Established in 2013 by Denver comedians Adam Cayton-Holland and Andy Juett, the city’s first all stand-up comedy festival enters its third tour of South Broadway August 20 to 22 with a bigger headliner and more than 70 local and national comedians in tow. Here’s why you shouldn’t miss this year’s High Plains Comedy Festival:
1. Because You’ve Been Missing Out
It’s entirely possible that this Denver festival flew under your radar during its nascent 2013 and 2014 runs. This year, the event revisits its familiar Baker neighborhood haunts—Hi-Dive, 3 Kings Tavern, and Mutiny Information Café—but has amplified its offerings of nationally touring comics, local standup darlings, and assorted “As Seen On TV” jokesters from tastemaking shows like Conan, Comedy Central’s @midnight, and NBC’s Last Comic Standing.
2. It’s Curated By Funny People
“As comics who’ve played a lot of festivals, we knew what we liked and what we didn’t,” says Cayton-Holland, “So we always try to create an experience that’s a blast for comedians first and foremost.” If you buy the premise that comedy festivals are best configured by comedians who’ve been around the block, then kudos: your brain kinda works.
3. It’s Comic-Tested, Comic-Approved
Back to holding court at high altitude are industry dynamos Kurt Braunohler, Jonah Ray, Matt Braunger, Sean Patton, Beth Stelling, and, of course, Denver’s own Grawlix comedy troupe, consisting of Cayton-Holland, Ben Roy, and Andrew Orvedahl. “I’ve been to every single High Plains Comedy Festival there has ever been,” says Stelling, an L.A.-based comedian with numerous television credits. “And if I’m not at all future High Plains Fests, I will feel like the biggest loser because they pick the best comics to come to Denver.”
4. To Assert Your Hometown Pride
Now entering its third year, the homegrown and curated festival has again paired quality local acts like Aaron Urist, Mara Wiles, Carey Denise and many more alongside dozens of established national names.
5. Although It’s a Festival, It’s Not a South By Southwest-ival
Meaning you won’t have to thrash elbows and undergo a claustrophobia-induced panic attack to cash-in your entertainment dollar. Owing primarily to its somewhat “fun-sized” dimensions, High Plains is as dynamic, while simultaneously loose, convenient, and accessible as a comedy fest gets. “It’s fun to be able to run from venue to venue, because 90 percent of (our) venues are within a block of each other,” says Juett.
6. The Odds Are In Your Favor
With more than 70 comics with their own unique voices and perspectives swirling like hornets from downtown to South Broadway, one is virtually guaranteed to hit the sweet spot. “Do you like to laugh?” Cayton-Holland entreats: “Then come to the fest! Do you need big established names that you recognize from TV? We’ve got ’em. Are you willing to go out and see a comic that you’ve maybe never heard of but will blow your mind and make you think and laugh in a way you maybe never have before? We’ve got that too.”
7. A Head-turning Headliner
Set against the backdrop of rockin’ farewell shows at the Gothic Theatre and the McNichols Building in 2013 and 2014, respectively, there’s no denying that Saturday night’s closing slate is aiming higher than ever before. Heavyweight comic Anthony Jeselnik—who serves as the current host of NBC’s Last Comic Standing—will take the party to downtown’s historic 1,870-seat Paramount Theatre at 8 p.m., in what will represent the fest’s biggest event to date. The 2015 festival’s denouement, however, will take place back at Broadway’s 3 Kings Tavern for the “High Plains Super Finale Party,” featuring The Grawlix and special guests at 11 p.m.
Laugh Like You Mean It: Visit highplainscomedyfestival.com for full lineup details, festival passes, individual showcase tickets, and more.