It’s our third annual look at the greatest comedy moments all over the country. We went straight to the bookers, club owners, managers and producers who put together some of the best comedy shows in the country in 2016, and asked them their favorite moments in comedy this year. The answers they gave showed off the moments they were most proud of, and these stories are so good, that we can’t wait for you to read them.
It’s an amazing snapshot of comedy in 2016 where you can read about some really touching up close moments with some very familiar headliners, and also read about some newer comics who are a big deal in different parts of the country. 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 2016! Stay tuned every day for new categories many of which you can vote on.
But for now, enjoy the best of comedy 2016 from the best clubs in the country like Yuk Yuk’s, NerdMelt, The Cellar, Gotham Comedy Club, The Comedy Attic, The Laugh Factory, The Village Underground, The Comedy Store, the Improv, the Stand, New York Comedy Club, Comedy on State, Helium, Zanies, Second City, Side Splitters, Doc’s Lab and more!!
Over the course of 2016, we have had the privilege to witness some of the greatest comics of all time work on their craft at our club. Chris Rock, Louis CK, Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle, etc. have all graced our stages with their presence multiple times this year. It was so special to see Chris Rock work out, what turned out to be, a truly memorable Oscars monologue. It was also incredibly cool to watch Chris bring up Dave Chappelle for back to back sets where they proceeded to bounce tags and ideas off of each other in front of a late night crowd.
We were all pretty devastated to hear of the passing of paid regular, Garry Shandling, who started his career at the Comedy Store. We felt fortunate to be able to watch Garry and Jerry Seinfeld discuss their experiences at the Comedy Store in an episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” which was filmed on location. I believe this, at least in part, pushed Seinfeld to gracing our stage for the first time since 1979. The lucky audience heard Jerry give an extremely humorous and insightful thirty minute history of his relationship with the Store and Mitzi Shore in particular.
We’ve had so many wonderful sold out shows in our main room this year. We had the epic “End of the World Podcast” where Joe Rogan, Doug Stanhope, Bill Burr, Bert Kreischer and others provided live commentary to the election. The John Waters Christmas Show was an absolute blast and The David Spade & Friends Show has continued its massive success featuring such guests as Adam Sandler, Bill Burr, Norm Macdonald, Dana Carvey, etc.
Finally, first season of “Roast Battle”, which originated in the Belly Room and continues to sell out every Tuesday night was aired on Comedy Central this year. Watching guest judges such as Kevin Hart, David Spade, Anthony Jeselnik, Whoopi Goldberg, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Rogan, Judd Apatow and Sarah Silverman witness the structured anarchy and experience the infectious energy firsthand was absolutely incredible. We’re all looking forward to another successful season which is scheduled to air in 2017!
It is extremely difficult to single out one great moment from an entire year filled with so many phenomenal comics and weekends, but one show that stands out above the rest was Bert Kreischer’s “Call in Sick to Work Show” at noon on Cinco de Mayo. Bert is always a highly anticipated week for the staff, but the Cinco de Mayo show took the fun to new heights. The show was sold out, and people were lined up in front of the venue at 9am. Customers could not wait to get in, start drinking, and see Bert live. The energy in the club was infectious. Customers, staff and comics were all ecstatic about what was about to take place. Bert arrived after a morning of drinking at WMMR’s Preston & Steve show, and was just as excited as all of the fans at the venue.
In typical Bert fashion, the show was one long, extraordinary party. The crowd was incredible and Bert delivered an outstanding ninety minute performance. It was, however, not your typical set. In his last few visits to Philly, Bert has started a tradition of doing a shot with the entire crowd toward the end of his set. Bert asks who wants to do a shot, and typically about half of the audience’s hands go up, but on Cinco de Mayo, we had just about every hand in the audience fly up asking for a shot of tequila. After we delivered a couple hundred glasses of tequila to the crowd, Bert began to tell The Machine story. In the spirit of the day, the story had quite a unique twist. Bert pulled an ASL interpreter from the crowd and had her sign the epic story next to him on stage. The show ended with tremendous cheers and applause. The event was still far from over as almost the entire crowd stayed after the show, eager for the opportunity to hang out and have a drink with the headliner they were so excited to meet. Once again, Bert did not disappoint. He partied with the audience all afternoon and effortlessly entertained them before having to catch a flight. As people exited, they were shocked to see it was still a beautiful, sunny afternoon with a lot of daylight remaining. It was one of the most unforgettable and enjoyable days I’ve ever had at Helium. Thank you Bert!
