If you are a genuine devotee of comedy or even just a passing fan, you have probably heard the term “comedy festival.” But you might be wondering, what does that mean – exactly?
Typically, a comedy festival brings together a wide variety of comedy acts, including improvisational and sketch groups, storytellers, musical acts, and – primarily – stand-up comedians, over multiple days, in several venues, in a specific geographic location.
It might sound fun and straightforward; however, it is anything but simple. Even the smallest comedy festival has many moving parts and requires a ton of work and coordination (often by volunteers) to make it successful.
The larger festivals, like the king of festivals, “Just for Laughs” in Montreal, and the granddaddy of them all, the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, can include hundreds, if not thousands, of artists performing just as many shows in dozens (or even hundreds) of venues. To be fair, Edinburgh’s festival is considered a “fringe” festival, which has a broader appeal, a wider artistic scope, and is considered more of a media and arts festival than a comedy-only festival. But I digress.
In Minnesota, the 10,000 Laughs Comedy Festival started in 2011 and has been bringing in national headliners and unknown talent to the Twin Cities ever since. With 35-plus shows, 80 comedians and multiple venues, it’s a comedy festival that has a growing reputation for showcasing uniquely talented performers in a great atmosphere.
This year’s festival runs from Thursday, Oct. 6, to Sunday, Oct. 8. It features well-known national acts, including Bobcat Goldthwait, Jackie Kashian and Michael Ian Black, to A-list comics who got their start in Minnesota, including Mary Mack and Ali Sultan.
Comedy festivals serve many purposes; the spirit and intent is to celebrate comedy and bring together a variety of acts from across the country (or globe) to benefit artists and comedy fans alike. For new comics, it’s a chance to get discovered and mingle with veteran comics, show producers, agents, club owners and other newer acts. For veteran performers, it’s a decent payday and an opportunity to do some networking and enjoy the camaraderie of the industry.
However, being funny isn’t the only selection criteria.
Festival producers are often looking to produce shows that contain a mixture of comedic styles, experience, gender, race, point of view/voice, geographic location, and more. Many video clips get reviewed, and certain factors must always be present to be considered.
According to Dan Bublitz Jr., a Denver-based national touring comedian who has also been involved in the production of three comedy festivals, “we always look at stage presence, originality, and overall crowd reaction.”
Bublitz helped manage the San Diego Comedy Festival, the Sno Jam Comedy Festival and the Paul Bunyan Comedy Festival, so he has a wealth of experience to draw on. He spent several years building his stand-up comedy career and podcasts in Minnesota. Now, he has some tips for comedians considering submitting a video clip and application to a comedy festival.
“Read and follow the festival’s submission guidelines carefully,” says Bublitz. “Make sure the video is clear and without distractions (such as a shaky camera) and it has good audio quality. I always recommend the video be horizontally framed (1920×1080) from a front view from the waist to just above the head.”
If you’re a comedian with a genuine interest in submitting to festivals, check out Dan’s “Art of Bombing” podcast for helpful comedy insider information.
If you’re just a comedy fan and your curiosity has been piqued, be sure to check out the 10,000 Laughs Comedy Festival Oct. 6-8 at several locations in Minneapolis, including the Parkway Theater, the Comedy Corner Underground, Sisyphus Café, Palmers Bar, and The Red Sea.
Upcoming comedy events in the southwest suburbs:
• Sept. 16-17 and Sept. 23-24 Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, Chanhassen Stevie Ray’s Improv Troupe
• Sept. 30-Oct. 1 Mystic Lake Showroom, Prior Lake Tom Segura
• Sept 30.-Oct. 1 Gutty’s Comedy Club, Edina Dan Bublitz Jr.
• Oct. 6-8 Various Minneapolis venues 10,000 Laughs Comedy Festival
• Oct. 20 Turtles Bar-YellowBrick Comedy
Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a monthly comedy-focused column, Little Joke on the Prairie, by Eden Prairie resident Pat LaVone. He is a writer, speaker, stand-up comic and storyteller. During the original comedy boom, Pat began performing stand-up and sketch comedy in the mid-1980s. After a brief 30-year hiatus, he returned to the stage to perform stand-up and storytelling shows as well as humorous keynote presentations. He currently produces shows for YellowBrick Comedy and performs at various theaters and clubs around Minnesota.