Returning for the fourth year, High Plains Comedy Festival brought a fine selection of comedians to South Broadway and the Paramount Theater this weekend, delivering laughs with every performance. With live tapings, game shows, rap battles, improv stand-up and more, High Plains represented a broad spectrum of comedy that pleased just about every demographic. Of course, there were some topics that kept cropping up—like weed jokes, the income inequality between men and women and (parents, cover your children’s eyes) dick jokes. Yes, those were in full force this weekend and the audiences could not get enough. 303 Magazine checked out the busy scene and gathered some highlights for those of you who missed out on the laughs. One thing is for certain—Denver appreciates good comedy and is willing to come out in numbers to support it.
Thursday, August 25
Iron Comic at 3 Kings Tavern
Hosted by Nato Green, this hilarious comedy game show was inspired by the TV show Iron Chef, except with jokes instead of food. There was only one winner—Jordan Doll—who claimed the Iron Comic title by producing the most applause. In order to win the comedians had to write an impromptu two-minute bit from three different audience suggested topics—Charles Manson, Harry Potter and/or tenderness and cowboys. Before the game began, Nato Green took a moment to remove some of the suggestions (like “taking a pregnancy test in a port-o-potty” and “your mom”) and placing some of the pressure on the crowd, saying “if the show is no good, it’s your fault and you all have no future in comedy.” Fortunately, the show was a success, with large outbursts of laughter from the audience and some quick-witted impromptu jokes from the five comedians.
Thursday Night Showcase at 3 Kings Tavern
3 Kings Tavern was filled to the brim as Thursday Night Showcase began, newcomers tried to find a place to sit but many people who watched Iron Comic did not move between the shows. Each comedian had about ten minutes to perform and there was a special and surprise appearance by Kyle Kinane with some unscripted jokes. Ian Douglas Terry struck a chord with so many outdoorsy Coloradans by joking that he only recently discovered that walking is considered exercise, and that hiking is an even better form because the Instagram pictures are off the charts. “Seriously, a waterfall picture gets like 2,000 likes on Instagram.”
Friday, August 26
Picture This! at 3 Kings Tavern
Touted as “wildly funny and innovative,” this comedy show created by Brandie Posey and Sam Varela had comedians paired with animators who drew their own interpretations of the jokes while the comic performed. The animators were silent, sitting next to the stage while their drawings were projected on a screen behind the comedian. But their animations were anything but silent, garnering attention from the crowd and often fueling and inspiring the comic. Bobcat Goldthwait performed during this segment, out of his typical range it seemed, as most of the comedians before and after him relied almost exclusively on jokes that would necessitate dirty imagery. I had to ask myself, “come on Denver, are we really that into bathroom humor?”
New Negroes at Hi-Dive
The Hi-Dive was packed for this show, the narrow seating area filled to the brim and people overflowing into the rest of the bar, standing up tall to catch a glimpse. New Negroes are a group of black comedians who do alternative comedy, hoping to rearrange the stereotype of a black comic. I was only able to see three of the comedians perform toward the end of the set, but if they were representative of their predecessors then New Negroes rocked the house. Dulcé Sloan lit up the crowd with a bit about finding a Jewish husband but mistaking Greek men for Jews until asking for their last name. Martin Morrow received a huge applause after his jokes about his past love of punk rock and emo bands, imitating the whiny voice of their lead singers with lyrics like “I hate my stepdad.” And, given the circumstances, there were more than a few stabs at the lack of diversity in Colorado, but only in the most light-hearted of ways.
Turnt Up at Hi-Dive
This was by far one of the funniest parts of the weekend—an unscripted rap battle between six comedians (who had no prior experience with rapping) hosted by the talented and funny Eliza Skinner. Each comedian had the chance to introduce themselves before having a one-on-one face-off with another contestant until it came down to the final two, based on audience support. Skinner stole the show, with her rap introduction where she proved her improvising skills by asking the crowd for a topic and then delivering a biting retort, in rhyme and rhythm. Mid-way through Adam-Cayton Holland–founder and performer at HPCF–shocked the crowd when he joked that his show “Those Who Can’t” was dropped by truTV, who is also a sponsor of the festival. It wasn’t dropped, but he convinced not only the crowd but his fellow comics. Other highlights include, Stephen Agyel who stayed in character as “Mister Number One,” throughout the battle. Ultimately the winner was Kristin Rand, after starting with serious bouts of anxiety and self-doubt, but gaining popularity with her wit and originality. The other four comedians competing were Zac Maas, Troy Walker, Adam Cayton-Holland and Ian Karmel.
Saturday, August 27
Infauxmation at Mutiny Information Cafe
In this segment comedians Brent Gill, Rachel Weeks, Martin Morrow, Jordan Doll and Sean Patton hilariously discussed actual headlines, expanding on the stories and poking fun at the subjects. Imagine if the Onion paired up with The Daily Show and you will have an idea of Infauxmation. Because the audience and the comedians were seeing the headlines for the first time together, it was impressive to watch the comedians collaborate on the spot and be funny while they did it.
Denver Up and Comers at Mutiny Information Cafe
Unfortunately this was one of the less packed crowds at Mutiny, but that didn’t stop these up and coming Denver comedians from bringing some laughs. Corey Rhoads hosted this event with Geoff Tice, Meghan DePonceau, Matt Cobos, Georgia Rae, Zeke Herrera, Kira MagCalen, Harris Alterman, Dave Losso, Heather Snow and David Gborie. Geoff Tice really excited the audience with a bit where he recited some truly inappropriate things in a perfect Australian accent and followed it up by saying that at least every women and a few men in the crowd now saw him as hotter, regardless of what he just said, and he was right.
Headlining Show at the Paramount Theater
The headliners started with a Denver local—Nathan Lund—who kicked off the two hours with a great opening set, warming up the audience for the next three acts. Cameron Esposito came next, introducing herself by commenting on how great all the women’s arms in Denver look. “What do you do, go bouldering all day? Seriously though, what is your fitness routine to get arms like that?” Although she lost some people during her informal endorsement of Hillary Clinton, she won everyone back by reaming a man who shouted a lewd comment about Clinton out loud. Kyle Kinane took the stage to a massive amount of applause and had the crowd in stitches for the duration of his stand-up, joking at one point about whether Navy Seals are tested for being ticklish. And Garfunkel and Oates capped the evening with their delightful and unexpected songs, and even put down their instruments to have the whitest rap battle ever seen. Two of the songs the crowd loved were “Pregnant Ladies are Smug” and “The Fade Away”—the latter explaining how women often break up with men.
*Editor’s Note: 303 Magazine was a media sponsor for this event.