Every year on our anniversary, we always have a show that all the proceeds go to charity. The first show we ever did was a benefit and we typically had the Mayor of Bloomington as the host. This year, Jesse Eisenberg moved to Bloomington with his wife and they had been coming pretty regularly to see shows. His wife’s mom runs a nonprofit in town- Middle Way House- and he was interested in doing a fundraiser. We asked him if he wanted to host it, and on October 8, Jesse Eisenberg made his stand-up comedy debut with 3 shows. We had to add a show because we sold all the tickets and made $13,000 for Middle Way House. He is a genuinely great person, a super nice guy, and got better each show. By the third show- if you didn’t know him you would never know it was his third time ever on a comedy stage. He was that good. The first show he was super nervous but did well, and got better at the 8:00 and even better for the 10:30. He’s friends with Todd Barry who headlined the show. He and Jesse knew each other. One of Todd’s most famous bits- Jesse is the subject of the bit. Even though Todd doesn’t reveal that in the joke, it’s Jesse.
We also were so proud to have Hari Kondabalu and Dana Gould come in so soon after the election. It was interesting to see two of the leading voices on the left in comedy, give two completely different takes on the most miserable thing singular event that has happened since we opened in Sept 2008. As a 160 seat club in town of 80,000 people, to be able to have two of the most nuanced voices in comedy add their viewpoints on the election with very little Trump bashing, was incredible.
So many stand out moments this year, and one highlight was just this week. Gad Elmaleh, who we love- was headlining. They call him the French Jerry Seinfeld, and Jerry came in and did some time. We’ve had Jerry in plenty of times before, but this was something special. To have him and Jerry there on the same night– magical. This year Cheech & Chong hosted together for the new season of Gotham Comedy Live on AXS TV this year. We’ve had them each host separately, but this was their first time doing GCL together. I’ve loved them since I was a kid, so that was something; really a great night.
One of the coolest things about doing Gotham Comedy Live is that we get to give a lot of young comics their first TV credit, and now some of the comics who got their first TV appearance with us are coming back, as stars, to host the show, because their careers have blown up. People like Michael Che and Pete Davidson. It’s really great to give so many comics the opportunity to get their first shot on television and even better to see them come back with a giant career.
Early in the year, comedian Ever Mainard approached me about putting on a Planned Parenthood benefit show. Without hesitation, I gave it the green light, and we scheduled “I Stand with Planned” for February 13th. The lineup of Sarah Silverman, Beth Stelling, Lindsay Adams, Clare O’Kane, and the Puterbaugh Sisters was announced and tickets went on sale. I have never seen a show sell out so fast. It was incredible. The audience was also encouraged to bring toiletries and feminine hygiene products to donate to local women’s shelters. By the end of the night, several boxes were overflowing with donations. It was uplifting to see so many people care about these causes, and this was months before the election, long before we knew of the doom that lay ahead. As you might imagine, another “I Stand with Planned” is on the books.
A few highlights for Zanies this year included our Rosemont location getting recognized as a great place for comedy. Crowds continue to grow and comedians are choosing the room for their television specials (Joey Diaz) or CD tapings. Last night, we taped a show for WCIU with 10 Chicago comedians and it went great. Looking forward to more of these kinds of events. Also, in a crazy election year, Tim Slagle hosted Camp Pain 2016, a monthly show focusing on politics starting in January with Special Guest Will Durst and the highlight was the simulcast on September 26th of the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. We broadcast the debate live and had Tim Slagle, Amanda Cohen, and Dale Irvin commenting from the stage with a front row of comedians chiming in. The house was full and it was a blast. Because no club manager can limit himself to just three memories for one year.
Having Kevin Smith and Jeff Garlin appear in the same week as part of the Zanies/Rosemont four year anniversary celebration. What a blast listening to these master storytellers. And finally, 2016 was a year to see old friends again that I had not seen in a long time like Sinbad and Jamie Kaler and Billy Gardell and making new friends Tony Hinchcliffe and Leonard Ouzts. Go Cubs. They killed our business for two weeks, but THEY WON THE WORLD SERIES.
We had another great year here at The Stand as we entered year 5 this past September. We nurtured great young talent on a nightly basis while they shared the stage with the biggest names in the NYC scene. We were fortunate to have Ron Bennington grace our stage several times, whether it was a Comedy 101 event, or performing a mash-up set alongside the great Big Jay Oakerson. We also watched Impractical Jokers star, Sal Vulcano, blossom into a stand-up comedian by honing his craft on Frantic! every Monday night.
