As waterlogged Denverites take their first tenuous steps out into the sun after an unexpectedly soggy May, a bounty of fine comedy shows await. The torrent-quenched giggle gardens are blooming anew with more opportunities than ever to laugh away the balmy evenings. Between the reunion of a cult-favorite sketch comedy troupe and visiting headliners at the top of their games, Denver once again demonstrates its attraction as a world-class entertainment destination. Beyond that, however, the crop of shows springing up this June prove that the potency of Denver's homegrown comedy rivals that of cities twice our size. Seven out of ten shows on this illustrious list feature hometown heroes, comics who started their careers here and return as often as possible, as well leading lights of the local scene. Two live album recordings, two new showcases and two headlining engagements at Denver's best comedy clubs —all featuring Denver-hewn jokesmiths. Have some local pride and check out one of the top ten comedy shows in Denver this month, presented here in chronological order.
10) The Kids in the Hall Rusty & Ready Tour
Saturday, June 6
The Paramount Theatre
The Kids in the Hall, the self-titled Canadian sketch comedy series famous for spawning bizarre characters like Simon and Hecubus or the Chicken Lady, remains as hilarious today as it was upon first airing. More than the lack of topical references, the absurdist jokes and conceptually brilliant premises are the reasons the sketches have aged better than comparable shows of the era. Founding members Dave Foley, Scott Thompson, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Bruce Mculloch have all gone on to varying degrees of success in their solo careers, but have never been better than they were together. This month, the Kids are going back into the Hall for the Rusty and Ready Tour, their first such endeavor in six years. While fans can expect return appearances from beloved characters, the Kids have also prepared brand-new material for their loyal audience.
Paramount doors open at 7 p.m. and showtime is at 8 p.m.; use of cameras and other recording devices is prohibited during the show. Ticket prices start at $49.50 plus fees for general admission; they’re available from AltitudeTickets.
9) Josh Blue Live Special Taping
Saturday, June 6
Byron Theatre at the University of Denver
Josh Blue is a singular talent with an undeniable facility for hilarious riffs that he seems to casually toss off; he also has an uncanny ability to be instantly likable from the moment he grabs the mike. Blue has been a pillar of the Denver comedy scene for years; he broke out nationally when he won NBC's Last Comic Standing in 2006. Throughout his illustrious career, Blue has managed to mine his cerebral palsy for comedic gold; he doesn't shy away from challenging subjects, either. After crushing both his Comedy Central Presents episode as well as his first one-hour special, Sticky Change, Blue is back with a new hour of material to burn in a special he's calling Delete. Funded by fans who participated in Blue's indiegogo campaign, Blue is rewarding his donors with prizes like private soccer lessons, Paralympic jerseys and a jar of olives from his refrigerator.
The first show begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by another show at 9:30 p.m. Tickets cost $25 and are available on the Newman Center website.
Troy Walker is among Denver's most promising Los Angeles transplants. Having recently signed on to the prestigious Gersh Agency, Walker absolutely destroyed his late-night television debut on The Late Late Show, though for some reason the video clip is no longer available. Despite his promising Hollywood future, Walker is an avowed Denver fan. The two-time winner of the Comedy Works "New Faces Contest," Walker returns to grace the stage where he honed his craft and demonstrate his mastery as a headliner. He's also covered if everything falls through, comedy-wise: As a licensed attorney with a degree from DU's Sturm College of Law, Walker has both a better comedy career and a better back up plan than anyone else.
Tickets are $12 on the Comedy Works website; as always, there is a two-item minimum.
7) Nora Lynch - NORA OUT LOUD
Wednesday, June 10
The Denver Improv
Nora Lynch has been a steadfast member of Denver's small but mighty comedy scene for generations, bearing witness to several changings of the guard while remaining one of our city's most consistently hilarious and relatable performers. After spending a few years in Los Angeles working as a writer and creative consultant for television shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway and Caroline in the City, Lynch has returned to her native Denver and focused on standup. Her focus has paid off with a special headlining engagement at the Denver Improv with feature Stephen Agyei and emcee Terri-Barton Gregg rounding out a lineup that also includes a secret special guest.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. show. Tickets cost $10 on the Denver Improv website; there is a two-item minimum for guests.
6) Jen Kirkman
Comedy Works Downtown
Jen Kirkman has made an art form of neurotic self-reflection, whether in her cathartically revealing standup, her bestselling autobiography I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales from a Happy Life without Kids or her often bleak podcast I Seem Fun: The Diary of Jen Kirkman. In addition to appearing on nearly every show that features standups — including The Tonight Show, Drunk History and Chelsea Lately — Kirkman has released the comedy albums Self-Help and Hail to the Freaks. Last year she recorded her latest one-hour special, I'm Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine), which is available to stream on Netflix.
Showtimes and ticket prices vary (and there's a two-item minimum); get the details on the Comedy Works website.
