Chris Parente: The Force Behind Denver’s Daybreak on Channel 2

From Emmy Awards to improv comedy: A Q&A with Chris Parente on waking up early, Denver's hidden gems, and the benefits of improv.

Chris Parente co-anchor of Daybreak on Channel 2
Photo by Paul Miller.

Chris Parente is more than just a face on TV. With seven Emmy Awards and over two decades of experience in the industry, he’s a seasoned journalist, anchor, and entertainer who has made a name for himself both on and off the screen. As the co-anchor of Daybreak on Channel 2, Chris starts Denver’s day with a smile, bringing the latest news and happenings to the city with a unique perspective and infectious energy.

But there’s more to Chris than meets the eye. With roots in Indiana and a degree in Journalism and Political Science from Indiana University, plus improv training at Chicago’s famed Second City, Parente is a man of many talents. Today, he continues to bring his wit and humor to the stage as a performer with the Denver-based Queerbots, Denver’s only LGBTQ comedy ensemble.

So, whether he’s gracing your TV screen in the morning or cracking you up on stage, one thing’s for sure: Chris Parente is a multi-talented force to be reckoned with. He’s a true gem of the Denver community, and we can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.

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What time does your day typically start and have you always been a morning person?
You know, I refer to this schedule as the ‘Instant 80-year-old’ because, essentially, I’m in bed by eight and eating dinner at 4:30 p.m.—taking advantage of all the early bird specials—before getting up again. My morning routine begins at 2:45 a.m. when I shower, shave, and put on my suit. Then, I hop on my trusty Vespa scooter to head to work. As someone who has worked the morning shift for my entire career, my body has become quite accustomed to this lifestyle. We go on the air at 4:30 a.m., which means that when it comes to dining out, I’m typically sharing a meal with fellow retirees, as the restaurants are never crowded at that hour.

Do you have any tips for those of us who aren’t morning people?
You know what I always say to folks who just start on this shift — I’ve been doing it since 1993 — is that it helps to get into a routine. Your body will adjust. Not to further the old man motif, but I am a staunch believer in the power of the nap. I usually take a solid two-hour power nap in the afternoon so that I’m alert when my husband, who is a school teacher, gets home. So, my piece of advice is to nap more and not be ashamed of the power nap. Let’s bring the siesta to America.

What do you think sets Denver apart from other cities in terms of its morning routine and culture?
I don’t want to let this secret out, but waking up early is perfect for the Denver lifestyle, especially if you’re into activities like running, biking, yoga, and exercise. These things are much easier to do when there are fewer people around. I believe there’s something to be said for waking up early and tackling your goals. When I’ve had to start work at 5:00 or 5:30, I see people already up and about. It’s the same story for heading to the mountains or anywhere else —if you can find the off-hours, it’s much less crowded. That’s the beauty of the early morning. Night owls have the same experience, but on the other end. They can get everything done while others are asleep. People who work the night shift can get their errands done while everyone else is sleeping. It’s the same for me, but in reverse.

As someone who’s seen the city grow and change over the years, what are some of your favorite aspects of Denver’s evolution, and what do you hope to see more of in the future?
I’ve been living here in Denver since I drove out in my Jeep Wrangler from Kentucky in 2005. In the 20 years since my arrival, I’ve witnessed some incredible changes in the city, primarily in three areas. First off, the music scene here is amazing—if you’re not taking advantage of it, you’re truly missing out. We’ve got a lot of fantastic local music and opportunities to see emerging artists before they become big. Secondly, the food scene here has really come to life. The city is full of neighborhood and cultural restaurants that truly represent themselves in the most incredible ways. You could eat at a different spot every day and get to know people from all around the world who now call Denver their home. Finally, the population of the city has changed the most. When I first moved here, the River North neighborhood was practically non-existent, and even LoDo was just starting to emerge. These days, my husband and I play a game called ‘Count the Cranes.’ No matter which neighborhood we’re in, we can spot at least nine construction cranes in LoDo. The challenge for Denver now is finding a way to manage all this growth while retaining the city’s charm and quirkiness, without expanding too fast and making everyone angry.

I really don’t want to become an angry person. It’s going to get tricky. Over the past decade, we’ve all seen the challenges that Denver has faced in managing its rapid growth. While I love neighborhoods like LoHi and South of Broadway, as someone who lives in Cap Hill, I’ve noticed that these areas are growing at an astonishing pace. Of course, that’s the way things go in any big city, but Denver is such a far cry from what it was when I first arrived here. And yet, I’m so proud of Denver—I love Denver. It’s one of cool things where you can tell anybody, “I live in Denver,” and their eyes light up. Denver is beloved by all our fellow Americans. Romanticized? Maybe. But we’ve got a good reputation.

What are some of these lesser known hidden gems that you’ve come across during your reporting or while just exploring your neighborhood?
My number one rule for finding hidden gems is to seek out the immigrant community. I’m so proud of the immigrants who’ve settled here and are making it happen with great sacrifice and courage, ​​often at great personal sacrifice and with immense courage. there are a handful of Colombian restaurants scattered throughout Denver, but one of my favorites has to be La Chiva on Broadway. They’re even expanding the place now, which is great to see. There’s an abundance of Mexican food to be found in the city. We just went to La Loteria Taqueria, which used to be a food truck but is now a brick and mortar on Broadway, where they serve up some incredible nachos. For Italian, I love old-school joints like Angelo’s Taverna over on 6th Street.