My personal favorite was our 16 comedian RoastMasters Tournament that spanned 6 weeks throughout October into November. It reached the pinnacle with Zac Amico taking home the title belt on November 1st with The Roast Master himself, Jeff Ross, in attendance. Out of the 16 participants, 12 comedians were selected to compete in Comedy Central’s Road To Roast Battle leading up to Roast Battle 2 this upcoming season. In the under-cards, we had what is highly regarded as one of the greatest roast battles in the history of the sport between Evan Williams and Scott Chaplain. Both men traded barbs while pointing out the death and tragedies in each other’s personal lives for our amusement. The roof nearly blew off several times, as everyone in attendance knew they were watching something magical. Watch it here. We look forward to another great year here at The Stand and are incredibly thankful for all who support what we are doing!
Madison, Wisconsin was blessed with some really great comedy in 2016. The best moment of the year didn’t even happen during a regular show! On a Wednesday night in mid October, Louis C.K. was performing across the street from Comedy on State and a couple managers had tickets to go see him. Joe List was one of his openers and he had just been to the club a few months prior, so we texted List after the show to see if he wanted to do some time at the mic. He showed up with Louis and they sat in the back of the room. It’s about 1030PM and there are about 7 more local comedians due up before List and Louie. Nobody in the audience knew what was about to happen. Because the show had already been going on for an hour and half, we were tossing around the idea of cutting the last few to make room for List and C.K. Louis was very adamant in NOT cutting anyone. This showed the true professionalism of a comedy icon. After the locals wrapped up, the host brought out Louis C.K. to the amazement of the audience. “How much did you people pay for this open mic?” The host asked. “You just payed two dollars to see LOUIS C.K.!”
The crowd went crazy and we just sat in awe as a comedic legend proceeded to do 35 minutes of material out of his notebook at an open mic in Madison, Wisconsin. Special thanks to Joe List for making it happen. Here’s a picture of him on stage that night.
Follow Comedy on State on Twitter @ComedyOnState and visit madisoncomedy.com for more information.
So many great moments at both clubs this year. A lot of filming– truTV came in, affirmed a documentary on the Cellar, the history, the people, the table and even followed the audition process and passing of Jared Freid (JTrain)! The Comedian, directed by Taylor Hackford, filmed a show at the Underground with Robert De Niro, Jim Norton, Jessica Kirson, Sheng Wang, Ryan Hamilton, Greer Barnes. And they filmed scenes at the table with Estee, Nick DiPaolo, and Jim Norton. Pete Holmes’ HBO show Crashing filmed scenes at the club!
We had SO many special shows in the Village Underground: The Bonfire Live, My Wife Hates Me, Comedy 101, Misery Loves Company, Kreeps with Kids, Come to Papa Live, Roast Battle, Ron Bennington’s Unmasked, Friends Like Us Podcast, Michelle Wolf: So Brave, Kurt Metzger: You are Making it Worse, Joe Machi: Smart Casual, This is Not Happening, Judah Friedlander headlining shows, Fixing Joe Podcast, The Chris Distefano Extravaganza to name just a few.
We also opened our third comedy room- the Lounge in the Fat Black Pussycat. It was christened by Colin Quinn who has a residency there workshopping his hour(s) beginning with New York Story and now his newest hour. Now the room is used by our comedians throughout the week as they workshop hours and half hours. As well as four weekly Comedy Cellar shows. And we are particularly proud of NEW JOKE NIGHT every Monday at 8pm hosted by Wil Sylvince. It is the varsity open mic – Chappelle did three hours there.
So many new amazing comedians and drop ins as well as old favorites. One great night this summer with John Mayer, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, and Aziz Ansari! And some of the best moments of the year came when we were sharing special times with our Comedy Family – from celebrating birthdays to watching late night sets on the big screen at the Olive Tree. And the great hours spent around the table laughing and fighting with each other. One of the best parts of the club is that you never know what is going to happen or who will show up. And our kitchen renovations are (finally) finished!!!!
A lot of people say Dave Chappelle helped the country come to terms in his triumphant return to SNL, and he did. But I saw that every night at the Laugh Factory. That’s what live comedy has the power to do. Turn anything into laughter. Every single time that happened was my favorite moment of 2016, but I guess that’s why founder and CEO Jamie Masada built the place. Here are more of the Laugh Factory’s favorite moments of 2016.
