High Plains Comedy Festival aims to make you laugh for four days straight so good luck breathing

3 min. read
A crowd at High Plains Comedy Festival. (Courtesy of HPCF)

By Philip B. Clapham, for Denverite

More than 100 funny people are making their way to Baker and downtown Denver for the Seventh annual High Plains Comedy Festival this weekend.

Founded in 2013 by Denver comedian and writer Adam Cayton-Holland, High Plains has fast evolved into one of the better known indie-comedy festivals in the United States. Up-and-comers and established comedians will hit stages up and down South Broadway and in downtown's theater district Thursday through Sunday.

Maria Bamford (of "Lady Dynamite," "Arrested Development," "American Dad" and "BoJack Horseman" fame) will headline the festival with special guests Aparna Nancherla ("BoJack Horseman") and Jackie Kashian ("The Dork Forest"), at the Paramount Theatre on Friday at 8 p.m.

The Saturday roster is chock-full of live podcast performances. So, if you're not a night owl or typical stand-up fan, you can experience the festival through this alternative slate of day programming that gets more elaborate each year.

Saturday's roster includes All Fantasy Everything, a show "where funny people and experts come together to fantasy draft pop culture, from music to movies to sandwiches, everything is in play." Then there's The Boogie Monster, with stand-up comedians Kyle Kinane and Dave Stone, whose f-bomb injected, stream of consciousness discussions range from lip rings to moon landing conspiracy theories.

The Endless Honeymoon Live Podcast, by comedic duo and married couple Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher, offers Savage Love-like advice to callers and ruminations about the (not so) funny moments in romantic relationships. Three Swings with Rhea Butcher, a Los Angeles-based comedian and writer, goes deep into America's pastime through the lens of history, culture, identity politics and comedy. And local faves, The Narrators, who host a themed storytelling show for people to share stories from their real lives at Paris on the Platte will also bring their podcast to a live audience.

Cayton-Holland was inspired to bring local comedy to the fore after attending the now defunct Bridgetown Festival in Portland. It was an indie music gathering turned comedy fest.

"I remember going to that and thinking, 'Denver definitely needs this for sure,'" he said. "So I just kind of started it and it's grown every year."

Much of what brought High Plains together was Cayton-Holland working his personal comedy networks, building friendships with venue owners. Being a local living and performing in the Baker neighborhood helped, too.

"Basically I've abused my friendships by making them work for less than they deserve," he joked. "But the truth is, the scene is so fun and most people are eager to come."

3 Kings Tavern, Hi-Dive, Irish Rover Club and Mutiny Information Cafe will host most performances, with satellite shows at Oriental Theater in Berkeley, and the headliner at Paramount Theatre. The venues are close together, but some start times overlap, so plan out your comedy hopping accordingly.

Clayton-Holland says High Plains is still focused on highlighting the diverse talent found in Denver's local scene.

"I really enjoy that. I tell folks they should come and find their new favorite comic because a lot of people may not have heard of these people but they should have," he said. "We strive really hard to make sure that different voices are represented and that there's something for everyone."

Browse the full festival schedule, and check out the complete roster with bios here. Festival passes are sold out, but tickets are still available at the door for all shows on a first-come, first-served basis.

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