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State of the state: Hospitality



As Wende Curtis celebrates the 30th anniversary of Comedy Works in downtown Denver and the third anniversary of her second club in Greenwood Village, she doesn't have more brick and mortar on her mind.

What's next likely will be more on the creative side: books, speaking engagements - and a reality TV show.

"I think it would be awesome to bring me back around to do some creative stuff. It would really be good for me personally as well for the organization," said Curtis, who will be shooting a short video in December before trying to shop the concept.

For Curtis, who studied acting, directing and voice at Colorado State University, it would be a chance to reconnect with the creative side that has helped her find success working with the country's most popular comedians.

"It's always been in my blood, and it's always been part of how I think," said Curtis, 48. "I think I understand a little bit about an artist's brain, a performer's brain. Honestly, I don't think there are many artists who are also brilliant businesspeople."

Curtis doesn't need to toot her horn about that. People like "Saturday Night Live" veteran Darrell Hammond are quite happy to do it for her. Hammond, who recently performed at a Comedy Works anniversary show for industry types, has long been a regular at Comedy Works, and he's particularly fond of the original Larimer Square club, which is essentially a cave in the basement.

"She's brilliant. But she's got an artist in her, and that's a rare combo in my experience," Hammond said in the green room after his performance. "I've only run across two or three people in my life who have a keen business sense but who are at heart artists. It's a rare blend. And that's why this room is so great."

Hammond said he doesn't do standup comedy much anymore, but he took advantage of the chance to perform at Comedy Works this fall to work on material from his new book, "God, If You're Not Up There, I'm F&$#*d," published last month.

"The place is so powerful to me that when I'm on stage I feel funnier than I've ever felt. I improve when I'm out there," Hammond said. "Every time I'm here I write five new minutes, and I'm sure I did seven fresh minutes tonight."

Curtis has nurtured many local comedians along the way, including national standouts like Josh Blue (who is scheduled to perform two shows at the downtown club on Dec. 23.) and local heroes like Sam Adams, who regularly opens for national comics and occasionally headlines at both clubs.

"The club out at the Landmark is pristine; it's like the Pepsi Center. There's a ritzy type feel to it," said Adams, a former sports columnist with the Rocky Mountain News. "The one downtown is like a YMCA gym. You go there and you get a sweat. You go to the other one, and it's got a nice comfy feel."

Adams appreciates the opportunity Curtis has provided for up-and-coming local comics. But they have to earn it.

"I'm not going to say you feel special, but you feel like you belong. It's up to you," he said. "I'll use my gym analogy again. ‘My gym is open for you to come to work on your game so you can be the best you can be. We'll do everything we can to help you.' But she opens up that door for you to do it."
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Mike Cote

Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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