The Laugh Factory Funniest Person in the World contest is the biggest competition in the world. In 2016, the contest included 89 comedians from 56 countries and more than 70 million votes were cast throughout its duration. The event was held in Finland, the homeland of 2014 winner Ismo Leikola, and the 2016 winner was Malaysian Harith Iskander, who took home the $100,000 grand prize. The response has been amazing both globally and in Iskander’s home country, where his win graced the front page of every newspaper. The President of Malaysia even sent representatives to the official press conference, and because of Iskander’s win, the next Laugh Factory Funniest Person in the World Competition will be held in Malaysia in 2018.
The Laugh Factory was also proud to be a part of the Dr. Ken season finale this year. For Ken Jeong’s hit TV show, which was recently picked up for its second season, ABC sent over some people to check out our stage and rebuild it for the show. Ken Jeong got his start at the Laugh Factory and it’s a touching thing to see a comedian pay homage to the place that gave him his first break. There were also so many other great moments on our stage with comics like Kevin Nealon, Bill Burr, Dana Carvey, Jay Leno, Norm MacDonald and even Larry David, who made his return to stand up comedy at the Laugh Factory after 20 years.
2016 was our second full year since Scott Lindner and I bought the club, our first full year since completing renovations and we even brought on a new booker, Amy Hawthorne. Three moments really stick out– the first is when Tracy Morgan popped into the club on a sold out weekend night. It was one of his first appearances on any stage since his accident and he was preparing for his first tour in years. For us to be one of the venues that he considers a room for him to work says volumes of where the club has gone since new ownership. Tracy has since been to the club numerous times and has even hung around to lend advice to our younger comics.
This was also an exceptional year for our young comics. We hold weeknight “Late Nights” for a group of younger comedians to have to opportunity to get stage time outside of bar shows and open mics right after our last house show of the night. We’ve seen some of them packed out with 40-60 people. One of them followed a Monday show that featured Rory Albanese and a drop in from Greer Barnes, who then stuck around at the bar until the end of the night, holding court and answering questions the kiddos threw their way and just telling stories that really helped them see what the road ahead was like.This past year marked a big resurgence in industry coming back to the club; on most nights we will have reps from various managers, casting directors, agents, and networks at the club scouting untapped talent, and that included being a part of the Just For Laughs festival New faces auditions. JFL graciously accepted a few of our suggestions into the pool, including Neko White, who is a comedian everyone here at the club really loves and believes in. We celebrated by taking staff members to Montreal, which was a HUGE highlight and a celebration of how far we have come as a comedy family.
After speaking to the other agents, we came up with 3 highlights from the downtown Toronto club: Gary Gulman doing the state name abbreviations bit to a packed and very Gulman-type audience not normally at Yuk’s. One of our newest and youngest signees, Charles Haycock knocked it out of the park going second on the first night of the festival showcases. Shannon Laverty, a seasoned veteran, received a standing ovation on her headline week – 20 some years into the biz
In 2016, The Second City and UP Comedy Club had a ton of amazing moments. One weekend in particular that comes to mind is when we had an incredible line-up in our annual NBC Break Out Comedy Festival where we featured our distinguished Bob Curry Fellows that shared the stage with Second City alum Tim Meadows and seasoned comics Joel Kim Booster, Felonious Munk, Martin Morrow, David Helem and Ramon Rivas. One of the most unforgettable moments was noticing new comer and Bob Curry Fellow, Tien Tran perform stand-up on our stage and how much the audience loved her. Tien had a unique voice and killer presence on stage that we knew would translate beyond stand-up into our sketch world. We’re extremely proud to have Tien join the Second City’s 41st e.t.c. Revue.
On the final Saturday night of Moontower, Leslie Jones caused an audience tsunami when she walked into 800 Congress. Instantly, the back of the room was abuzz with chatter that she was going up. When she finally stalked on stage and proceeded to “assault” the front row with her immense star power, she didn’t quit until 400 people were weeping with laughter!
Of course, seeing Princess for the first time after the passing of Prince just days earlier was like attending church. Maya Rudolph and Gretchen Lieberum delivered a wild rock and roll sermon that alternated between tears and laughter. The entire audience surprised the band by waving purple glow sticks that they had kept hidden until the group took the stage. Magic!
