Growing Cleveland Comedy Scene Takes Center Stage in Jim Tews “Make Fun”

cleveland comedy scene documentary

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.”

Filmmaker and comedian Jim Tews was born and raised in Allentown, Pa, and he now lives and performs in New York City, but it was in Cleveland where he decided he wanted to pursue a career in stand up, and it was in Cleveland where he developed his comedy for nearly seven years.  “There’s the place that you’re born, and then the place that you figured out how to do what you do,” Tews said.  For him it that place was Cleveland.  But Tews said that it was actually his move to New York that inspired him to want to make a documentary about comedy in Cleveland.

“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.”

And it was in Cleveland’s own Capitol Theater where Tews screened it for friends and collaborators. It was an emotional night.  “The reaction at the end of it was — I almost started crying.” His goal had been to make something that he would want to see, and that other people in the community would appreciate, and it worked. “Beyond that- this may never be on Netflix, it may never be on iTunes or Amazon cause those cost money to get on, but I don’t really care. The people I really wanted to see it, got to see it.”

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

“Make Fun: Building a Comedy Scene” is available online on Tuesday, January 20th for just $5 at

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