Every city has a comedy scene that ranges from open mic shows to the big clubs that feature headliners from around the country. Cleveland has big clubs, like the Cleveland Improv, and Hilarities, and it also has its share of open mic nights. But it’s the DIY scene that is featured in a new documentary by filmmaker Jim Tews. Make Fun: Building a Comedy Scene is the story of the comedians and performers trying to establish their own scene in Cleveland, Ohio.
The new documentary — which gets its official release on January 20th– shows the dedication of the local comics who created their own spaces to work. The film documents the thriving DIY comedy scene in the city, which started when comedian Carey Callahan founded the show “Chucklefck” in a small coffee shop. When Callahan moved to Chicago a short time later, she passed the torch to comedian Jim Tews who ran the show for a few years before he moved to New York, and turned the reigns over to Ramon Rivas II, also featured in the film.
“There’s the place that you’re born, and then the place that you figured out how to do what you do.”
“I needed something to keep me busy and connect me to Cleveland again because I had just moved to New York. That’s what gave me this perspective on what’s happening in Cleveland because I spent a year somewhere else and thought, woah, what was happening there was pretty interesting and it’s kind of reflective of what’s happening in a lot of places so let me try to capture it, make a little snapshot of my time there.”
The film focuses on more than just the scene itself. It also spotlights some of the comics who have been the most dedicated to building and maintaining the Cleveland comedy family. Performers like Carey Callahan, Ramon Rivas III, Mike Polk Jr, Yusaf Ali, Maria Borgio, Bill Squire, the elusive Lee Honeycutt, and Tews and more all share their stand up and thoughts on performing and living in Cleveland in the film. Some of the comedians aspire to move on to bigger places like Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles; others prefer to stay put and express their creativity there.
Much like the scene it depicts, the film was a true community effort. Although its Tews’ film, funds were raised via Kickstarter, where the rewards for donations were tickets to the tapings for the stand up featured in the doc. The backers were friends, business owners, and mostly familiar names. “I could name over half our backers,” Tews said. “You build something and then people get excited by it and then you figure out how to make it a reality.”
“The reaction at the end of it was — I almost started crying.”
The original coffee shop where “Chucklefck” was born no longer exists, but the “Chucklefck” scene lives on in the film, and in Cleveland. Learn more about Chucklefck and all things comedy in Cleveland by visiting accidentalcle.com.
“Make Fun: Building a Comedy Scene” is available online on Tuesday, January 20th for just $5 at MakeFunMovie.com