//Comedian Shanel Hughes performs at The Bad Apples Comedy Show, a comedy showcase that she headlined at Stem Ciders in Denver on May 20. Photo by Ali Mai | firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2007, Vanity Fair ran an article titled “Why Women Aren’t Funny” that based its premise on the plainly false assertion that people, for whatever reasons, generally don’t think anyone other than cis-gender men are capable of being funny. Fourteen years later, femme comedians are still firing off quick wit and side-splitting jokes—only now, they’re finally starting to get the recognition they deserve.
Denver’s comedy scene is positively overflowing with an abundance of femme talent. With each day, more and more jokesters are mustering up the courage to hop on an open mic and share laughs with others. Queer bar Blush & Blu frequently hosts showcases that center femme comics. Other bars and venues all around town offer comedy and open-mic nights for seasoned joke-tellers and newbies alike. As pandemic restrictions loosen, it’s time to get out and laugh along with some of the city’s most uproarious femme comedians. Here are four comedians based in Denver that have been hacking their way through the thick comedy jungle of misogyny, racism and dismissal without even breaking a sweat.
Arguably one of Denver’s biggest comedians, Janae Burris combines self-deprecation and off-handed observations with energetic delivery that results in non-stop laughter. Burris regularly hosts Sh!t Talk Tours at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, which are guided tours led by local comedians. In one video made while the MCA was closed because of the pandemic, Burris gave a tour of the art in her home. The “works” shown included a dying houseplant, a picture frame that covers up a hole in her wall and a painting of Burris’s butt titled “Ass-pirations of Grandeur.” Burris also co-founded Pussy Bros, a now-disbanded comedy troupe of femme comics and is the first Black woman to join the Comedy Works “Pro” list of local jokesters that have climbed to the top of the laugh ladder.
Having grown up right here in Denver, Shanel Hughes does not hold back when she makes observations on how white Denver is or when she talks about the awkward, messier aspects of queer love and sex. Hughes has performed at comedy festivals in Oregon, Alaska and Colorado. When she’s not telling stories on-stage, she likes to create parody raps that riff on popular songs. In her satire version of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP,” Hughes raps, “Dick game weak/whack ass penis/softer than my face cheek.” She also made a version of “Bitch from the Souf” by Mulatto called “Bitch from the Mountains” that talks about hiking and smoking weed—an apt representation of Coloradans.
Few can compare to the meteoric rise of Christie Buchele, a Denver-based comedian who lives with cerebral palsy. Buchele has been performing stand-up since 2010 and in the last decade has appeared on Viceland, Fox and NBC and has opened for comedy behemoths like Marc Maron and David Cross. Her stand-up often references her disability and the hilarious—and often awkward—interactions she faces on dates as well as with ordinary people on the street. Not one to shy away from inflammatory jokes, Buchele tells jokes that hit hard and leave audiences reeling from the impact.
With the pandemic bringing live stand-up comedy to a grinding halt, local comedian Hannah Jones found herself needing a humorous outlet to keep her occupied. Jones decided to create the Denver news satire website Westish News, which spoofs local outlets like Westword and The Denver Post. Though the website was short-lived—Jones launched Westish in May 2020 and ended it by November—it brought much-needed levity to the non-stop doom filling up news feeds. Brimming with headlines such as “Denver Snow Plow Union Demands Time and a Half for Working in Summer” and “Colorado Rockies Relieved Season May Not Be Happening,” Westish News poked fun at the odd quirks that make Denver the unique and weird place that it is. When she’s not riffing on Denver, Jones likes to crack jokes about pop culture phenomena and navigating the nightmare that is dating.
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