It’s our fourth annual look at the greatest comedy moments all over the country [and Canada!]. We went straight to the bookers, club owners, managers and producers who put together some of the best comedy shows in the country this year and asked them to share their favorite moments of 2017. It’s incredible to see the unique things happening in different pockets of comedy that you don’t get to hear about throughout the year, which makes this one of our favorite features we do all year.
It’s an incredible snapshot of comedy in 2017. Read through to see the clubs celebrate major headliners, unique shows, and home grown comics celebrating big breakouts. If you think comedy is the same everywhere, this piece will change your mind. It represents everything that everyone who works to create The Interrobang love about this business.
This piece kicks off our massive year end coverage looking back at 2017! Stay tuned every day for new categories many of which you can vote on.
But for now, enjoy the best of comedy 2017 from the best clubs in the country like Yuk Yuk’s, NerdMelt, The Stand, Gotham Comedy Club, The Comedy Attic, The Comedy Store, the Improv, the Stand, New York Comedy Club, The Stress Factory, Helium, Zanies, Second City, The Improv, Acme, Side Splitters, Doc’s Lab and more!!
Break Out Comedy Festival hits its 4th year in 2018 and we couldn’t have had a better moment in 2017 then when we asked Second City alum and current SNL performer, Chris Redd to host our annual event. Redd is an amazing talent that never stops giving comic love and unbridled laughs to his Chicago home. In between shooting for a Netflix web series, Chris flew down to host one night that was magical. Redd shared a powerhouse set, loaded with rich characters, impersonations, and off the cuff improv seamlessly. In less than six months, Chris Redd was hired on Saturday Night Live. It’s always memorable when we get to see an alum grace our stage and the audience gets to experience a rising star. That’s the bonus moment we all get to enjoy on one of Second City’s stages…and of course tons of laughs.
2017 was the year of digging deep and embracing our roots and history of the Improv Comedy Clubs. This comedy renaissance for the Hollywood venue began with Adam Sandler restoring the aesthetics of the club to the original Improv design, including the original logo and (always popular) front bar for his Netflix movie “Sandy Wexler”. That was the catalyst for us to dig deep and rethink how we book our rooms and what our core values are, reminding us why the Improv has grown into the comedy landmark it is today.
2017 was a wild and mostly shitty year all around, as we all know. But there are two things that stick out here in a Bloomington above all else. Nov 17th was Maria Bamford Day in Bloomington- as declared by our mayor, John Hamilton. We also presented Maria with a key to the city coinciding with her weeks-in-advance sold-out weekend at The Comedy Attic. It was, as you can imagine, pure comedy heaven as Maria is the best there is.
And, most importantly, November 29th marked the first-ever late night TV appearance by a local comedian when Bloomington native (and Brooklyn resident) Tom Thakkar appeared on Conan. I was able to make the trip to be with Tom for the taping and it was a memory I will cherish forever. Bloomington Comedy 4 Lyfe!n
I think Tom Green was by far the craziest shows I’ve witnessed this year. His fans are very verbal… during one of the shows a very passionate fan “Scott” ( and I’m not sure how they got on this subject) basically told Tom that no one remembered Biz Markie or the song “Just a Friend” and Tom said he could get everyone to sing along. He then proceeded to ” Beat Box” and got the whole Room to Sing ” Just a Friend” and ended the verse with “TAKE THAT SCOTT!” and the room erupted in laughter and applause and Scott said nothing else the rest of the show. He also does this bit about how Hollywood slammed “Freddy Got Fingered” and then asks everyone to scream out quotes from the film. This goes on for a couple minutes. He then asks if anyone could say their favorite quotes from the award-winning film ” The English Patient” and you get nothing… it gets so quiet you can hear crickets. It was pretty great to see!
