Denver Improv Festival kicks off tonight, hosting a weekend of national comedic heavyweights

It's no secret that Denver's comedy scene is thriving, and today the seventh annual Denver Improv Festival begins a five-day run of shows, workshops and parties that has attracted comedians from across the U.S., including Convoy from Los Angeles and Switch Committee from Chicago.

See also: James Clark of Governor Jack on improv, and making a web series about a web series

Hosted by Denver's own GroupMind Foundation -- a nonprofit that works to connect the community through the art of improv -- the festival acts as a fundraiser for the work that GroupMind does during the rest of the year. "It's a festival first, but the goal has always been to make some money and be able to donate it back to the community," says James Clark, GroupMind boardmember and a member of local improv group Governor Jack.

The festival opens this evening at Bovine Metropolis, with shows from high-school troupes picked from across the city, giving young players a chance to work out material in front of a national audience. Along with Bovine, two other downtown venues known for their improv shows, Voodoo Comedy Playhouse and Impulse Theater, will be hosting festival events. And an end-of-the-fest blowout celebration will be held late Sunday at the Icehouse Tavern.

On top of big shows from up-and-coming acts, the Denver Improv Festival will also offer workshops with the pros. "The workshops focus on different parts of improv," says Clark. "Different styles of play, how to start scenes, how to pull a premise from a monologue someone gives."

Acts like Convoy -- whose members have been featured on such shows as Conan O'Brien, Key & Peele and Reno 911! -- are bringing improv comedy to a new level of recognition, and the Denver Improv Festival is working to keep the momentum going in Colorado, too.

"I get the sense that nationally, the improv scene is growing. There are just more and more teams from all over the country that are going to other towns to perform," says Clark. "We (Governor Jack) were in New York City this year, and we met teams from across the country -- and that's one of the ways we've met some of the people performing at this year's fest. I think we're getting to a point where it is becoming a global thing."

Clark also notes that Governor Jack has just finished filming the last few episodes of its web series, How to Make A Web Series, and will be debuting those throughout the rest of the year.

The Denver Improv Festival kicks off at 7 p.m. tonight at Bovine Metropolis. For more information, a full festival schedule or to purchase tickets, visit the fest's website and Facebook page.