One of the best things about Camp Dyketopia isn’t the on-stage speed dating, the petting zoo or the Witch Wellness Tarot Readings. It’s the fact that it’s happening at all.
“I feel really lucky to have the audience that we do,” said Lee Robinson, the 30-year-old co-creator of Denver’s monthly Dyketopia comedy showcase, which inspired the Oct. 8 and 9 camp-themed event at Littleton’s Ellsworth Farms. “They go along with us on lots of crazy hijinks, whatever they are.”
Besides a night of stand-up with L.A.-based comic Irene Tu (Comedy Central) and local talent, the inaugural Camp Dyketopia will have live music, food trucks, summer-camp crafts, a petting zoo, “friend speed dating” and more, organizers said. Tickets are $35-$75 (sliding-scale prices are available) on eventbrite.com.
It’s open to anyone, but also offers a safe space for queer people and women, Robinson said. It follows Dyketopia’s rapid evolution from impromptu, monthly joke-telling night to celebrated comedy brand. Robinson and Dyketopia co-host Kate McLachlan have only been running their showcase for about a year, having started as a pandemic-era backyard show. But public audiences quickly embraced them, and every recent Dyketopia showcase has sold out in under five minutes, said Robinson, who uses they/them pronouns.
That’s resulted in them, McLachlan and producer/comic Kate Stroebel having to regularly increase capacity — now at 200 people per show — with sets on X Bar’s patio, following venues such as Wide Right and the Bug Theatre.
The ambitious Camp Dyketopia was kickstarted after winning a $10,000 grant from ticketing company Eventbrite. All the people and shows awarded money through Eventbrite’s Reconvene Accelerator program “represented the future of events,” Eventbrite CEO Julia Hartz said in a press statement last month.
“Ten thousand dollars does not cover the full budget. But it’s been a huge help and they’ve also provided a lot of education and mentorship — as has everyone in the Denver comedy community,” Robinson said. “It’s definitely a learning (curve). I didn’t know how much Porta Potties cost, and now I am intimate with those details.”
Robinson also wanted to offer live, on-stage tattooing, but quickly ran into laws that made that impossible. Other than that, she said, this is her dream event: a supportive space for audiences and artists who may have met mockery, or worse, in other cultural settings.
“I was nervous when I first went to a comedy show, because (queer people) are so often made the butt of the joke by straight people,” said Robinson, who’s been performing comedy for about six years. “It’s not safe, and more important, it’s just not fun. No one wants to get (crapped) on by some lame dude.”
Underserved audiences have also embraced new series such as the Sie FilmCenter’s queer-cult film show, Rainbow Cult. That joins long-overdue diversity in the comedy scene from shows such as Faded, centered on Black and brown comics, according to producer Jake Browne (the next show is Oct. 21 at the Bobcat Club; $20 at fadecomedydenver.com) and Deadroom Comedy, which runs all-Native American stand-up shows (coming up: the Colorado Native show at the Hi-Dive on Nov. 13; $12 at hi-dive.com)
They build on pioneers like Pussy Bros. (all-women/queer comedy), the LadyFace sketch group, and the late Heather Snow, who ran Ladies Laugh-In at defunct venues such as Beauty Bar. Stroebel is part of that legacy, with her monthly Firecracker Comedy! show (next up: Oct. 27 at Mashroom Studios; katestrobel.com/shows; $10). Like all of them, Dyketopia has found loyal audiences by being open to all types of fans while also serving very specific ones.
Regardless of their makeup, audiences have gone along with “12 Days of Christmas” singalongs as much a drag performances, absurd PowerPoint presentations, and “Choose Your Own Gayventure” stories.
“(Stroebel) drunkenly purchased some Barbie tarot cards off of Etsy one night, and the idea for the show basically started as bad astrology readings” Robinson said with a chuckle. “Now we’re doing a camp-themed even with plant-propagation workshops and an artist-portrait booth!”
Posters and design elements for the camp features the artwork of Denver-based illustrator and author Sofie Birkin, a British artist whose clients include Apple, Nike, and Playboy. Amid projects such as books (two so far) and site installations (she has own room at Meow Wolf Denver’s Convergence Station), she’s selling Dyketopia merch to support the camp, with branded canvas bags, sweatshirts, hats and prints (sofiebirkin.com/dyketopia).
The event runs mostly on ticket sales, Robinson said, and has already sold a few hundred of them.
“Sofie’s painting a face-in-the-hole board, like those old seaside paintings, to take pictures in,” said Robinson, who happens to be Birkin’s partner. “We were so taken with Ellson Farm when we first visited. It’s just the right vibe for this event, which started as an outdoor show, so to be back in nature feels so good.”
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