2015 is the year of the concept show. Just five years ago, you would have had to go deep to find anyone running stand up comedy shows with themes and twists. Now you can find all crowd work shows, shows in the nude, shows in the dark, battles, group performances, shows where the comedian can’t see the audience, and even shows that meld stand up with other arts like music, or drawing. This week, a particularly unique concept show that is based on Los Angeles is making the journey all the way across the country, to perform for the first time in New York City. The Happy Contest Time comedy show will be in New York for one night only at the New York Comedy Club tonight, Thursday April 2nd.
The Happy Contest Time comedy show is based on the idea of Japanese game shows. The show’s creator Deborah Etta Robinson spent a year in Japan when she was in high school, and was inspired enough to put together HCT years later.
Like all game shows, there is a contest and a winner. Like all stand up comedy shows, there is of course, stand up comedy. After that, the show really goes off the map. The comedians perform on stage for three female Japanese judges, who may or may not be fluent in English, and who are not experts in comedy, at all. Often they aren’t even fans, and there in lies the fun. The challenge is for the comedians to do their acts, without boring the judges.
Robinson explained, “We start the show off with a song every time. The stand up comes out and they do their material while the girls stare at them. …..or they check their phone. Sometimes the girls get really bored with white male comedians. Like one of the judges said ‘uccch enough with the white male comedians, they’re so boring, they’re always saying the same thing.'” The girls are completely off the cuff and uncoached, and a lot of the charm of the show focuses on their reactions to the comedians. If you find the judges checking their cell phones, for example, you’re not doing well. After each comedian finishes their set, the judges give them a score, and share their thoughts which sometimes include comments like, “it’s very nice to watch you guys cause you look the same,” about the Sklar Brothers, and “I liked when he fell, I could see his chubby belly and it was cute,” about Josh Fadem, or “his forehead is twice as mine is.” There are also characters, sketches, audience participation and even a recurring character who kills himself after every show to round it all out.
The show originated in Toronto, where Robinson grew up and lived. She joined forces with Desiree Lavoy and together they created Happy Contest Time. When Robinson decided to move to Los Angeles, she joined forces with Christina Thiele to continue and grow the show. The show has become so popular that it outgrew its original home, and now takes place once a month at the Nerdmelt Showroom. There’s a podcast in the works, and even conversations with the famed JASH network.
Mark Normand, Sabrina Jalees, Henry Phillips, Matty Goldberg, Michelle Wolf, Greg Baris, Nore Davis, and Wendy Starling will all be performing when the Happy Contest Time show takes the stage at New York Comedy Club tonight.
Emilio Savone, one of the owners of New York Comedy Club is very excited to be bringing Happy Contest Time to New York. Tickets are available at newyorkcomedyclub.com.