The DC Improv turned 25 in 2017. Of all the things we did to celebrate, we’re especially proud of the Next Wave series. Since opening in 1992, the club has seen a lot of headliners grow into superstars. For Next Wave, many of those superstars stood behind a new generation of comedians. The people they endorsed headlined shows at the club throughout the year. It let us introduce DC comedy fans to a bunch of hilarious performers, with a nod to the comics who made the club great for over the past two and half decades
Mike Vecchione recommended by Dave Attell
Jeff Maurer recommended by John Oliver
Jordan Rock recommended by Tony Rock
Sean Patton recommended by Ari Shaffir
Martin Moreno & Alfred Robles recommended by Gabriel Iglesias
Mike Speirs recommended by Bob Marley
Marshall Brandon recommended by Donnell Rawlings
Jacqueline Novak and Chris Laker recommended by Mike Birbiglia
Michael Yo recommended by Jo Koy
Tim Dillon recommended by Christian Finnegan
Ryan Conner recommended by Wanda Sykes
Is it wrong that the first thing I thought of was the Halloween party? I’m such a pretentious comedy purist and that has nothing to do with telling jokes. But it made me so happy. It was such a coming together of the community and you had everything from Ben DeMarco doing Miley Cyrus dressed as Miley Cyrus to Casey Balsham’s incredible pipes to Mike Cannon’s surprisingly perfect song and dance rendition of NSYNC’s Pop. Josh Wesson is our go to karaoke KJ and he’s such a good soul with such good vibes, he really sets the tone for the night. Everyone was so supportive and singing along with everybody else, and I ended up with so many pictures of comics grinning from ear to ear because they were having such a good time.
And Mike Cannon gets another shout out for his album recording. We’ve done a number of albums over the past few years and they are each special in their own way. This year, we kicked it off with Geno Bisconte’s Uncle Geno is Amazing, which charted at #1, and we didn’t think anyone would ever come close to how great that was. But Mike really stepped up to the plate with I Think It Just Kicked In. It was one of those nights when the audience was so excited almost to the point of bursting or going off the rails, but it stayed just on this side and was awesome. And we all love Mike, he goes back a long way with the club and with Emilio & Scott even before then, so it was a really happy and proud occasion. It was just icing on the cake that it also charted at #1 on iTunes & Billboard.
Last but not least, Emilio will never let it go that I was completely dumbstruck when Kevin Hart dropped in. I literally just had to pass him off to our GM, Andrew Tomlinson, because I couldn’t form proper sentences.
It has been another amazing year here at the epicenter of the Austin comedy scene… Cap City! Highlights are many but here are a few…
The premiere of Ari Shaffir’s awesome Netflix special “Double Negative”, was filmed right here in front of our great audiences. Two of our fine local comedians Vanessa Gonzalez and Andrew Dismukes made it to the Just For Laughs Festival this past summer. Andrew is now on staff at Saturday Night Live and Vanessa is conquering all of show business.
We continue to be the home of innovative shows like Matt Bearden’s PUNCH which draws true comedy aficionados and regularly welcomes drop-ins like Ron White (yes that Ron White!). And Piranha, created by Matt with Margie Coyle and is the most fun you can have without getting bit.
The jewel of Cap City will always be our yearly F.P.I.A (Funniest Person In Austin) contest. This year’s winner Enzo Priesnitz is totally living up to the title. We continue to feel the loss of past F.P.I.A.winner Lashonda Lester, weeks before she readied to film her Comedy Central half hour. There was no one like her and she is missed everyday.
It takes a village, yeah, to build such a vibrant and thriving comedy community. KLBJ ‘ s Dudley and Bob with Matt show is a huge support to local comics. Their quarterly Sideshow podcast (always sold out) welcomed Sirius XM’s Ron Bennington on their Moontower edition! People went bonkers! We look forward to a 7th year as part of the Moontower Comedy Festival.
With the amount of incredible talent coming through our doors over the past year, it was difficult marking only one weekend as the most memorable. I narrowed it down to two.
T.J. Miller had a stand out weekend for sure. The energy at the club was extraordinary. He made each pre-show announcement himself, he juggled, played the trombone, mimed Dan Fogelberg’s Same Old Lang Syne, and closed out his final performance by throwing a piñata into the audience. T.J. certainly kept the momentum at an all-time high for the complete run of his shows.
Steve Byrne proved to be a remarkable weekend as well, when he brought audience members on stage and gave them lap dances. After he was done giving the dances himself, he chose other audience members to get on stage and give dances in his place. I could not be more excited for what 2018 has in store for our club!
Zanies had a huge year this year and in fact, because of the number of stages and showcase rooms in the city, Zanies in Chicago is now only presenting headliners every night of the week, the only club in the country with headline shows seven nights a week. A big highlight was the Zanies Welcome Home Series in which we headline individuals who began or developed in Chicago but now live elsewhere. The list of comedians (Nate Bargatze, Langston Kerman, Jen Kober, Megan Gailey, Michael Palascak, Josh Johnson, Emily Galati and Liza Treyger – off the top of my head) reminds me how active and supportive is the Chicago comedy scene. We also discovered new favorite comedians like Erin Foley, Joe List, Alex Edelman, Andrew Schulz, Becky Robinson and Hanna Dickinson and rediscovered old favorites like Joe Machi, April Macie, Fortune Feimster, Jermaine Fowler and Gabriel Rutledge, who deserves my appreciation for his patience with me after we met in Nebraska four years ago.
