ahead and invite Grandma — just make sure she's sufficiently liquored up.

#VYBE

The stage at Broadway's isn't the fanciest, but that makes it the perfect spot for a new queen to break in some heels and feel the rush of performance. The energy of these two Thursday-night shows is reminiscent of high school in the best ways: Experienced senior queen bees like Lala Leigh, Amber Domaine and Le'd Fatale pick their favorite underclassmen, then give them a platform on which to cut their teeth and earn their diplomas.

Tracks
Keith Garcia

With every new season of RuPaul's Drag Race, Tracks hosts a series of viewing parties, and this year the spot will feature its own competition as well, in which a bevy of queens will submit to a sixteen-week boot camp of wigs, heels, makeup, sequins, and the tightest tucks this side of the Platte. The reward is a chance to join the cast of Tracks' own Drag Nation show, where blood, sweat and glitter-stained tears will be met with tough skin and fierce idolatry.

Charlie's Denver

The beer may be cheap at Charlie's, but the performances aren't. Every Sunday, a cast of local legends and new faces turns the floor at Charlie's into a Xanadu of drag perfection. Mama hen Shanida Lawya and company treat raucous crowds to three numbers, complete with costume and makeup changes, and immerse themselves in the crowd. Don't be surprised if you wake up Monday morning with a big red lipstick kiss on your cheek.

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