Rising with laughter
Boulder Comedy Festival is on: The laugh fest features 21 comedians, including CU Comedy Club’s former president BK Sharad, who opens up about the dark days of pandemic life
The Boulder Comedy Festival — many months in the making — kicked off June 24 and will take over three Front Range venues with a starstudded lineup of 21 diverse comics that have performed in some of the most popular clubs in the countr y.
It’s the ideal antidote to last year’s pandemic blues.
“It has been a lot of planning,” said comedian Zoe Rogers, Boulder Comedy Festival founder. “I am thankful to be coordinating with really supportive venues and performers.”
While the postponement of the original fest that was scheduled for June 2020 was a bit of a bummer, the extra time has also allowed Rogers to add more talented stand-up comedians to the roster and explore dif ferent festival experiences.
One features a surprisingly tropical aesthetic.
“The Sunday brunch show is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while and when Tiki Hut reached out about being a venue it sounded like a natural fit,” Rogers said. “It’s such a fun venue, where they set up a tiki bar right in downtown Louisville, with swings instead of barstools. They literally have beach sand in front of the stage, so the audience can sit in beach chairs and put their toes in the sand while they drink tropical drinks and laugh.”
Tickets for the 2 p.m. June 27 Boozy Brunch Show are $15.
The weekend shows (June 25-27) will star t at 8 p.m. at The Dair y Ar ts Center in Boulder. Tickets are $25 per night. Proceeds from the Saturday show will go to Out Boulder County.
With social distancing guidelines loosening, additional tickets have been put up on Boulder Comedy Festival’s site at bouldercomedyfestival.com — and they are going fast.
“Since restrictions have lifted, we definitely have tickets available,” Rogers said. “It’s always such a nice feeling to be performing and connecting to a full crowd.”
From familiar humorists that reside in the Front Range to nationally touring acts, the range of talent is sure to appeal to a variety of tastes.
Fort Collins-based comedian David Rodriguez — who in February opened The Comedy Fort, in the space of former venue Hodi’s HalfNote — will take a break from running his new Fort Collins club and return to his roots of stand-up comedy.
“I’m really excited to hang out with my friends,” said BK Sharad, another comedian based out of For t Collins. “And I’m really looking for ward to meeting and connecting with comics I haven’t met before. One of the best par ts of comedy festivals is the friends you make along the way.”
Sharad is no stranger to the Boulder scene.
“Being the president of the CU Comedy Club was a huge par t of my life,” said Sharad. “It was such a great opportunity to learn how to run shows and to get experience hosting. I got to meet so many great people who I am still friends with today. I think it was a great way to get people to tr y comedy who wouldn’t have other wise.”
Sharad’s inclination to enter tain others was apparent at a par ticularly early age, post-preschool.
“My jokes at 6 years old were mostly pun jokes,” Sharad said. “But I still have some pun jokes and they make me laugh the most, so I guess I’ve been training for these jokes my whole life.”
Like with so many creatives, selfdoubt almost hindered his journey.
“I always had an interest in comedy, but I thought I could never do it,” Sharad said. “It wasn’t until I realized ever ything in life is a process — whether it’s a spor t, painting, or comedy — that requires repetition and work to be better that I decided to tr y comedy.”
While his career is focused on making others forget their troubles and embrace the cathar tic act of laughing, Sharad dealt with some hard times last year.
“I went to the darkest places I’d ever been, mentally,” Sharad said. “I stopped talking to my friends at one point. I was so scared of COVID, I didn’t see anyone. I have no idea how I am back to any level of normal again.”
He sought help and eventually worked his depressive moments into new jokes.
“After I pulled myself out of that place — with a lot of therapy — I was able to write some material about the dark experiences that I love doing,” Sharad said. “I’m a huge proponent of mental health and never regret talking about it and doing jokes about it.”
Sharad often works the granolasprinkled, Subaru-obsessed “Boulder Bubble” into his routines.
“Boulder is wild and a good por tion of my set is dedicated to Boulder,” Sharad said
Also on the bill is Denver native comic Shanel Hughes — a semi-finalist in the annual Comedy Works New Faces Competition during her first year, she has since performed at multiple festivals throughout the countr y.
“I am most excited to meet all the people coming into town,” Hughes
said. “That’s the fun par t about a festival, also seeing all your friends in one place — the good energy, the good vibes.”
Hughes missed her fellow funny peers during the isolating year of 2020.
“I’m looking for ward to that solidarity of comics together — we are having a good time, we are friends, we’re laughing, we’re networking, giving each other tips and advice,” Hughes said. She was just in New York City, performing at the Black Women in Comedy Laf f Fest. “We all want each other to do well at the festival. That’s just the energy that a festival brings.”
But she wasn’t always so confident about stepping into the spotlight and doing standup full time. In 2018 she was doing about a show a month, but a mystical encounter gave her the reassurance she craved.
“I did a tarot reading and at that time the lady was like, ‘yes, comedy is for you’ and she told me ‘you are going to have a show in August and you are going to do well’ and that was my show for the New Faces Competition in which I feel like that’s when I really became a par t of the Denver comedy scene.”
Known for her blunt and warm personality, Hughes continues to gain more fans with each stage she takes.
“My inspiration for my material now is just my daily life,” Hughes said. “Sometimes people even come up to me on stage and say, ‘wow you are so vulnerable, how does it feel sharing all that?’ But, it’s my stor y and things that are relatable and funny and things that are really happening to me.”
The lull brought on by the pandemic actually allowed Hughes to recharge and find balance.
“Twenty-twenty helped a lot in having the time to sit down and really think and craft material and write jokes and work on self, really — because that’s ultimately what it’s really all about,” Hughes said. “I’m not a comedian because I’m funny. I’m a funny human being and that allows me to be a comedian.”
In addition to comedy, Hughes is passionate about freestyling and is available for hire as a host or an MC for various events.
“I actually went to CU Boulder so it always feels a little surreal performing in a place I went to college in,” said Denver-based comedian Katie Bowman, who has been featured at Beast Village Comedy Festival and a number of other events throughout the U.S.
From talking about her marijuana use to the amount of body hair she acquired during lockdown, Bowman’s refreshingly honest deliver y and chuckle-inducing anecdotes continue to resonate with crowds.
“I started in improv comedy in Denver and was told that I should tr y stand-up comedy shor tly after,” Bowman said. “I was scared, but still managed to hop on stage back in 2014 and had a great set for my first time. I star ted taking stand-up seriously when I realized I was actually making money from it and I think I was just tired of all the dudes in improv either killing me of f stage or making me into some sex joke.”