Just over three decades ago, it seemed that New York, LA, and Chicago had a stranglehold on the standup circuit. For those with guts in need of busting and knees in need of slapping, the only alternatives were treks to the Catskills or nights spent snuggling with a Bob Newhart doll. Lucky for the Denver community, Doug Olson, Edd Nichols, and George McKelvey opened Comedy Works in 1981, the city's first club to specialize only in full-time standup. Unsurprisingly, it transformed the Southwest into a prime destination for the nation's top touring comedians, even landing a spot on USA Today's list of the Top 5 Comedy Clubs in the US.
The downtown location, which still resides in the basement of the Granite Building, has played host to a who's-who of comedy throughout the decades. Roseanne Barr got her start doing open mics there, while Jerry Seinfeld, Joan Rivers, and George Lopez have all milked the mile-high elevation for maximum laughs. Now under the ace management of Wende Curtis (one of the country's few female comedy-club owners), Comedy Works has expanded to The Landmark at a second location known as Comedy Works South. The environs are decidedly posher than its predecessor's, with a 380-seat showroom, and accompanying restaurant, lounge, and ballroom. Despite the differences in atmosphere, both locations maintain the club's comedic pedigree and passion for nurturing the next generation of standups.