This year was filled with many “stand out” moments for Helium Comedy Club Portland. However, Todd Glass rolling through with special guest Daniel Tosh brought a similar frenzied excitement to the city as had Dave Chappelle’s last minute drop-in at the club in 2014. Todd Glass himself is a character, a lovely one. His aesthetic tastes are impeccable. He revamps the lounges and showroom within hours of arriving, sprucing up the ambiance with candlelight in prolific proportions. He brings a band with him to play him on and off stage, creating a truly delightful, intimate, sexy, jazz club feel. This time through town Todd brought Daniel Tosh as his opening act, a special guest unannounced on the first night of the engagement, though by early Friday morning the news had spread like wildfire. The remaining four shows sold out instantly. Each and every show an amazing spectacle of good vibes and the comedic hilarity of Todd and Daniel. Helium Comedy Club Portland once again felt like the epicenter of the city, people lined up around the block, hoping for the best seats or a shot at getting on the wait list and grabbing any late-released tickets. All five shows were not to be missed, comedy at its finest.
I’ll remember 2016 as the year of the rebirth of The Lab, our second showroom. It became home to some of LA’s best weekly and monthly comedy and variety shows, many with live jazz and soul music accompaniment. Its classic cabaret aesthetic and intimacy (only 60 seats) attracted the best emerging talent as well as comedy luminaries including Adam Sandler, Sarah Silverman, Maria Bamford, Louis C.K., Craig Robinson, Todd Glass, and Chris Rock even headlined two shows in the room (with the up and coming Dave Chappelle opening for him). It’s also given us a space to build the club’s first development system in a long time, where we can cultivate and provide stage opportunities for emerging talent. The future here at Melrose is bright!
There are always great nights — we were fortunate to put on shows with Louis C.K., John Mulaney, Nick Kroll and Gabriel Iglesias, to pick a few. But one of the best stories of the year is about a weekend. Arsenio Hall made his first ever visit to the club a few days after the election in November. Without getting into the politics, it’s fair to say that a lot of DC was in a daze, and we weren’t sure how audiences were going to respond.
We couldn’t have wished for a better headliner. Remember, Arsenio won “Celebrity Apprentice” AND has longstanding ties to the Clintons, so he had plenty to say about everyone. He side-stepped the anger that some people were feeling, took the emotions in the room and turned them into much-need laughter. It was a beautiful thing to watch, and it reminded us how live comedy, especially in an intimate club setting can bring people together, no matter their worries or differences. I’m happy that The DC Improv has helped provide that service for 24 years.
This year has been a year full of amazing shows, great audiences and superbly talented comedians. One of our biggest moments was that we celebrated our 25th Anniversary in 2016. In honor of 25 years, we booked one stacked show that featured all of the headliners who got their start on our stage. The line-up included Jackie Kashian, Chad Daniels, Pete Lee, Tracey Ashley, Cy Amundson, Mary Mack, Tim Harmston and so many other incredible comedians that call Acme Comedy Co. their “home club”. It was heartwarming to see everyone that started their careers at Open Mic here coming together for one night.
Celebrating a milestone like a 25th Anniversary was definitely a high in 2016, but the surprise last-minute shows really rounded the year out to make it one of the most memorable. Hannibal Buress dropped in for a few last-minute (5PM shows!) that sold out in SECONDS and Louis C.K. announced the day of his Minneapolis arena show that he would be doing a late show at Acme Comedy Co. later that night. He heard that we were worried about our future in a neighborhood that is rapidly gentrifying and he showed his support by giving 100% of the proceeds to the club. We were so humbled and surprised by his gesture (and of course the show was insanely good and instantly sold out). There have been so many unforgettable, fun and insane weeks here at Acme Comedy Co in 2016 that when I look back I realize how good this year has been for us and for comedy in the Twin Cities.
One of our standout moments this year was when we had Ron Funches in town. The show fell on April Fools’ Day and we had a perfect surprise for everyone who attended the show. Ron is good friends with Hannibal Buress, who happened to be in town that day and was near the club. Hannibal decided to pop down and wanted to do a guest spot. When the emcee announced Hannibal’s name most of the crowd thought it was just a big joke until he came out on stage. The feeling in the room was electric and he killed it for the 5 minutes he was on stage. It was definitely a highlight of the year.