You’re known for your style and keen sense of fashion. Where do you shop around town?
I’m a Hoosier, born and raised in Indiana, and I’m proud of my roots. We are a frugal people—salt of the earth and very frugal. I was brought up to avoid spending money whenever possible. So, my little secret is that I like to copycat. I often browse industry Instagram pages to see what looks good and then try to replicate those looks by going to the cheapest places possible. As a news anchor, my outfits don’t really have to withstand a lot of wear and tear—I’m just sitting in a chair. So, if my clothes look the part, they’ll do the job. Sometimes they’re held together with safety pins and duct tape.  but my advice to others is to go thrift shopping or head to stores like Old Navy, H&M, Uniqlo (when it was around), TJ Maxx, Ross, or anywhere you can find good deals. You don’t have to spend  a thousand dollars—you can often replicate a thousand-dollar look for a fraction of the cost. It just requires a bit of patience.

I’ve always been a little different—and proud of that. It hasn’t always been easy to be on television as a gregarious, outgoing, over-the-top openly gay guy, but that’s who I am. The highest obligation we have is to be true to who we really are. That’s who I really am. So if you see me out sometimes, especially when I hosted my talk show years ago, my outfits were kind of like, ‘whoa.’ I wasn’t trying to make a statement or shock anyone. It’s just who I am.

I would encourage everyone to find who they are and what feels right to them and express it, regardless of what other people think. Over the years, I’ve received a lot of blowback, been made fun of, and pigeonholed as the goofball. I don’t care. What matters now more than ever is, can I be genuine? Can I be true to who I feel I am? And in doing that, I hope I’m setting an example for everybody else and that they have permission to do the same thing.

How do you balance your work as a journalist with your personal life, and what are some ways that you unwind and recharge?
The single best thing that has ever happened to me is meeting my husband, who is in every way my better half. I’m motivated to balance my work life because I want to spend time with my family. It’s a joy to step away from work when my choice is to make dinner with Luis. We cook dinner together from scratch every night. There are some great grocery stores in Denver where you can get organic and whatever else you go for, but being able to spend that time together is always a priority.

While we all know that we should turn off our phones at the dinner table, but I say we should take it one step further. Cook your dinner together, because that 30 or 40 minutes in the process of cooking and chopping and sauteing is a really cool bonding experience—kind of a zen thing. It’s become a way for me to balance my day.

On the weekends, like Luis and I are travelers. What I love about Denver and Colorado is you’ve never got a shortage of places to go. We’re hitting the road two or three weekends a month, exploring all the awesome little out-of-the-way spots. Colorado has hundreds of them. That’s a fun way to balance work, too: get out on the road.

We just got back from a weekend at Red Feather Lakes. from a weekend trip to Red Feather Lakes, which is such a gorgeous part of our state. We stayed at Beaver Meadows Resort for three days and had a blast. The area has plenty of water, mountains, and wildlife, and it’s easy to get to without having to deal with ski traffic on I-70.

Crestone is another hidden gem, although it’s a bit of a drive. It’s a groovy and wild place—and it’s beautiful. We stayed at an Airbnb that was a dome—like a complete dome. A lot of the folks there are kind of New Agey, and there’s a sort of like, paranormal, UFO, anything-goes kinda vibe. It’s really beautiful.

I’m not very good at winter sports, so I’m never really looking to ski when I travel. My preference is to cross-country ski, snowshoe, hike, or ice skate—activities less crowded than the ski mountains. Even at the height of the winter season, I’m able to find spots that aren’t crowded. I think that’s a great secret. While I know people love skiing, there are so many other things to do that are less crowded.

How does your experience in improv help with your current role and what are some ways that readers could use the rules of improv in their lives?
If there’s one gift I could give to the world, it would be the opportunity for everyone to study and take an improv course. Improv is a skill set that can benefit anyone, regardless of their profession or background. At its core, improv is about letting go of control and the pressure to have all the answers.

For control freaks like myself, improv is especially valuable. It forces you to let go of your need to control everything and to be fully present in the moment. This idea of being present is a central concept in many religious philosophies, and it’s also a key element of improv. It trains you to be completely present and engaged, you can learn to trust those around you and create something together in the moment, without a script or safety net.

You don’t even have to perform on a stage to experience the benefits of improv – the real magic lies in learning to release your trust and live in the moment. And the best part? There are no mistakes in improv. Anything you say is supported and justified by the group. It’s not about competition or trying to outdo someone else—it’s all about supporting each other and building something together. Even if what you say doesn’t initially make sense, the others in the group will work to make sense of it and build on it.

The world needs more improv.

Anything you’d like to add?
I’ve been in Denver for 20 years, and it’s come to feel like home. I’ve always felt really supported and loved by the people of Denver, and it’s meant a lot to me.

In the morning, there are countless options for news and it’s not necessary to turn on the TV.  At 52 years old, I’m not concerned about ratings or awards. My only purpose for spending five hours on TV is to bring joy and levity to people’s lives. And to make people feel better than before they tuned in. I don’t want to be another serious news anchor—there are already 50 of those, and to me they’re all the same. I want to offer a morning show where people feel cared for, can connect, and share some laughs, family, friendship, and fun. Because if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

When I retire, the only thing that will matter to me is whether I positively impacted people’s lives and brought a little more joy and levity into their day. I believe that Channel 2 in the morning offers a unique and different vibe that’s not found elsewhere. We don’t need more somber, depressing, serious news when we wake up. I hope your readers will give us a chance and feel emboldened to be themselves and express some joy.