Boulder has plenty of places to drink, dance and jam — but people looking for laughs have been out of luck.
“We’ve known for about five years or so that a new form of nightlife, or a new form of entertainment, in Boulder could be well received,” says Matt Rushing, a CU alum and Denver local. “So we had the idea of opening a comedy club in Boulder for a few years now.”
Rushing started the Boulder Comedy Club, a business model that follows that of a promotions company. He has partnered with the Lazy Dog and currently puts on shows about once a month — he expects them to be held more frequently once the university returns to its fall schedule.
“Once we had the venue, we were able to go to the comedians and say, ‘What’s your availability?’” Rushing says. “The reception from the comedians has been great; they’ve all been very stoked to see something going on in Boulder on a more regular basis.”
In recent years, stand-up comedy has been conspicuously absent from the Boulder scene, though improv and sketch comedy groups like the Boulder Improv Collaborative and Left Right TIM from CU have a strong community presence.
“As far as the history goes, there hasn’t been a traditional comedy ‘club’ in Boulder in any recent years, to my knowledge,” Rushing says, via email. “There were shows at the Redfish and Albums on the Hill a few years back, but they’re no longer running on a regular basis.”
Rushing says the comedy club tries to recreate the traditional setting — “complete with lights, sounds, and the little round tables.” He says this setting hasn’t been in Boulder for a long time, if ever.
The lack of stand-up comedy in Boulder is offset by Denver, a city with two Comedy Works locations.
Closer to Boulder is the West End Comedy Club in Westminster, making it an easy commute for people passionate about stand-up, and for comics looking to perform.
John Novosad, also known as Hippieman, is a Boulder local who started his career in comedy in various Denver rooms in the early ’80s. Novosad will be performing through the Boulder Comedy Club at the Lazy Dog on Saturday, June 25, and says he is looking forward to bringing his show to his hometown.
Despite the lackluster resources, Novosad got his start in comedy through the Tuesday night show that was held at the Blue Note, a club that used to be on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder.
“I had no idea what the hell I was doing,” he says.
“[The Blue Note] had an open mic kind of new-talent-thing going on there, and I did that for, like, a year and a half, and that’s really how I got started. And then the Comedy Works started happening in Denver and there was just more opportunities while things progressed in the early ’80s.”
Novosad is in good company. Both he and Rushing say that the Front Range is home to comics who serve up smart comedy.
“I think the word that I would use to describe their expertise is it’s smart humor,” says Rushing, referring to storytelling methods employed by many local comedians.
“They bring the audience in and they’ll kind of have an inside connection — the audience feels they have an inside connection or an inside joke with the comic when the show’s over,” Rushing says.
Novosad says he uses a lot of self-deprecating and political humor in his act, one of the jokes being “Hippieman’s plan for America.”
Hippieman, Novosad’s character, reflects his Boulder-bred liberal sensibility. In Hippieman’s plan for America, Novosad says the idea is that Democrats and Republicans are more or less the same.
“So I came up with my plan for America and then I just present it,” he says. “I have it on index cards and I just take topics that are in the news, and I have funny solutions for them.”
Rushing says because Boulder is a smart town, bringing witty comedians like Novosad and others from the Front Range works. It is also proving to be a lucrative market, as the Boulder Comedy Club has sold out the past two shows.
Novosad says the Front Range offers a tight-knit community for comics looking to refine their act.
“There’s just a real comfortable family feeling in the comedy scene there, it’s really supportive,” he says. “So that’s probably influenced me more than anything — to see other people’s success and to have those clubs to work stuff out [in] has been the thing that’s helped me the most.”