David Pasquessi opening for Emo Philips was fantastic, the Superior Donuts Tour (Jermaine Fowler, Maz Jobrani, David Koechner and Rel Battle) was a truly special one-night event. And finally, preparing for our 40 Year Anniversary next year beginning in January 2018 with Richard Lewis.
2017 had been such a fantastic, rich year for all of us here at The Stand NYC as we celebrated our milestone 5th anniversary in September! It’s hard to pinpoint a select few moments, but some standout events include:
Finally, it has been an honor to see Ron Bennington grind out a full year of performing stand up regularly. It all culminated with an unforgettable hour-long headline show at this year’s New York Comedy Festival. As a fan of his since his WNEW days, Ron is always a pleasure to deal with and having him down at the venue virtually every night is something I will never take for granted. He is simply a wonderful person to the comedians, staff, fans, and everyone in between. Truly an asset, and we look forward to many more nights with him around!
Although we’ve only been open a few short months, the highlight for West Side Comedy Club has been the outpouring of support we’ve received from veteran stand-ups and the young blood in the comedy community. Darrell Hammond, Gina Yashere & Judy Gold appearing on opening night. Judah Friedlander stopping through. Bill Burr endorsing us by doing a special one-night-only performance which he announced on his podcast! Artie Lange’s impromptu appearance. Rising talent Alex Babbitt’s recording of a half hour live at our club prior to his debut on HBO’s Def Comedy Jam…
But the most sentimental moment was when David Attell, a long time friend of owners Eugene Ashe, Nina Ashe & talent booker Gina Savage took the stage and beckoned the audience to support the club by saying: “These guys know how to do it right”.
2017 saw some surreal moments for us, presenting and celebrating comedy. Highlights include: Lewis Black’s standing ovation from 4,000 in the open-air amphitheater at our Comedy & The Human Condition week, him having to own breaking into tears on stage, and Alan Zweibel’s seasoned breakdown of the speech, in which Lewis lamented things ‘not conducive to comedy’: “By the time a dog barked in the distance, Lewis didn’t have to say a word. The crowd was his. He had built steadily like a genius to this moment. It was masterful.” W. Kamau Bell pointedly telling the same crowd of 4,000 that if they were there, they were winning, and it’s time to “cape-up” and quit being Clark Kents. A great example of how an otherwise divisive statement can be so effectively landed through comedy. He got a spontaneous standing ovation from the very people he was calling out. And Jim Gaffigan crushing in Jamestown with his material on brain surgery. Watching a person take one of life’s most challenging circumstances, his wife and the mother of his five children having a brain tumor, and do what comedians do best.
Touring comics through the Comedy Center construction site: Kelly Carlin bursting into tears at the George Carlin pop-up exhibit, Alan Zweibel offering to be the resident pitch-rejecter in the Writers’ Room experience, and later, hearing the comics describe it to Gaffigan like he missed the best moment of summer camp since his jet delay prevented him from seeing it. Talk about surreal, watching the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, make Lewis Black laugh, hard, out loud at the National Comedy Center construction site press gathering. The Jamestown performances of need-to-know comics Matteo Lane, Sam Jay, Liza Treyger, Emma Willmann, David Gborie and Adam Newman, and presenting some of those same voices with bankable favorites Keith Alberstadt and Tony Deyo in Chicago, Boston, LA and New York in support of the CNN Originals’ History of Comedy docuseries.
Kliph Nesteroff and Stephen J. Morrison’s stage conversation, in which Nesteroff’s gripping tangential narrative of Dick Gregory’s civil rights activism became an unwitting eulogy, just days before his death.
And last, but certainly not least, when Lisa Lampanelli called me Journey C*nterson. A moment I will relish and look forward to telling my grandchildren about some day.