This year was an embarrassment of comedy riches at Joe’s Pub. We got to watch French superstar Gad Elmaleh develop his first English-language show here (and get opened for by the one-and-only Jerry Seinfeld!). But we also got to see comedy turned on its head by performance artist Adrienne Truscott, whose show Asking For It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy, Starring Her P—y and Little Else, stays painfully relevant. Rounding out our year, we partnered with IFC to film our first-ever holiday special, which airs December 21 and stars Tony Hale, Bridget Everett, Lisa Loeb and many more of our favorite people. They were all backed by the unstoppable Dap-Kings. Rest in peace, Sharon Jones.
For us, this year’s best moments were getting to see Atlanta’s comedy scene getting so much national attention. We had numerous Atlanta comics (many who consider the Laughing Skull their home club) go on to do a ton of great things this year. We had Comedy Central come to the Skull to film an episode of Roast Battle and to record Matthew Broussard’s debut album, Kevin Hart’s Hart of the City filmed at Uptown with multiple Atlanta comics, Dulce Sloan won NBC’s Stand-Up for Diversity and appeared on Conan, Clayton English is headlining all over the world after winning Last Comic Standing, Shalewa Sharpe released a chart topping album, Noah Gardenswartz got a half-hour on Comedy Central and released an accompanying album, Rob Haze was on Adam DeVine’s House Party, Caleb Synan was on Conan, and Mia Jackson was on Inside Amy Schumer. I’m sure there are other things that I’m forgetting and will realize as soon as I send this, but those are a few of our favorite moments from 2016.
Our top favorite moment, which was this year’s Laughing Skull Comedy Festival, which brought in 101 comedians from all over the country to showcase them to the industry. This year’s winner was John Novosad from Denver.
There were so many highlights to this year’s High Plains Comedy Festival, it’s hard to know where to start! We love when “ex-pats” from the Denver scene come back to celebrate the Festival with us, so having David Gborie and Sam Tallent—who grew up together just outside of Denver—record their first album at the Fest was a perfect kick-off. Eliza Skinner’s Turnt Up was one of the most popular shows—to see Kristin Rand (who moved to LA a couple of years ago and has since moved to Alabama) go from an on-stage near-panic attack to winning the whole damn thing was amazing, and Festival Founder and Executive Director Adam Cayton-Holland showed off his own impressive rap skills. Kyle Kinane and Bobcat Goldthwait both did a couple of surprise drop-ins on already-stacked shows, which was a sweet little treat for the audiences. We also had an amazing presenting sponsor in the form of truTV. They were able to saturate the fest without changing the vibe of the decidedly homegrown, indie fest to anything corporate—that’s a fine line to walk, and we were super appreciative they were able to do it.
On a more personal note, Denver comedian Heather Snow performing on the special locals-only show was really important. Heather’s been battling leukemia for a couple of years now, and worked really hard to make it to the festival and be a part of it. It was awe-inspiring to see her in the audience, let alone getting on stage and crushing. On the flip side of that, Jordan Wieleba, also an on-the-rise Denver comedian, passed away unexpectedly just a couple of weeks after the Festival. As hard as that was on the community, we know that being a part of the Festival meant a lot to her, and we’re very lucky such a large audience got to see her perform there. The whole weekend was topped off with an after party where Sean Patton stood on top of a cooler (with Ian Karmel spotting him) to praise the fest and the Denver comedy scene as a whole, which was really special. We’re really proud of what we’ve built here, so to have national performers come in and have great shows, great audiences, and a great time, is really what it’s all about.
This year I was very lucky to be a part of many amazing comedy festivals across the country, to judge numerous stand-up competitions, and to meet a whole new wave of talented comics, both in New York and elsewhere. My favorite comedy moment of the year, though, was actually three shows: In 2016, for the first time, we produced not one but three Schtick or Treat shows. The show, usually an annual Halloween event in New York, was created (and is hosted) by Mark Normand and Matt Ruby, and features comics performing as their favorite comedy legends—living, dead, real, and fictional! This year, in addition to the 9th Annual Schtick in New York, we produced one for Seeso, and held one in Los Angeles, too. Each show featured approximately 40 acts (114 total!), and everything from perfect impressions to hilarious parodies, music, and dancing, to prop comedy, exploding fruit, and fake blood.
What is truly special about this show is that it has something for everyone. For one night, comics get to play outside of their comfort zones and do things that aren’t like their regular acts. They get to pay homage to their favorites (or even lovingly mock them a little!), and to show off skills outside of their usual act, like singing, acting, and the ability to write sketches or for a voice that is not their own. Industry gets a chance to see more performers than anyone thought one show could hold, and comedy fans get a glimpse into the world of comedians and into each city’s respective comedy communities. Obviously, there were too many individual performances to single anyone out here, but the great thing is anyone you ask will have a different favorite, and you can’t get around the ‘you had to be there feeling.’ It’s an intimate and wonderful show crafted by, and for, comedy lovers.
