Laughter floods the valley
This weekend, the Western Slope hosts a variety of comedy shows that make me proud to see how far the stand-up scene has come in the last several years.
We’ve come a long way since the Bayou, baby.
A few years back, that popular spot in Glenwood for Cajun cuisine, après Summer of Jazz karaoke, and a raucous Fat Tuesday party that has since closed, provided a venue for stand-up comedy that could get a little, well, wild. The content was definitely for mature audiences. I can’t remember anything being off limits. Hecklers were common. In Mardi Gras spirit, we once had a woman rush the stage during one male comic’s set and flash the audience.
As the host, I mostly remember my mouth dropping.
In the last eight years I’ve been at the comedy game, I’ve seen and heard my share of the strangeness that comes with stand-up. There’s always something to spark some laughter, even if that involves flashing audience members. I celebrate my stand-up anniversary on Feb. 10. On that wintery Saturday night in 2007, I gave comedy a shot at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen. I had been covering an upvalley comedy troupe called Laugh Your Aspen Off, which later morphed into a stand-up collective I joined called the Comedy Mercenaries.
Comedy has a way of evolving like that.
Peeking through the curtains from backstage that night, I remember seeing a crowd of about 500 people. There was a festive buzz of excitement that comes with a comedy show as people gear up to laugh and have a few hours of fun. I hadn’t exactly crafted any zingers or jokes with distinct punch lines, but I did have a story about being a reporter that warranted three minutes of comedy.
At least I hoped so.
I remember telling myself that if I bombed, it would only be three measly minutes of my life. I could recover and keep trying, or never set foot on a stage again. Eight years later, the former is still happening.
That doesn’t mean I don’t still have fears.
I had some laughs that night, and I was immediately hooked. I spent some years trying to make the trek from the mountains to Denver, where the comedy scene flourishes. Just in the last few years, that scene has really blown up, attracting comics such as Dave Chappelle to do surprise shows at Comedy Works and many stand-ups from L.A. and New York to pack theaters. I personally recommend a collective called Sexpot Comedy, a combo of the Denver’s Sexy Pizza and Denver Relief, one of Colorado’s original marijuana dispensaries. Sexpot hosts live comedy events around the city, comedy festivals, and podcasts including one of my favorites called Empty Girlfriend. That features interviews with national touring comics led by two of Denver’s up-and-coming female comics, Haley Driscoll and Christie Buchele. Give it a listen at http://www.emptygirlfriend.com.
I’m always a fan of funny women in entertainment.
Many of the comics coming to the valley this weekend have been stand-outs in the popular Denver scene, and beyond, for years. One such comic is Nora Lynch, a Facebook friend of mine. Not to drop names or anything. I have a secret obsession with her — maybe not-so-secret now — because her brother is a Hollywood actor named John Carroll Lynch. In 2014, he played one of my favorite frightening characters, Twisty the Clown, on my favorite show, “American Horror Story.” This season, titled “Freak Show,” is dedicated to the freaks in all of us.
In certain ways, that encompasses being a comic.
Lynch will be telling jokes Saturday night at the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue with Byron Graham, a Denver Westword writer, and her comic husband Phil Palisoul, who has appeared on Comedy Central, “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and “Last Comic Standing.” A huge line-up of talent, and this is a show that should not be missed.
Unless you’ll be in Rifle that night.
The New Ute Events Center is also hosting a night of live stand-up with Boulder’s Hippieman, who has appeared on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” and is a regular at Denver club Comedy Works. Denver comic Chris Charpentier, who just celebrated four years of a great show in Denver called Too Much Fun!, is the show’s opener. I first met Hippieman — whose given name is John — a few years back, during the Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival. He was as nice as could be, and funny, too.
That always helps in stand-up.
The pre-cursor to Saturday’s national touring comedy headliners happens tonight at Loyal Brothers Lounge, one of my favorite venues for comedy. The night includes Front Range comics Anthony Crawford, Alan Bromwell, Dylan Aames, and my old friend and Eagle Valley native Brett Hiker, whom I met several years ago for the first time there. My Comedy Mercenaries cohort Don Chaney, who has been with me through eight years of ups and downs of stand-up, will also be there telling jokes that reflect his life as a single dad and radio veteran. The crowd is always fun, and I’ve seen some comics destroy hecklers who try and upstage the comics. That includes once when a guy in the audience was mad about a joke and flipped a coffee table. The comic on stage, Denver’s Sam Tallent, handled the physicality of the heckling with calm and reserve. I’ll always remember the look on his face before he grabbed a stool to protect himself, just in case.
At least there were no flashings.
April E. Clark has never been to Mardi Gras. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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