Best Comedy Night 2018 | Lion's Lair | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Molly Martin

Denver is positively lousy with comedy open mics; nary a day goes by without an opportunity for some aspiring standup to get stage time. That wasn't the case a dozen years ago, however, when Troy Baxley founded the weekly Monday night open mic at the Lion's Lair, creating the city's first and only opportunity for local comics to practice their craft away from the watchful eye of the clubs. Though the hosts have changed often over the years, the Lion's Lair mic has thrived during Denver's comedy boomlet, growing without ever losing track of its essential chaotic nature. Currently hosted by Roger Norquist and Westword's own Byron Graham, it's still the best place for comedy nerds to get their weekly dose of weird — including, but not limited to, heckler-shaming chants, standup duels and puppet parties. Sign-up begins every Monday at 10 p.m.

Readers' Choice: Comedy Works Downtown

Courtesy Oskar Blues Black Buzzard Facebook page

The newest resident on one of downtown's most bustling corners, Oskar Blues's Black Buzzard defined itself early by forging relationships with local creatives, including a strong partnership with Denver standup supergroup the Pussy Bros. Boasting a cavernous subterranean stage with great sound, frothy brews and twice-weekly comedy shows, the Buzzard has proven a godsend for both the city's hardworking comedians and the crowds who love them. Don't miss Christie Buchele's rotating roster of weekly standup showcases, every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.

Scot Lentz

Before Lucha Libre & Laughs marks its fifth anniversary in June, we're presenting another award to this outfit that just keeps expanding on its already heavyweight charms. For the sadly uninitiated, Lucha Libre & Laughs combines standup with gravity-defying pro wrestling to the delight of a loyal, bloodthirsty crowd. In addition to booking brawny lineups on the stage and in the ring, producer Nick Gossert handles promotions and referees the matches in theatrically bumbling fashion. The year ahead promises even more ringside domination as Gossert goes to the mat with new mediums while still maintaining the mark-pummeling splendor that Denver comedy fans have come to know and love.

Anthony Camera

Wheelchair Sports Camp MC Kalyn Heffernan has had a busy year. In addition to aggressively touring North America with her band, she's also been speaking out against the border wall between the United States and Mexico, drumming up support for accessible venues, decrying economic injustice, and fighting for access to health care for all. She led a multi-day sit-in at Senator Cory Gardner's office in June, trying to persuade the Republican to vote against a GOP repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and recently took City Councilman Albus Brooks to task over gentrification.

Brandon Marshall

Long before the #MeToo movement captured national headlines, the Colorado Springs-based punk band Cheap Perfume was railing against rape culture and misogyny. The group offers up angst-ridden yet liberating, often crass declarations against sexual assault, all while advocating for sex-positivity and against the patriarchy. On top of all that, the act's brand of Riot Grrrl-inspired pop punk is impossible not to dance to. If the #MeToo movement had a soundtrack, Cheap Perfume would definitely be on it.

Jake Holschuh

Hans Meyer is a legend in Colorado's immigrant-rights community. He's a smart-as-a-whip attorney who has mastered the art of fighting for undocumented people and their families in court. Watch him in action, and he's as buttoned-up and professional as a lawyer can be. But put a mic in his hand and things get a little...sweaty. As one of the lead singers of the Denver punk band Wild Lives, Meyer rips off his clothes, leaps on and off amps, and dominates whatever venue he's performing in, flaming through covers of punk classics and originals alike. That he gets up and goes to work like the rest of us the next day makes his shows that much more incredible.

Anthony Camera

The Denver-based Roka Hueka plays radically cross-cultural ska music, borrowing from punk, Afrobeat, reggae and occasionally hip-hop to make music that's rooted in Latino culture and fierce as all get out — not to mention fun. The band founded an annual benefit concert to raise funds for immigrant causes, using its music-industry ties to help a community that has been under attack by the Trump administration.

Miles Chrisinger

The best Denver musicians are hardworking, highly collaborative and willing to take risks and try out new sounds. Few have exemplified those traits like Nathaniel Rateliff. He has worked both as a singer-songwriter and as a frontman for Born in the Flood, the Wheel, and the soul act Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, which just released its new album, Tearing at the Seams. Traveling the world, playing at the Grand Ole Opry and the Apollo in the same week, and garnering headlines in the biggest publications, Rateliff, who was born and raised in Missouri but has lived in Colorado since the late '90s, has become synonymous with local music, and has brought acclaim to this city with his work ethic, songwriting chops and performance skills.

The guys in Under a Blood Red Sky take the music of U2 very seriously; in fact, frontman Billy Bunting has been channeling Bono for so long it's sometimes hard to tell the difference between the two. The band will occasionally arrange its set lists by era, changing outfits and stage visuals to align with what U2 wore on various tours over the years, and has even re-created the legendary 1983 Red Rocks show from which it gets its name.

Good music. Good message. Good people. Those are three things that make Roots, Rice & Beans Denver's best new band. Rapper Molina Speaks formed the project in 2017 with fellow Westword MasterMind ILL Se7en, Roka Hueka bassist Ric Urrutia and Wild Lives/Roka Hueka drummer Blake Pendergrass. Merging experimental jazz beats with tight bars courtesy of Speaks and ILL Se7en, Roots, Rice & Beans ditches the preconceived notions that hip-hop should be driven by a rapper alone and that a pre-recorded track or jazz must be relegated to background music. Instead, these artists favor innovation, genre blending and putting on a stunning, moving show. Unlike many bands that labor at branding and promotions, Roots, Rice & Beans instead focuses its energy on music and poetry.

Readers' Choice: Decatur

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