Best Comedy Night 2016 | Lucha Libre & Laughs | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Choreographed blood sport and standup may seem like unlikely ring-mates, but at Lucha Libre & Laughs, the two wildly different art forms are locked in an entertainment stalemate. Populated by outlandishly costumed characters and kept afloat thanks to hilarious color commentary, the brawny brainchild of producer Nick Gossert has cultivated a loyal audience of weed-addled nostalgists who share his twin loves of jokes and jawbreakers. And while the bi-monthly showcases at the Oriental Theater will keep going strong, Lucha Libre & Laughs will also begin doing regular shows at Ratio Beerworks and tour as a centerpiece for all three branches of the upcoming Crom Comedy Festival, including its Denver incarnation, Crom West. Lucha Libre & Laughs has been the reigning champion for two years running, and we'll suplex anyone who says that it isn't Denver's best comedy night.

For three years, the Boulder Comedy Show has brought laughter to the historically joke-barren college town on Sunday nights. Seated Viking-style in the consistently packed tap room of the Bohemian Biergarten, beery audience members might be fickle, but they reward good jokes with hearty guffaws. Produced and hosted by Brent Gill, a dab-besotted CU alumnus with the stage presence required to warm up the crowd each week — no easy feat during any sports season — the Boulder Comedy Show boasts some of the best lineups in the state. Lubricated by a wide selection of domestic and imported brews, patrons also have a toothsome selection of central European cuisine to fill their bellies with before shaking them with laughter.

Celebrated worldwide as the platonic ideal of a comedy club, the downtown outpost of the Comedy Works became a perennial Westword favorite simply by being better at what it does than anyone else. Beneath the well-lit hubbub of Larimer Square, the club unites its crowds in the boozy dark, cultivating the ideal environment for standup. Classic standup albums like Dave Attell's Skanks for the Memories have taken advantage of the venue's laugh-swaddling acoustics and hot crowds to capture the unique atmosphere of live shows, and the place has a reputation as one of Dave Chappelle's favorite spots for surprise drop-in appearances. Perhaps the Comedy Works' biggest gift to Denver, however, is nourishing the careers of local comics, from their first New Talent Nights to their television debuts.

Not even the geographical separation of co-hosts Christie Buchele and Haley Driscoll can put Empty Girlfriend in the corner. Resurrected thanks to the wonders of Skype, this fearless exploration of the intimate histories of local comedians, musicians and veterinarians is a fascinating document of how creatives seek and express love. Because of the highly personal nature of its subject matter, Empty Girlfriend is less joke-driven than traditional comedy podcasts — and while some episodes feature unflinching tales of heartbreak and despair, Buchele and Driscoll's quick riffs and occasional forays into sketch comedy keep things amusing and sometimes downright hilarious. So listen up if you dare: After all, any podcast with a recurring segment called "Obscure Sexual Fantasies" really ought to pique your interest.

There's no better guide to downbeat and noirish cinema than James Ellroy, the demon dog of American crime fiction (L.A. Confidential, The Black Dahlia). Since he relocated to Denver last summer, he and Alamo general manager Walter Chaw have been curating a dynamite monthly series, called In a Lonely Place, that blends the familiar and the obscure, from a quiet Kurosawa police procedural to a frantic 007 romp, from the much-revered Vertigo to the seldom-seen Man-Trap. Regardless of how hard-boiled you like your movies, Ellroy's rants and ruminations as he introduces each offering are worth the price of admission.

Filmmaker/carnival barker/world traveler/dapper fellow Davey B. Gravey (aka David Weaver) has spent the past few years delighting small audiences with his mobile Tiny Cinema, a trailer with four seats and a projector that plays short, silent 8mm films while Gravey plays a live score on a guitar. Not one to let the decline of Super 8mm filmmaking keep him from shooting a brand-new original feature, Moonglow, he premiered it for the teeny masses this year at Leon Gallery.

In the Sie's case, we're talking about multiple series. For instance, catching current performances of the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain or the Royal Shakespeare Company without having to leave Denver is such a great idea that fans of National Theatre Live and Live From Stratford-upon-Avon are finding that they have to move quickly to snap up tickets to the upcoming "live" shows. Recent broadcasts have included Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet and Frankenstein and Rosalie Craig in As You Like It, presented in such grand scope that you feel as though you're in the rich folks' box. And, yes, a series of operas by leading companies will be broadcast to Sie patrons this spring, too. Too often, Hollywood lets you down, but the Sie? Never.

Last year's Best Bloodthirsty Host, Theresa Mercado, entered her reign without a horror series to call her own and a question mark as to when she would be able to once again affect the nightmares of Denver movie fans. To that end, Mercado met with the minds at the Denver Film Society and birthed Scream Screen, a quarterly film series that takes a stab at the deep cuts that make horror hurt more, including (to date) salutes to the giallo cuts of filmmaker Dario Argento, the blood-red side of French horror, and the subset of films known as "When Animals Attack." Mercado has stepped up her hosting duties, as well, with amazing full costumes and interactive bloody good fun with the audience.

With the arrival of the Denver Film Society's CineLatino Film Festival, Denver's celebration of one of its largest subsets exploded in new and creative ways. By its second edition, the fest had hit a solid stride and showed an impressive array of diverse programming — touching down in Mexico, Spain, Paraguay, Peru, Brazil and beyond. The experience was so great that the fest's co-founder, JoAnna Cintrón, was chosen as the 2015 Coors Light Leader of the Year. Along with the award, Cintrón and the Film Society received $25,000 to help take the festival to even greater heights. ¡Qué bueno!

For 38 years, the Denver Film Festival has been the strongest brick in the wall of Colorado film fests, and for very good reason. The Denver Film Society has always been intensely proactive in seeking out the very best movies from around the world, and pulls in over 250 of them for audiences to pick and choose from over a span of twelve days. In addition, almost equal numbers of filmmakers and actors come here to celebrate those works along with viewers, creating a world-class experience right here in the Queen City. Here's looking forward to the 39th edition and beyond.

Readers' choice: Denver Film Festival

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