The comedy scene is booming in Denver, possibly because the laid-back attitude all Coloradoans seem to share attracts top talent. It's grown throughout the years from a small and tight-knit group to one that consistently attracts the biggest names in comedy. Not to mention Denver has managed to hold on to much of its top local talent—meaning Denver’s comedy scene is on its way to rivaling that of New York City or Los Angeles. Here are the top places to check out if a comedy club sounds like the ideal night out on the town.
You can’t talk about comedy in Denver without mentioning Comedy Works. Playing host to names as big as Kevin Smith, Aziz Ansari, Bill Burr, Marc Maron and Trevor Noah, Comedy Works is the place for all things funny. On top of bringing headlining comedy to Denver, Comedy Works also plays host to a weekly new talent night where professionals and amateurs alike can practice new material, or even try performing for the first time. Sometimes you might also get lucky and have a nationally touring comedian, like Dave Chapelle, drop-in for the night to warm up.
Another venue for nationally touring stand-up is the Denver Improv Comedy Club and Dinner Theatre. Recent comedians have included Michael Blackson, Ms. Pat, Bill Bellamy and Dean Edwards. Denver Improv also occasionally hosts special events such as podcast tours and psychic mediums. Want to attend a show last-minute? The box office sometimes has free tickets available.
Voted "Best Improv Night" and one of the top five comedy nights by Denver’s Westword newspaper, Voodoo Comedy Playhouse should be your first stop if you love improv. Voodoo Comedy Playhouse has improv shows five nights a week, with genres ranging from Shakespeare to LGBTQ to musicals. Voodoo also offers sketch comedy and an open-mic night for stand-up comics, in addition to improv classes for the general public. You can sign up for eight-week-long classes that culminate in a student showcase or choose to attend weekly drop-in classes.
Winner of several of the Denver Post’s Ovation Awards, such as "Best Comedy" in 2001 and 2007, the Avenue Theatre is a great choice for scripted comedy shows and improv. If you're in Denver around Christmastime, check out “Santa’s Big Red Sack,” Avenue’s longest-running production, now in its 10th year, dubbed “[t]he holiday show you shouldn't take your kids to.” Avenue Theatre also occasionally has non-comedy theater productions, so everyone is sure to find something they enjoy.
Setting themselves apart from the other venues on this list, Bovine Metropolis Theatres bills itself as a clean and all-ages theater. Producing mainly improv and sketch comedy, long-running shows include “On the Spot,” a “Whose Line Is It Anyway”-style show, and “Improv Hootenanny,” where improv troupes from around Colorado come together to perform. Bovine Metropolis Theatre also offers improv classes for adults with two-month-long courses and drop-in classes.
For Something Different
Describing themselves as “Denver's Finest Alt-Comedy Room,” Comedy RoomRoom (no, that’s not a typo) located in El Charrito’s bar, has a variety of offerings for people who want to laugh but want something outside of the usual stand-up routine. Past events include a show devoted only to one-liners, a roulette-style show where comics receive a random challenge to deal with while performing (like eating ghost peppers), a “token” night featuring comics of color and movie nights focused on female directors. Most events are free/donation-based or very low cost.
For scripted comedic theater, check out the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, which offers a variety of shows from which to choose. Check the website for specific location information as the Center has eight different theaters across Denver. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts also includes information online regarding the use of effects such as strobe lighting and gunshot sounds, and the use of profanity/adult content, so people with disabilities and families looking for something suitable for children will be able to choose a production everyone will enjoy. The DCPA also offers audio and visual assistance for certain performances.
If you happen to be in Denver around the end of August, you might be able to attend the High Plains Comedy Festival, an annual festival that was founded in 2013. The festival lasts more than three days and gives you an opportunity to see a wide range of both local and national comics in venues across the city, but is situated mainly in the historic Baker neighborhood. If you plan to attend, be sure to buy your tickets early. As the festival and the comedy scene in Denver have grown, the events have started to sell out.