Corey Garretson, center, Lauren Cross, left, and Smith Johnston practice during the Left Right Tim musical improv rehearsal last winter at the Hale Sciences building on the CU campus in Boulder.

  • Jeremy Papasso

    Nick Collins, front, performs a sketch with Sam Mamaghani during a Side Effects comedy show at the UMC.



C omedy is all about the element of surprise, and Boulder’s small but passionate comedy community both understands that philosophy and puts it into action.

“We don’t want to be formulaic,” said Brendan Milove, a senior in theater performance at CU who runs the university’s Secret Recipe student comedy troupe.

“We never want people to be content. Sometimes a show will be PG, other times it will be more inappropriate.”

Whether you’re looking for a study break or a night out (that starts with inappropriate improv, who knows?), Boulder’s comedy groups and venues can provide a humorous escape. Boulder has a number ofstand-up, improv and sketch comedy options to keep you in stitches.

Secret Recipe

Shows every other Thursday at 10:45 p.m.

University Memorial Center 386

The reincarnation of the previously CU-based sketch comedy troupe Side Effects, the student players of Secret Recipe perform new, entirely original comedy skits every other Thursday. On off weeks, the team fine-tunes its work via rehearsals, writer workshops and improv practice.

Encompassing a broad spectrum of humor from slapstick to witty repartee, Secret Recipe prides itself on mixing it up. Audiences can expect the unexpected, including elements like musical comedy, straight dramatic scenes and even getting pulled on stage to play a part in the show.

Dairy Comedy Showcase

Dairy Center for the Arts

26th & Walnut streets


In mid-September, The Dairy Center for the Arts will inaugurate what director of programs Deven Shaff calls a “season of comedy.” Sept. 12, marks the relaunch of the Dairy Comedy Showcase, an emerging platform for Colorado-based stand-up comics.

In the coming months, Fridays and Saturdays become a performance space for spotlighting local improv monthly. Boulder-based troupe ONE ACT will perform Friday shows starting Sept. 13, while Playback Theatre West will begin a Saturday improv program Oct. 5.

The Dairy “season of comedy” will also feature short-term, high-profile engagements, including performances from the Boulder International Fringe Festival and the regional premiere of “Seminar,” a “fast, funny play” performed by the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company.

These comedy options are “a huge boon for Boulder,” Shaff said, attracting “national and international talent.”

Umbrella Improv Initiative

Saturday shows at 8 p.m.

Visual Arts Complex 1b20

Another comedy group hailing from CU, the Umbrella Improv Initiative (UII), is dedicated to growing the comedic community on campus. Founded in 2011, UII is “a breeding ground for creativity,” said student director Sammi Gagnon, a senior at CU.

“We have grown from a small group of 12 eager improvisers to 50 and counting,” Gagnon said. “We have done anything from short-form improv to the tune of improvised TV shows [to] murder mystery theater for old folks.”

Umbrella Improv Initiative comprises multiple teams with eye-catching names like “How I Killed Your Mother,” “Virginity Defense Crabs” and “Corn on the Prov.” With $3 admission for the weekly Saturday performances, you know you’ll be seeing something unique for a low price.

Amante Coffee comedy

Shows third Friday of the month from 7-10 p.m.

Downtown Amante

1035 Walnut St.


Another venue for local comedians, downtown Amante showcases Boulder and Denver stand-up the third Friday of every month from 7-10 p.m. Active since December 2012, Amante comedy (on Walnut) pairs its roster of metro-area talent with free admission and coffee drink specials, making for an affordable, caffeinated start to a weekend of merriment.

Left Right TIM

Friday shows at 8 p.m.

Hale 270

CU Boulder’s premier improv troupe hosts uproarious shows on campus while expanding its reputation outside of the university. Founded in 2008, Left Right TIM (LRT) is celebrating five years of unscripted comedy.

Whether making students laugh, raising money for charitable causes or appearing at festivals around the world, LRT is dedicated to elevating improv locally and globally. In addition to catching one of the group’s legendary live shows (tickets are only $3), aspiring student performers can try out for the cast of Left Right TIM at the open auditions held each semester.

Boulder Theater

2032 14th St.


Though perhaps best known for hosting live music, the Boulder Theater frequently welcomes comedians. In addition to stand-up engagements from stars of the big and small screen, you can find musical comedy options like “Weird Al” Yankovich and October’s run of “Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody,” a song-and-dance spoof of the world-conquering S&M novel.

Contact writer Adam Rowan at

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