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Al Madrigal from the Daily Show stopped by a few weeks ago on a Wednesday with a couple other comics ( he was in town doing a Digital Conference) and they came by as most comics do when they are in town. Only on this particular Wednesday we were having our Goodnights Comedy Academy Graduation Showcase. I let him close the show and EVERYONE in the audience including the students were super STOKED! He did his time and killed it! When he was finished with his time he spoke from the stage to the students. He simply said ” … I’ve been doing this since 1998 it’s not for the faint of heart… Keep going! and Stop inviting your friends and family to your shows” It was awesome! You really never know who is going to show up!
This year I transferred control of the Sacramento Comedy Spot to the Sacramento Comedy Foundation. The Sacramento Comedy Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation (47-3441374) that strives to be an active player in Sacramento’s arts and cultural renaissance by promoting the city as a comedy destination. It is our goal for tourists and locals to enjoy all types of smart and engaging performances, including improv, stand-up, and sketch comedy. We bring headlining acts to Sacramento, support local performers in their comedic endeavors, and reach out to the city’s youth to promote performing arts, teamwork, creativity, and confidence through comedy workshops, classes, and special events.on. The Sacramento Comedy Foundation operates the Sacramento Comedy Spot, Sacramento Improv Marathon, Sacramento Stand-Up Competition, and the Sacramento Comedy Festival.
Our first Fundraiser for the Foundation was 24 Hours of Karaoke! I hosted all 24 hours. It was pretty amazing! We raised over $3000 in 24 hours. It heard some of the best and WORST singing and for most of the time we couldn’t drink due to our restrictions on serving times. But I was blown away by the support! It was a ton of fun and our entire community of performers and supporters came out to sing. And a select few of us took the early morning shift- which was lonely.
2016 was a bit rough, but in terms of comedy, there were a lot of great moments both at Doc’s Lab and elsewhere. First off it was great to celebrate Doc’s 2 year anniversary. The club is continuing to go strong and I am still grateful to be able to give so many great comics awesome opportunities. The local San Francisco scene has really stepped up the last year. Comics like Sean McKenzie, Jane Harrison and Joey Avery, continue to kill it. Glad to have them as Doc’s regulars.Watching some old friends, and new ones like Brad Upton and Dulce Sloan absolutely crush it while being a part of the Big Sky Comedy Festival was very inspiring. Two of the best performances I’ve seen this year for sure. The Halloween show at The Stand was insane, and it was also awesome to see Kate Willett record her first record. Oh, and there was Todd Glass making his own Doc’s Lab t-shirt on Getting Doug With High. Thanks, again Todd!
But for me, the best, and most important moment I witnessed in comedy this year was Matt Ruby closing out his show at Doc’s Lab on the day after the election. It was a night I won’t forget. November 9th was a hard day for a lot of people. Including myself and the 39 people in the room that night. It was the first day in such a long time, that I didn’t want to see comedy. I almost felt like cancelling the show. Fortunately, I had a great chat with Matt before, and the show went on. He did a great heading set without mentioning the elephant in the room. When he finally did for his closing few moments, he turned it completely honest, talked about the youth said somethings that have really stuck with me since. “…America just shit on the rug and we have to be like, thank you, America. Now we can talk about it. Now we can figure out how to solve this problem….It’s the last gasp of the dinosaurs. Let the dinosaurs have their four years because the youth is coming for them.” Everyone in the room that night witnessed something really special. Matt gave us a much needed dose of positivity, and to be honest, I’m still living off it today. Thanks, Matt.
There were a bunch of memorable moments in 2016 but one in particular stands out to me. Shortly after the tragic Orlando shootings we held a fundraiser here for the victims and their families. Jim Florentine was our headliner and we had several of our great local acts like JB Ball and Steve Miller also do some time. A number of local businesses donated for the silent auction and local media helped us to promote it. Not only did we raise over $5,000 but we wanted to show our support and unity in a tragic time.
One of the things that I enjoy most of this job is watching our local guys progress. We take a lot of pride in our open mic program. It was just named “Best in the Bay” in Creative Loafing magazine. I mentioned JB Ball earlier. I watched JB do his first set just a couple years ago and this year he shot “Hart of the City” on Comedy Central with Kevin Hart, Performed at the JFL in Montreal, and just signed on with a major television network to begin working on a project with them next year. It’s great to watch our guys who put in the work make the most out of opportunities.
