The geeks have San Diego Comic-Con. The furries have Cons and conventions. The Bronies have BronyCon. Every weird niche of fan has a place to gather together and go “oh, yeah, there are thousands of other weirdos around the country who are just like us!” Yes, that scares the hell out of me as well.
Where do fans of comedy congregate? Besides comedy clubs and podcast message boards, there isn’t really a single convention for the comedy nerd. Until LaughCon 2016 (or something just as terribly named) comes to fruition us comedy dorks will just have to settle for the random comedy festivals scattered around the country.
Making a pilgrimage to watch some of the biggest names in comedy and up-and-coming stars crack the big time isn’t a bad way to spend a couple days. You’ve taken much dumber road trips. You spend this past weekend driving all over the earth just to find Surge, don’t act like it’s beneath you to travel a couple hundred miles to see acts like Hannibal Burress, Aziz and Mark Maron kill in front of a rabid crowd.
If you’re thinking about disappearing off campus this year and checking out a couple days of comedy and sketch, here are five comedy festivals to consider — plus an honorable mention fest that will call for more than a set of wheels.
Hoboken Comedy Festival
The Hoboken Comedy Festival is tucked into the town that Sinatra made famous. He was a singer. Ask your father.
Hoboken is a Path train away from New York City so the festival is home to Big Apple sized talent but the tickets won’t have you bumming off your roommates meal plan for the rest of the semester. This year’s Hoboken Comedy Festival headliners include Carlos Mencia, Big Jay Oakerson, and Christian Finnegan and festival vets: Chuck Nice, Greer Barnes, Andrew Schulz, Chris Distefano, Mike Britt, and Keith Alberstadt. The HCF runs for an entire week with zero repeat performances.
The best part about the Hoboken Comedy Festival (for dog lovers) is the charity portion of the show — the fest contributes a $1 for every person who checks out the show to a local dog shelter. It will be good to do something nice considering all the awful stuff you do the rest of the year.
Name a favorite SNL or sketch performer from the last thirty years and there is a strong, strong chance that person made their way to the comedy spotlight via Chicago. The Windy City is home to Second City — the biggest factory of improv and comedy heavyweights ever.
Chicago Sketchfest is the brainchild of comedian Brian Posen. He thought up Chicago Sketchfest back in 2001 in an attempt to fill a seven-week rental commitment he’d made to Theatre Building Chicago. The first Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival was held in January, 2002 and ran for seven weeks. It featured more than thirty Chicago sketch comedy groups.
The past performers are too lengthy to list (so here) and this year you’re sure to see a handful of improv killers and comic genius that are the next generation in sketch comedy. If you’ve got even a sliver of interest in sketch and improv, a few days in Chicago are a solid idea for a road adventure.
LA Riot Comedy Festival
Not to be confused with the Los Angeles riots — because those weren’t funny at all — LA Riot Comedy Festival is a great spot to see comics who don’t always make long appearances or residences on the East Coast or venture into middle America.
Founded in 2013, the first LA Riot Comedy Festival boasted acts like Patton Oswalt, Maria Bamford, Marc Maron, Stephen Merchant, Paul F. Tompkins, and countless others. This year’s fest looked just as awesome.
If you’ve never been to the West Coast — or passed the middle of the country — a long road trip to LaLa land to see comedy might be something to consider. Maybe one day you’ll tell your kids about it.
Boston Comedy Festival
Boston is the breeding ground for some of the biggest names in stand-up — from Louis to Leary, Doug Stanhope to Bill Burr, Beantown launched the careers of comedy titans.
For over a decade, the Boston Comedy Festival has been “the comic’s comedy festival.” A nine-day event committed to bringing the New England community together through live and filmed comedy, the Boston Comedy Festival “promotes smiles, laughter, and an all-around good time through its display of comedic performance.”
This year promises to be just as insane and packed with talent. A few days in Boston never hurt any undergrad.
SF Sketchfest was founded in 2001 by David Owen, Cole Stratton and Janet Varney as a way to showcase the talents of Bay Area sketch comedy groups. Things have snowballed since.
These days, SF Sketchfest has played host to performers from every major US television comedy of the last 25 years including Saturday Night Live, The Kids in the Hall, Mr. Show, Arrested Development, The Upright Citizens Brigade, The State, Mystery Science Theatre 3000, Strangers With Candy, The Simpsons and The Daily Show. You’ve probably heard of at least one or two of those shows.
San Francisco is a chill town with plenty of other things to do in between watching all the people you see on TV perform live on a stage. Maybe just never leave the venue. Nothing in San Fran will top it.
Honorable Mention: Maui Comedy Festival
The Maui Comedy Festival is an honorable mention for two reasons. The first reason being it’s the new kid on the block as this is the first year Maui is playing host to a comedy festival and the second reason is because you can’t actually take a road trip to Hawaii. Unless you own a hovercraft or a Dodge Dart that can float.
This list of this year’s performers is long and ridiculously attractive (see) and a portion of all event proceeds from the Maui Comedy Festival will go to the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention in hopes of providing a new platform for continuing the dialog surrounding suicide and depression.