Comedy Works Downtown

Comedians and crowd members alike should toughen up before venturing into the roasty waters of Thick Skin, a gauntlet of burns, belly laughs and bad tattoos. Essentially the bullying older brother of the weekly New Talent Nights at Comedy Works, this show invites club-approved comics and aspiring locals to compete for the attentions of a restive audience and a cash prize. Co-hosted by Mike Stanley and a rotating coterie of Comedy Works pros, the evening abounds with comedic mayhem and culminates with the shame showdown of the bad tattoo contest. No matter which comedians' names get drawn from the "fuck it bucket," Thick Skin is a homegrown success story for the venerated comedy club.

Longtime Denver comedy fans no longer have to content themselves with fond memories, for the Grawlix three have come home to the Bug Theatre. A highlight in the halcyon days before the standup trio of Ben Roy, Andrew Orvedahl and Adam Cayton-Holland headed west for production of their TruTV series, Those Who Can't, each Grawlix show promised top-notch lineups and a fresh batch of material from each host. But now the Grawlix has renewed its dedication to the scene with presentations of up-and-coming local comics along with late-night and Comedy Central-accredited headliners. While fatherhood, busy touring schedules,and waging an enthusiastic social-media campaign for a fourth season of Those Who Can't keep the boys busy these days, at one show each month, it'll feel just like the good old days.

Producing a Sunday comedy show is an uphill battle — particularly during Broncos season — and yet the Boulder Comedy Show at the Bohemian Biergarten has proved an unlikely and enduring success. Established in 2013 by prodigal comedian Brent Gill (who currently resides in Los Angeles), the night evolved from a well-meaning experiment into a Flatirons phenomenon, where crowds eventually grew large enough to necessitate a second round of performances. While Geoff Tice typically handles hosting duties these days, the show's tradition of fine homegrown openers and television-anointed headliners continues. Guffaw the night away between mouthfuls of schnitzel and pilsner at one of Colorado comedy's best bets for laughs.

Readers' Choice: Chain Reaction Brewing

Best Open Mic Night — Comedy
Carnefix Photography

Watching comedy at an open-mic night is a lot like thrift-store shopping: You may have to wade through some sad garbage, but the unexpected treasures you'll find somehow make the entire experience worthwhile. Curious giggle thrifters need look no further than the subterranean venue beneath LoDo's Oskar Blues Grill & Brew, home of the Black Buzzard open mic every Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. Hosted by Comedy Works regular Janae Burris, the show is a gathering place for Denver comedians of all experience levels, as well as a buffoon buffet for the audience. Wash your giggles down with craft beer and Cajun-inspired cuisine while continuing your search for the jokes you didn't know you wanted.

Readers' Choice: Freak Train at the Bug Theatre

10 Mile Music Hall
Jenise Jensen

When it came time to open 10 Mile Music Hall in downtown Frisco, owners Todd Altschuler and Keegan Casey, who ran the Barkley Ballroom in Frisco for more than five years, didn't waste any time booking the joint with big acts like Leftover Salmon, which played the 750-capacity venue for its grand opening last Halloween. Since then, the venue has established itself as one of the finest in the state as it hosts a variety of local and national acts, mostly playing bluegrass, electronica and funk. And while 10 Mile is farther than that from the Mile High City, the venue hopes to bring in Denver audiences looking to add live music to their mountain adventures.

Readers' Choice: Temple Nightclub

When Cold Crush closed in late 2017, RiNo lost one of its great hip-hop spots. But it didn't take long for owner Brian Mathenge to start another project. He teamed up with Curtis Club owner Scott Bagus to turn that space into a new restaurant/nightlife concept called Rock Steady. The spot, named after the original New York breakdancing crew, opened last summer. While not a reincarnation of Cold Crush, Rock Steady retains some of the place's vibe with its weekly and monthly DJ nights.

Readers' Choice: Yeah Baby

Seventh Circle Music Collective
Anthony Camera

What would Denver do without the Seventh Circle Music Collective? This space is the epitome of the DIY ethos, a community-driven venue that relies on fans and bands alike to book, run and attend shows. Seventh Circle has invited hundreds of performers to its gritty, well-worn west Denver stage, entertaining and inspiring fervent all-ages crowds for more than half a decade. Just this year, Seventh Circle launched a membership program — so even punks with day jobs who don't get out to shows can throw a few bucks the venue's way and support a space that's keeping underground music alive in this town.

Readers' Choice: Upstairs Circus

If you're looking for queer, Gladys: The Nosy Neighbor delivers. Most nights, there's a good mix of genders at the bar, which bills itself as a hub for trans and non-binary people. Early in the evening, the joint is usually quiet enough for you to grab a drink with a date or a friend. But Gladys truly shines after 10 p.m., when the shows begin. The venue hosts acts unlike those you'll see on Denver's more traditional drag stages: Performers bring a nuanced, complex vision of gender to shows like the Thursday night Mx. Weirdo competition, when kings, queens and folks in between take on politics, pop-culture phenomena, personal tragedy and pure weirdness. If you want seats near the stage for any show, be sure to reserve a table, as the small place fills up quickly.

Readers' Choice: Tracks

Voicebox

While it can be fun to sing in front of a bunch of strangers, it's also a blast to share a mic with friends in a private karaoke suite — like one of the ten rooms at Voicebox. After opening two spots in Portland, Voicebox launched its RiNo location in 2016 with a full bar and restaurant. Individual rates run from $7 to $11 an hour, and group rates are $60 to $90 an hour. If that sounds a bit pricey, you're getting what you're paying for: a super-hip karaoke spot with state-of-the-art sound, video equipment and a playlist of more than 20,000 songs.

Readers' Choice: Voicebox

Oriental Theater

Like much of Denver, Tennyson Street has transformed so quickly that it's virtually unrecognizable to old-timers. But somehow, amid the cranes, bulldozers and boxy luxury living, sits the historic Oriental Theater. This temple of culture opened in 1927 as a movie house and did well for a few decades before closing up shop in the '80s. It was reopened as a live-music venue in 2005 and has only grown in popularity, hosting international musicians, big-name comedians and plenty of locally focused events, fundraisers and other gatherings. With a position on both the state and national registers of historic places, the Oriental has avoided the stain of gentrification while being one of the last independently booked large venues in the city.

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