We always get a fair amount of big names that come by. One night that stands out in particular was Seinfeld came in one night with Chappelle, and they both went on. Actually Jerry brought Dave on stage, which was pretty magical. We had Jerry, Jim Gaffigan and Gad Elmaleh a lot this year. Another thing I look at is guys who started out in this club that are starting to have big success now– some of the newer faces that are really popping. A guy like Bryan Callen, this is a guy who has been headlining here for years, now he’s coming into his own. Roy Wood Jr., who started out here, 10, 11 years ago, now he’s on the Daily Show and starting to sell a lot of tickets. Chris Distefano, same thing, a guy who’s starting now to headline. Dan Soder is another one. Some younger comics starting to pop are Chloe Hilliard, Gina Brillon, Jared Freid, they’re special. And Leonard Outz. He’s going to be a huge star. He’s starting to book a lot of TV stuff, a lot of movie stuff. He’s special. He’s a funny kid. He’s got it.
We had a bunch of cameo appearances this year! Alyssa Milano & Jayden Smith both dropped in a few times to watch the show, and we had a few surprise sets from Chris D’elia, Sean Carrigan and T.J. Miller. And whenever Gerry Dee comes by, it’s always a good time and audiences go crazy.
We were lucky to host a live CBC Debaters show with Steve Patterson in May. It was a sold out house on a Wednesday and gave us the opportunity to bring a non-traditional Yuk Yuk’s audience to a Yuk Yuk’s house. Some first timers at a comedy club! And finally, Alex Pavone blew the roof off the place during his headline week. Every show was electric. Amazing coming from a comic who 50% doesn’t use a microphone.
2017 was a very interesting year in Philadelphia comedy, for me personally and the scene in Philly as a whole. There are the most venues for comedy in Philadelphia that there have been since the 80s boom. The scene supports that by becoming stronger all the time, especially when it comes to standup. I have been in the Philly scene for thirteen years and it legitimately gets stronger every single year. I didn’t spend the whole year at Helium, but I did spend the whole year running shows in comedy clubs in Philly. I can tell you the comics here care deeply about the scene, and comics coming in from elsewhere are excited to play here, and look forward to our crowds and working with our locals.
In terms of memorable shows, we have more and more of our locals coming up with unique or interesting ideas for shows at the club, and comics chomping at the bit to take part in the HELIUM branded shows we do only at our clubs. But, a very cool thing that occurred this year was our two nights with Jim Gaffigan at the end of the summer. Jim sold out the shows in mere minutes, as you would expect, and then proceeded to have four amazing shows. Ted Alexandro, an all-time HELIUM favorite and one of our favorite headliners since we first opened our doors, came with him and opened each show, setting the hilarious tone right out of the gate. Jim absolutely destroyed and was also amazingly nice and down to earth, not a surprise but definitely appreciated. Week in and week out, whether world famous like Jim or not, HELIUM consistently has some of the funniest and most noteworthy comics working clubs today. Here’s to a laughter-filled 2018!
Moontower Comedy Festival was bigger and better than ever in 2017. The long weekend kicked off with two back-to-back performances of the hit podcast My Favorite Murder starring comedian Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, with a special surprise appearance by the Sklar Brothers. Grisly murders aside, the audience was as much a part of the fun as the talent and stories. Superfans (aka Murderinos) came out in force and their big personalities made for a wild night.
Coming off her hit Netflix special, Ali Wong crushed her two sold-out Paramount shows. Later, fans were beside themselves with joy to see their beloved Patton Oswalt return to the stage after a long hiatus. His hilarious and moving show did not disappoint and many left the theatre drying their eyes.
But Moontower isn’t just about the headliners, the true heat of the festival is in the clubs. Podcast Kill Tony with Tony Hinchcliff totally stands out as one of the hottest events of the fest. One of the show’s contestants arrived high on mushrooms giving Dom Irerra, Big Jay, Sal Vulcano and Jeremiah Watkins plenty of material. Here’s a link to the fun. Go to 50:00
Had we known this was the last time we would see Ralphie May, would we have laughed louder? I don’t think so. Because Ralphie’s Midnight Mayhem set was every bit as explosive as we had come to expect from the late comic who has now risen to legend status. R.I.P Ralphie.