Get info on dates and more for Side Splitters on sidesplitterscomedy.com.
Helium Comedy Club in St. Louis is the newest addition to the Helium family, and we have had an incredible year as far as big talent is concerned. One of my favorite weeks this past year was having both Bert Kreischer and Doug Benson in our brand new venue at the same time. Doug was in Wednesday night for a live recording of his Doug Loves Movies podcast where Bert was a guest before headlining the weekend. They each had a show the following night and they popped on as guests during each other’s sets – the fans could not have been more excited. To get to watch two amazing comedians and good friends interact and share shirtless laughs at our bar together is something I will never forget.
The Funny Bone in Omaha has been bringing the funny since 1988. Every year brings new, wild comedy surprises!! 2016 has been packed with the regular ‘road dogs’ who are hilarious: Greg Warren, Nick Griffin, Auggie Smith, Dave landau, Josh blue, Tammy Pescatelli, John Heffron, April Macie, Jeff Dye, Josh Wolf, Rob Little, Sarah Colonna, Jim Florentine, Rich Vos, Ian Bagg…etc…
But the wild weeks where we had to add shows and extra security included: Steve O, Bert Kreischer, Joey Diaz, Ari Shaiffir , Michael Blackson and T. J. Miller!! And the crowds go nuts when Larry the Cable Guy pops in for a guest set! Looking forward to what 2017 holds in comedy in the cornfields!!
2016 was a big year for Laugh Factory and Chicago comedy! So many amazing comedians got opportunities to showcase on national TV, movies and other great ventures. From Drew Michael, Emily Galati, Megan Gailey, Liza Treyger, Chris Redd, Jay Washington, Matteo Lane and Josh Johnson, the Comedy Central Roast Battle, to Kevin Hart’s Hart of the City all showing the world what Chicago comedy has to offer! A unique show called Blipsters On Broadway we started with Dave Helem and Felonious Munk was piloted and picked up for a national tour with SC. It seems like we are sending comics to the coasts in refugee-like numbers and now Chicago has officially put its stamp on stand-up comedy and I am happy to call all of these amazing comics family to our club.
It’s been a terrific year for the Buffalo comedy scene. Our two area clubs, Helium and Rob’s Comedy Playhouse, are doing well with bringing nationally-known acts and rising stars to town while supporting growing local comics like Clayton Williams, Tony Pusateri, Allie Brady and Kevin Thomas Jr., who won Helium’s “Buffalo’s Funniest Person” contest. Thanks to supportive audiences, Buffalo has also attracted top-tier comedians like Amy Schumer, Dave Chappelle, Steven Wright and John Cleese to arena and theater venues. It’s a far cry from 10 years ago, when Buffalo’s lone comedy club closed leaving several young comics with one lone open mic to perform on.
But the biggest story for Buffalo comedy has been the breakthrough of native comic Joe Pera onto the national scene. Now living in New York City, Pera scored a hat trick in 2016 with two Adult Swim specials (His latest, “Joe Pera Helps You Find the Perfect Christmas Tree,” is set to air tonight) and his standup debut on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” Pera’s soft-spoken delivery and family-friendly material make him a unique comic, and I eagerly look forward to seeing what he does next.
It’s been another amazing year for comedy in our little scene. The news from the MKE scene isn’t about who’s come to town, but the people living in this town, working to build and sustain the comedy scene for the coming years. Our burgeoning scene has celebrated continued growth thanks to the tenacity of its comedians and producers. The unstoppable Addie Blanchard entered the scene last year and now produces 2 successful showcases and a weekly open mic. While veterans Greg Bach and Tyler Menz continue to produce showcases and podcasts, and perform tirelessly around our region. You might not be familiar with them now, but you will be.
Comedians in Milwaukee are hungry to perform and our lucky audiences don’t have to look far for a damn fine show. Showcases are popping up everywhere: a brewery (Keg Stand Up), a barber shop (Cold Pizza Comedy Showcase), an art gallery (SUBJECTIVE: A Comedic Showing), a pub on Sunday afternoons (Sorry, Not Sorry) and even a backyard (Under the Stars Comedy). Most comedians in town haven’t been performing long, but they’re putting in their work, getting their stage-time and finding their voice. The future is bright for the Milwaukee Comedy scene. You should stop by.