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Posted on: Jun 14, 2010

By John Wenzel
Denver Post


What makes Denver laugh?

A lot of things, of course, but comedians who reflect our demographics tend to do best here. And the demographics are changing.

We're nearly 35 percent Latino now, according to 2008 numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, so in turn we have been flocking to shows f>rom George Lopez and Carlos Mencia. California comic Gabriel Iglesias even sold out a pair of back-to-back shows at the Buell Theatre in April - which has hosted big names like Bill Cosby and Jerry Seinfeld.

But we also like intelligent and weird. Indie and alternative comics such as Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, Demetri Martin and Aziz Ansari do ridiculously well along the Front Range, selling out quickly and leaving promoters scrambling to book them for future dates.

"What (Denverites) don't respond to is the more gimmicky stuff, like jugglers, hypnotists and ventriloquists," said Erin von Schonfeldt, vice president of talent for the Improv, who books the chain's 27 clubs nationwide.

When it comes to locally grown comics, we're also outrageously hungry. Fighting the cowtown stigma has made our natives aggressive and led them to endure open-mic nights at harsh dive bars like the Squire Lounge, or fight it out on stages at Comedy Works and the Improv at Northfield Stapleton.

"There are tons of places that allow young people to develop pretty organically without really telling them a way to be," said Adam Cayton-Holland, a nationally touring stand- up and writer for the Denver/Boulder edition of the Onion.

Wende Curtis' two Comedy Works clubs are a beacon for touring comics, but they don't have a stranglehold on comedy here. Multiple venues host local comedy nights, from indie comedy shows like Los Comicos Super Hilariosos at the Orange Cat Gallery to the Improv's Future Legends of Comedy.

"When all else fails, racism kills in Denver," Cayton-Holland said. "We're not easily offended and we can take a joke."