One of the most memorable moments of the year was at Amanda Seales’s Smart Funny & Black, a monthly show where entertainers compete in various games that test their knowledge, taste, and understanding of black pop culture. This has become one of our most popular and successful shows, and it’s no wonder—the show is always jam-packed with hilarious moments. One of these was Wayne Brady spontaneously initiating a rap battle with his opponent, Colton Dunn. Other Smart Funny & Black participants have included such talent as Jerrod Carmichael, Issa Rae, Damon Wayans, Jr., Estelle, Ron Funches, Sam Jay, Lamorne Morris, and many more!the
This year has been filled with a plethora of memorable moments, but our weekend with Craig Robinson was and always is a new level of special. As an employee at a comedy club you get accustomed to working with comedians and actors you have watched in your favorite movies and shows long before ever meeting them, but Craig has a star quality about him that is a different kind altogether. He is bright and magnetic; his charm is captivating. As a longtime fan of The Office, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that someday I would be sharing laughs in the green room with Darryl from the Warehouse. Craig’s show is a blast. A master of the keys, much of Craig’s show is a sing-along, and the showroom becomes a choir as the crowd eagerly belts out ridiculous lyrics alongside him. His openers, Just Nesh and Todd Rexx, were so funny and just as genuine as Craig. As the show lets out, the lobby fills with smiling faces and much laughter. We took a staff photo with Craig, Nesh, and Todd after the shows were wrapped Saturday night, and I have never seen the staff drop what they were doing and rush to the stage faster. Craig Robinson is a special human; he is all love. I needed that weekend of happiness, love, and positive energy. I think we all did. In a world wrought with conflict and unrest, a world in which one must brace oneself before reading the news for fear of what is to come, Craig Robinson brings the light and reminds us that life is good.
Well, I always pick out my best moments but this year is the first time I’ve been asked to contribute to this piece so technically, this is the best moment of the year! Now that I’ve sucked up enough to get into next year’s piece – how do I boil this year down to one moment. The Stress Factory is celebrating the beginning of our 27th year and every year we seem to have a fantastic lineup. We’ve had virtually everyone in the club over the years, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Breuer, Jim Norton, Damon Wayans, Bill Burr, Mitch Hedberg, I could go on and on. Still, some remained on our wish list.This year saw incredible shows with Anthony Jeselnick, Chris D’Elia, Whitney Cummings, D.L Hughley, Marlon and Shawn Wayans, Sinbad, Michelle Wolf and so many more. I am missing some but they were all fantastic and all special to have. (If I missed you it’s because Interrobang is rushing me on this, I think I was an afterthought!)
In 2017 we got a call from George Lopez’s people telling us he wanted to come in to work on his One Hour Live Show for HBO. We cleared the decks pretty quickly and said yes! George was on my list of comics I always WANTED but couldn’t get. I had heard through the years that he was great to work so I was pumped but maybe a little nervous, I wanted to make sure it all went smoothly.
George did 4 shows. His crew was aces. Professional, courteous and helpful throughout. The comic that opened for George, Bryan Kellen, is a headliner who killed every show. Every show I thought “this guy is killing, how can anyone follow him”, but Lopez is Lopez for a reason. Every night he took the crowd to a new level, each set ending in a full standing ovation.
The only “complaint” I had was the after party. I thought Lopez was great on stage, but after he was even better. Friendly, gregarious, fun and great to talk the business of comedy with. He hung out every night until VERY late, like sun coming up late, chatting with the staff, buying drinks for everyone (but me! I had to have coffee to hang that late) and leaving literally when the sun was coming up. Every staff member was treated like royalty by one of the Kings. Every one getting a photo and a conversation. It wasn’t just lip service, George remembered everyone’s name and tipped all of them VERY well.
To top it all off, after the last show at 5 in the morning, George asked if we could host him for four more shows right before the HBO Broadcast. I couldn’t believe it. He not only enjoyed himself, he told us he wanted The Stress Factory to be the final club he worked before doing HBO LIVE! We checked our schedule and put in on sale. George came in and did two more nights, selling out 4 more shows and ending with 4 more standing ovations and late hangouts.
The story should end there but it doesn’t. He made one of my dream bookings even better when he used The Stress Factory in the Promo for the special AND invited us down to DC to watch it live. We got the full VIP treatment with another backstage hang. Lopez is a total pro and certainly, this was the best moment of the year for The Stress Factory. Thank you George, and thank you Interrobang for asking!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone!
We had an absurd amount of insanely great shows this year at Acme Comedy Company (Chris Hardwick, Dave Attell, Michelle Wolf just to name a few), but I think 2017’s most memorable moments were about the comedians who didn’t perform here, the ones who moved from the clubs to theaters. What comes to my mind is Chad Daniels. Not only did he star in a newly released documentary, “I Need You to Kill” directed by J. Elvis Weinstein, he also made the move from selling out shows at Acme Comedy Co to selling out theaters in Minneapolis. There is a feeling that is hard to describe when you see comedians that come through over the years and you watch them grow and rise and find their voice and gain a following and then to see it all come together on the next level, to me that has to be the most memorable.
