This summer, if you were on the prowl in Boulder looking for something to do, there’s a good chance you could have stumbled onto a standup comedy performance.
After all, after years of inconsistency, four venues — Bohemian Biergarten (2017 13th St., Boulder), The Dairy Center for the Arts (2590 Walnut St., Boulder), Johnny’s Cigar Bar (1801 13th St., Boulder), and Amante Coffee (1035 Walnut St., Boulder) — now regularly host comedy nights or open mics.
Local comics and hosts say that the explosion of comedy in Boulder is partially due to the robust Denver standup scene, which has developed into a national presence in the past five years. Boulder’s proximity to Denver allows comics from both cities to perform in both places fairly easily, but it’s only in recent months that Denver comedians could count on some consistency from Boulder’s comedy scene, says capital-based comedian Chuck Roy.
“We Denver guys, we’ve always been going to Boulder and coming up empty,” says Roy, who, since June, has hosted a weekly comedy show at Bohemian Biergarten with Brent Gill. “There hasn’t been a long-running comedy club up in Boulder. Completely surprising.”
There have been attempts in recent years to start comedy nights in Boulder — the Boulder Comedy Club at the Lazy Dog and the open mics at The Bitter Bar and Shine come to mind — but none of those have stuck. When Brendon Lemon, who performed comedy in Detroit for more than a decade before moving to Boulder in 2010, decided last year to start performing again, there weren’t many options. So he decided to start his own night, and he broached the topic with many venues around town. Amante was one of the last places he approached, and management was amenable. The event, which Lemon says occurs once a month, began last October.
When James Gold started looking for a place to perform comedy in November, there was only the weekly open mic night happening at Amante. So he started looking for a venue to host a comedy night, and he landed at The Dairy.
“Comedy-wise in Boulder there was really nothing,” Gold says. “The big explosion that has been happening recently has been extremely recently. … “’[The Amante open mic] was just the only thing that was going on. So if you were a comedian, your only choice was to go to an open mic and be the asshole who interrupted all the acoustic guitarists.”
And just this past June, Tobias Livingston started booking a weekly comedy open mic at Johnny’s Cigar Bar.
Boulder comedy scene went from zero to bustling in less than a year, and people involved in the scene say it’s about time.
“I think Boulder has just been waiting for people to stand up and have a sense of humor in the town,” Lemon says. “For a town that’s so super about raising consciousness, it’s amazing that no one has done this. What can raise your consciousness better than intelligent humor? Humor holds up a mirror, and I think that’s interesting and fun.”
John “Hippieman” Novosad is one of the few Boulder comedians who has been consistently performing for the past couple decades, making appearances on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson and once opening for Jerry Seinfeld. He says he has always wondered why Boulder doesn’t have more of a comedy scene. But now, he’s able to develop new material at Boulder comedy shows before incorporating it into his live act.
“I’m surprised a little bit at the scene for Boulder for music and comedy,” Novosad says. “You’d think it would be better since it’s a college town. I think one of the reasons it hasn’t stuck around in Boulder is the proximity to Denver. So I guess that’s it. I guess Boulder’s kind of fickle when it comes to live entertainment in general.”
Nancy Norton is another Boulder comedian who used to make her living touring clubs around the country. A nurse, (“I got out of nursing pretty much for the same reason most people get into it: to save lives,” she quips) she just now is getting back into comedy after taking a lengthy break when she adopted her son.
“Yeah, what I try to do seriously, I am trying to bring a more authentic love into the world,” says Norton, who for many years played “Lesbo the Clown” in the activist theater troupe Vox Feminista. “I know it sounds like a weird way of going about it, but I try to expose myself and my foibles as much as possible, and try to demonstrate that I am still having fun despite having made some huge mistakes.”
The next comedy night at Bohemian Biergarten will be Sunday, Aug. 11, www.facebook.com/BohemianBiergarten. Amante Coffee´s next comedy open mic happens Friday, Aug. 16, www.facebook.com/Amantewalnut. The next open mic at Johnny´s Cigar Bar will happen Tuesday, Aug. 13, www.johnnyscigars.com. The Dairy Center for the Arts will host a comedy night on Thursday, Sept. 12, www.thedairy.org.