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Camaraderie and Shenanigans: Inside Voodoo Comedy Playhouse

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Stephen Wilder is in a giving mood. After struggling to get stage time as a novice improv comic in Los Angeles, Wilder moved to Denver in 2009. “When I first got to Denver, I was given some wonderful breaks to put my stuff on stage, so I’m trying to pay that forward and keep giving performers chances to perform,” he says.

As owner, artistic director, and frequent performer at one of Denver’s newest comedy venues, Voodoo Comedy Playhouse, Wilder has opened his doors to fellow friends and performers whose shows had no home. The small, 80-seat venue was designed to recreate the “general camaraderie and shenanigans” of iO West Theater in Hollywood, the place where Wilder fell in love with improvisational comedy.

“It’s definitely not the DCPA in terms of size, but what we don’t have in size, we make up for in heart,” says Wilder.

Since its opening in October 2011, Voodoo has grown parallel to Denver’s thriving comedy scene. What started as a site for two shows—the Dinner Detective Murder Mystery show and Hit and Run musical improv—has evolved into a hub for sketch comedy, burlesque, improv classes, karaoke, and standup. The venue hosts special performances from some of Denver’s top funny guys, including Ben Roy and Adam Cayton-Holland (the Grawlix), Sam Tallent (host of Film on the Rocks), and Sexy Pizza‘s Sexpot Comedy.

Although you won’t see the likes of Jerry Seinfeld or Louis C.K. pacing the Voodoo stage (yet), the venue has attracted national acts Nick Armstrong, Kevin McDonald, and Susan Messing. Next month, Brian Babylon, a panelist on NPR’s “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” will perform for two nights after a live taping of “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” at Red Rocks, and the writers from Tosh.0 will perform a standup set.

As Denver’s comedy scene carries more and more weight on the national scale, Wilder realizes that his idea for an all-purpose comedy venue holds a bit of serendipity. “All of the different elements of the Denver comedy scene have grown and changed by leaps and bounds since I first arrived here. From my perspective as an outsider, there was a vibrant improv scene when I got here, but it was all focused around one or two theaters,” says Wilder. “The scene overall has blossomed and become something that’s noticeable on a national scale.”

Upcoming events at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse:

—Photo courtesy Stephen Wilder

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