Over the course of 2017 we have had the privilege to witness a ton of great talent so it is tough to pick just one moment, but to me we saved the best for the end of the year when we had Dave Attell. From top to bottom it was such a great night of comedy, starting with up and coming Emcee RJ Purpura bringing the crowd to life, two amazing guest spots by Rick Matthews and Jesse Winterhalter, feature comic Shaun Murphy crushing every set and of course the legend himself, Dave Attell bringing down the house every single night. Besides just watching Dave put on an amazing show, he would also invite the other comics on the show to come up and share the stage with him and kind of riff back and forth. Not only was it super funny, but also such an amazing moment for the local talent to go up and share the spotlight with someone as respected in comedy as Dave. If you have ever had the privilege of working with Dave or even just meeting him you know he is one of the nicest most genuine people and for him to put so much into his show and give so much back to the local scene is amazing!
My favorite moment from Joe’s Pub this year was at Champagne Jerry’s Clubhouse, a new show hosted by Neal Medlyn aka Champagne Jerry. While I love CJ to the end of time, Janelle James totally stole that show for me. I wasn’t familiar with her, and she closed the show with one of the most blisteringly smart and funny 10 minutes I’ve seen in a long, long time. I’m an instant fan.
Atlanta comics have been making a ton of noise nationally all year. Dulce Sloan took the world by storm after appearing on Conan, winning @Midnight, and becoming the newest correspondent on Daily Show. The city was also well represented at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, with Mia Jackson and Yedoye Travis both making their New Faces debuts (and Clayton English and Dulce Sloan also returning to perform). Atlanta has been all over late night television as well, with Caleb Synan doing Conan (again), Ismael Loutfi and Neel Nanda on Jimmy Kimmel, Lace Larrabee on Punchline, and Noah Gardenswartz on Comedy Knockout.
2017 was a great year for the club. Our annual Laughing Skull Comedy Festival was the biggest and best it’s ever been, with Gabriel Rutledge from Seattle taking home the 1st place win. We’re currently prepping for our ninth fest coming in April 2018 (comedian submissions are open now at www.LaughingSkullComedyFestival.com!).
Our most memorable moments of the year were when we had a few of our favorite comedians drop by the club for surprise drop-in sets. With too many to name, we had everyone from Hannibal Burress and Bill Burr to Ron White and Chris Tucker on our tiny little stage, usually without a head’s up (you never know who will show up!) – We’re definitely looking forward to 2018!
The 5th Annual High Plains Comedy Festival was our biggest one yet! It’s so great to see the way Denver continues to support live comedy and the scene continues to thrive. Of course, we always love to have Denver “ex-pats” come back and shine and we had plenty this year. Everyone from The Grawlix (Fest Founder Adam Cayton-Holland, Andrew Orvedahl, and Ben Roy) with their Those Who Can’t table read and traditional Festival-closing show; to Kevin O’Brien who brought his popular Arguments & Grievances to the High Plains stage to kick the Festival off in style; to hometown boy T.J. Miller who served as our Festival headliner. We also presented two sold out nights of My Favorite Murder and were lucky enough to have Karen Kilgariff hop on a late show after MFM too. Anyone who thinks women aren’t meaningful comedy consumers should go to an MFM show and see a 90% female audience that are as passionate and dedicated as fans get.
2017 had two major comedy highlights for me that book-ended the year nicely. It started in January with Michael Che’s first Secret Show at Knitting Factory, which we organized to benefit Planned Parenthood. Colin Quinn, Amy Schumer, John Mulaney, Leslie Jones, Mike Birbiglia, and Colin Jost were the surprise guests. It was a huge success and one of the must fun shows I’ve ever been a part of. The year wrapped up with the annual comedy/Halloween tradition of Schtick or Treat. This was the TENTH annual Schtick and it was bigger than ever: we held it at the Bell House where Mark Normand and Matt Ruby hosted over 40 acts of razor-sharp impressions and ridiculous mockery all while wearing bathrobes (don’t ask! You had to be there!). It was really great to start the year watching some of my favorite comedians, established performers who I watched and loved for years, and to end it with a round up of the most talented (and often young) comics in New York joyfully (and lovingly) mocking the legends of our field.
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The most memorable moment of the year was last April. It was our 21st anniversary, and we got notice of a HUGE rent increase. Not exactly the anniversary gift we were hoping for. That night, the business manager of a “name” comic happened to come to the show and afterward expressed his support for the club; the next day, so did the comic. We have made so many friends and fans over the years, and after 21 years of renting space in an attic, it was time for a club of our own. More “names,” “agents,” “managers,” and comedy club owners rallied to walk us through putting together our own place.