5) Ben Kronberg
Friday, June 12
The Oriental Theater
Ben Kronberg is among the most successful of Denver comedy expatriates, having amassed an impressive list of credits and accomplishments since moving to New York. With high-profile appearances on Late Night with Seth Meyers, John Oliver's New York Standup Show and the Comedy Central Half Hour, it's always a surprise to see Kronberg drop in at ignominious Denver open mics — but he has always made a point of returning home to the scene where he developed his outré comedic voice. With his puckish wit and an impermeable poker face onstage, Kronberg is the sort of comic who inspires outlandish stories and admiration from his peers. The video clip of Kronberg's dust-up with fellow prodigal Denverite Roseanne Barr on the most recent season of Last Comic Standing went viral, becoming one of the few things people remember about the show's latest incarnation.
Doors open at 8 p.m. for the 9 p.m. show; tickets are $10 on the Oriental Theatre website.
4) Jordan Wieleba - Estrogentrification
Sunday, June 21
Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret
Jordan Wieleba is a Denver comedian who runs a monthly standup and burlesque showcase, designs many of Denver comedy's most catching posters, illustrates books and advocates for LGBTQ causes in between stage-crushing sets. While Wieleba has been performing standup since 2006, her life and career really took shape after 2011 when she came out as transgender. In the years since, both her sense of self-actualization and her comedy have blossomed in the light of this cathartic honesty and Wieleba has emerged as one of the leading lights of Denver's comedy scene. While Wieleba's list of achievements is already impressive, including gracing the cover of Out Front Colorado and participating in the Women in Comedy Festival"in Boston, this month sees her tackle her greatest project yet: recording her first live album in a special one-night-only engagement at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret, Estrogentrification, the culmination of years of ego-battering work. Celebrate the closing day of Denver Pridefest by gorging on giggles with Wieleba and a supporting lineup boasting the comedy styes of Chuck Roy and Abby Alt as well as the burlesque wiles of Cherry Pop Poppins.
Doors open at 7 p.m.; the show and taping start at 8 p.m. Tickets, $15, are available on the Lannie's website. All the proceeds from the show benefit LGBTQ youth organizations.
3) Comedians' Power Hour - Denver Showdown
Thursday, June 25
As one of the few metropolises that falls within an eight-hour drive from our fair city, Albuquerque has developed a spiritual kinship with the Denver comedy scene, with comics from both cities cruising up and down the I-25 corridor for their first out-of-town sets. Among Denver comics' favorite Duke City traditions is the Comedians' Power Hour, a marathon battle of quips and sips that entails a highly regimented competition between increasingly beer-battered jokesters who chug PBRs between two-to-five minute rounds of standup challenges. Hosted by ABQ comics Genevieve De Müeller and Drew Wayne, the Denver showdown calls on local crushers Timmi Lasley and Nathan Lund (pictured gloriously above) to settle the score and determine who can truly call themselves Denver's Champion. For some reason, prodigal chortle-monger Brett Heicher is on the show as well.
Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. show. Tickets cost $5 at the door.
2) Underground Standup Comedy Showcase
Friday, June 26
Soiled Dove Underground
New locally produced comedy shows crop up nearly every month in Denver, but very few have the moxie or the resources to draw performers from outside of the local talent pool. That's what sets Underground Comedy Showcase, a brand-new standup series with special guest headliners Adam Newman and Andy Sandford, apart from most Denver shows. Co-producers and co-hosts Stephen Agyei and Matt Monroe have taken up the Grawlix gauntlet, attracting coastal talent to Denver. They've also secured a classy new setting for their show at the Soiled Dove. Sandford has an appealingly low-key absurdism which shines through on his critically-lauded album Me the Whole Time, as well as during his recent appearance on Conan. Newman is a classic New York pro, whose quick jokes and bulletproof crowd work have earned him spots on the Late Show with David Letterman and his own Comedy Central Half Hour. The lineup also includes Scott Losse from Seattle and honorary Denverite David Gborie from Los Angeles.
The show is intended for audiences above 21. Showtime is at 8 p.m.; tickets cost $10 at the door.
1) Margaret Cho
Friday, June 26
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Margaret Cho is a multi-talented entertainer whose massive skill set includes singing, burlesque, acting, writing and standup comedy. From her early days as a teenager at the zenith of San Francisco's comedy scene, Cho has brought a fearless honesty and unique identity to all of her many endeavors. While Cho is a performer first and foremost, her outspoken advocacy and various humanitarian efforts have won her both awards and a considerable fan base among LGBTQ and Asian-American communities. Cho currently co-hosts the late-night talk show All About Sex for TLC, but her television resume is massive, with highlights including a starring role on Drop Dead Diva and memorably hilarious arc as Kim Jong-Il on 30 Rock. Cho has also appeared in films such as Face/Off, and she recently co-starred in Tooken, a parody of the Liam Neeson action series. Cho has also published two books, including the autobiography I'm the One that I Want and the essay collection I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight.
The show begins at 8 p.m.; tickets range from $40 to $55 on the Chautauqua website. And watch for an interview with Cho here later this month.
Follow Byron Graham on twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words.