Last month, with the love and support of everyone, we announced plans to open the brand new Comedy Studio in Union Square, Somerville, MA this spring. And while we’re moving to a beautiful new custom-made space, we’re excited to stick to what we do best–inviting comedy’s biggest fans to support emerging talent. Really, we’re just trading our third-floor attic of a Chinese restaurant for the second floor of an abandoned warehouse at the end of an alley. We couldn’t be happier.
Something that kind of stood out to me this year, and it’s a little … I guess, melancholy…he did a New Years Eve show, it was Ralphie May. We’ve had Ralphie a number of times. Tampa was one of the markets that absolutely adored him, and he seemed so just on point, and funny, and relevant, and the thing that made Ralphie who Ralphie was, is he still had a chip on his shoulder on stage. It kept him hungry, I guess is the term. When he got on stage, he was talking about things that happened to him that day. And people loved when it was just so current and he did our week of New Year’s Eve shows, and they all were awesome. Despite all the other things going on in his life, he seemed super happy. He just was one of those guys that you hear and you know things are going on in their personal life, but when they hit that stage, you would never know it. His sets were as good as I’ve ever seen him and off-stage, he was as happy, and met with every fan after the show, and took every picture, and it was just a good week. It was super memorable.
He’d hit us randomly with two weeks notice, randomly, “Hey, I’m in town, let’s do a Tuesday, Wednesday.” And he’d always be able to move tickets, and so, when he wanted to do our New Years Eve, we were happy. And we actually had somebody else booked that weekend, that we ended up having to pay to stay home. ‘Cause we knew what Ralphie was gonna bring, and it was cool, and of course, it’s sad to hear, but he was memorable that weekend, and he always left an impression on everybody.
Get info on dates and more for Side Splitters on sidesplitterscomedy.com.
This year we had so many great events like our Relay for Life show every April that raises money to fight Cancer. We also are kind of lucky because 45 minutes away lives Larry the Cable Guy. So Larry the Cable will just text me and come out and do a guest spot on a Sunday night. One of the wilder shows would have been Call In Sick to Work with Bert Kreischer. I know he’s done it other clubs, but it was the first time he did it here. He did it on a Friday, he got up and did radio and told everybody to call in sick, we had a noon show with three hundred, pretty much, dudes in it.
And another really memorable show was with Drew Lynch who shows up with his service dog, and then we wend up with so many people coming out with service dogs that we have a whole dog section. People bring him gifts for his dog and bring him all this stuff, so we’ll just go, “how many dogs are we going to have at this show?” Of course, people aren’t going to call and say, “I’m bringing my service dog” because they think you should just adjust accordingly. Sometimes we’ll have jokes going, “I wonder if all the dogs are going to get along?” (laughs) Yeah. It kind of becomes a weird, little dog show with the stuttering Drew Lynch.
This year has been one of Laugh Factory Chicago’s biggest years to date for Chicago comedy! From hosting NBC Stand-Up, Montreal Just For Laughs, and more industry showcases, to hosting headliners such as “The Daily Show’s Michael Kosta, Hasan Minhaj, Luis J Gomez and Dave Smith, and more! This, however, pales in comparison to the level of showcases we have run over the past year. We are showcasing more local comedians than any club in the city at about 13 shows per week. We take great pride in making our own local comedians stars instead of using them as openers for other comics coming into the city. Chicago comics are our headliners almost seven nights a week.
Our club manager, Brian Morton, pioneered our Laugh Factory Podcast network that saw a great deal of success also, and we hosted a successful podcast festival, opened up more opportunities for local comedians to run and produce shows at the club. It was also amazing to watch some of our Chicago family get Comedy Central Half Hours, Saturday Night Live, television and movies roles, and others grow from open mic comics to regulars. But what was most impressive was the selflessness of our comedians, staff, and comedy fans. We hosted a coat drive that donated over 400 coats to children and families in need around Chicago and just wrapped up our annual toy drive that brought in over 300 toys for kids for the holidays.Laughter Brings Us All Together
Hands down the most special moment of 2017 were when Chris Rock came to town. He was booked to work out his set before setting off on his Total Black Out Tour. There is nothing better than watching the magic of someone working out material for their eventual special, and we were so incredibly honored and floored to get to watch Chris work his magic. There is nothing in this world better than live comedy, especially watching a master work at his craft. It was a true honor to watch him work over the course of 5 nights for a total of 10 shows.
We’re sort of in the middle of nowhere. We don’t really have guest stars popping in. We gotta fly them and get a limo to take to get them to our club. We’re actually in the middle of the woods. We have been known for the past seven years, since we’ve been up in the casinos, for trying to nurture and cultivate some young talent. A guy like Orlando Baxter or Alignon Mitra, who’s now out in California, he was on a few Late Night shows this year, and he used to come to our club and only have five minutes. Matt G and Grant Gordon are others who have really moved up. But maybe the biggest comic this year who sort of grew up in our club was Jared Freid. I’ve known Jared since he had five minutes. Years ago we did a summer promotion with a minor league baseball team and after the game on some Friday nights, they wanted a comic to do ten minutes of clean material at the pitcher’s mound in front of 3000 screaming families. Jared went out there and I said, “whatever you do”… and Jared was new, he was really nervous … but I said, “whatever you do, make sure when you finish, you dance off the pitcher’s mound and slide into home.” He didn’t do that and he … he felt like he bombed. And I said, “Jared, this is what makes you grow better. These are the kinds of things that make you grow stronger.”
We do something twice a year for the veterans, to donate money to Project 9 Line and Wounded Warriors, which are always good shows. We attract people all the way from Long Island because that’s where the organization is based. And they’re an organization that is predicated upon re-invigorating veterans into society through the arts. That’s a very rewarding experience for us. We have a comedy contest every year. It’s grown to about 130 comics and a lot of them are in the New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, type of Long Island comics. Some of them have been fantastic, they headline our shows a couple times a year.
Oh man, picking one highlight is impossible! We had a great year, Toronto just continues to grow as a great comedy city, the talent here is overwhelming. In addition to all the local and international acts that appear each year as a part of festivals (JFL42, Toronto Sketchfest, She-dot, BCIF, New Formats etc.) and some of the incredible touring acts we brought through last year – really hot shows from Aparna Nancherla, Baron Vaughn, a kick-ass surprise Chris Gethard show, and unbelievably Anthony Rapp showing up to do some broadway tunes on the Jimmy Pardo live podcast recording, I have to give absolute best sets of the year to stand-out locals Mark Forward, Arthur Simeon, DeAnne Smith and Chantal Marostica who’s coming back to the bar in March to record her album with us.
Some of the best comedy shows in Milwaukee are happening in the basement of a mall. The flagship venue of Milwaukee Comedy is a black box theater in an arts collaborative found in the lower level of The Shops of Grand Avenue. For a while, this venue, owned and managed by Matt Kemple, founder and executive producer of the Milwaukee Comedy Festival, has been one of Milwaukee’s best-kept secrets. That secret is getting harder to keep as it consistently attracts the likes of Nick Thune, Emily Heller, Hari Kondabolu, Jordan Carlos, Matt Braunger, and Eddie Pepitone, to name a few. Milwaukee Comedy has been fortunate enough to select from the growing pool of local talent to provide support for these national headliners, along with continuing to showcase the scene’s up-and-comers in regular monthly showcases. Milwaukee continues to cultivate and support talent before they make the move to bigger scenes like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
The UC gained more traction this year when it became the main venue for the 12th annual Milwaukee Comedy Festival. This year’s festival saw incredible growth. In previous years, the festival averaged 1400-1600 people. The 2017 MKE Comedy Festival, headlined by Michael Ian Black, brought in an estimated 2000 people over 6 days. A 20% attendance increase!
The comedy in Milwaukee doesn’t show any signs of slowing down: a yearly comedy festival attracting bigger names every year and intimate and in-demand venues that continue to impress.
Find more information about upcoming shows and mics at MilwaukeeComedy.com and follow us on Twitter at @MilwaukeeComedy.
This year was so much fun! Our two signature events were more successful than any other year! Krista Fatka won our annual Sacramento Stand-up Competition. And we had groups come from as far away as Canada for our annual Sacramento Comedy Festival. We transferred operations/ownership of the Comedy Spot to the Sacramento Comedy Foundation- our non-profit. The Foundation has grown exponentially this year. In 2018 we are going to support local charities by producing comedy shows as fundraisers. And also in 2018 we will be launching the Foundation’s Improv for Kids program. What we are most proud of this year is that we were able to open our new Comedy Spot Training Facility in November. This addition location allows us to triple the amount of improv, stand-up, and sketch comedy classes we are able to teach through the Comedy Spot.