If you like comedy, the only place to be this weekend is downtown. The festival started last night with the finals for the Rocky Top Comedy Contest in Scruffy City Hall. Eleven contestants squared off – some from Knoxville and some from as far away as Nashville – to see who might be the funniest comic in the house. Followed by a festival kick-off party, it was the start of what promises to be a fun and laughter-filled weekend.
The festival gets into full-swing tonight with fifty comics taking the stage in two days at five different venues inlcuding Latitude 35, Scruffy City Hall, the Jack Cellar (beneath Skybox), Pilot Light and the Star of Knoxville River Boat. Tickets to individual shows may be purchased at the door for $5 ($8 at Scruffy City Hall), but the best deal is a pass for all the shows at $15. Each show lasts 1 1/2 hours.
The festival features primarily out-of-town comics and about a dozen local comedians. Headliners include an impressive line-up of comedians such as Tim Northern who recently performed on Last Comic Standing, Reformed Whores from Brooklyn, NY, an acoustic duo doing musical comedy, Bryan Cook an LA comic who appears on the Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction Contest and Jarrod Harris from Atlanta who has appeared on Comedy Central and TBS.
Additionally, there will be events running all day on Saturday, such as the 11:00 AM screening of “Smokey and the Bandit” which is followed by a comedic panel. There are free events scattered around, such as a live podcast at Remedy Coffee at 11:00 AM Saturday. A complete schedule is available on the Scruffy City Comedy Festival Website. A link to purchase tickets is available on the Facebook Page.
I spoke to Matt Ward, organizer of this festival and virtually all things comedy in the city. This all hasn’t happened overnight, but rather has built. He’s hosted the Rocky Top Comedy Contest for the last five years, for example. He says the Knoxville comedy scene was born downtown, noting that this festival is happening without the presence of a local comedy club (Side Splitters in west Knoxville is currently closed). He insists, “more of this is on the way and the festival will return next year.”
I also spoke on the phone with Jarrod Harris who will perform on Saturday night. He’s been to Knoxville for several times for shows and spoke highly of Matt and of Knoxville saying it felt like home and the comedy community is very supportive of each other. He likes comedy shows as opposed to comedy clubs because he feels people have made a choice to hear a particular comedian and respond better to them.
He sometimes will do a character or a series of characters for a show, but his comedy isn’t so much, “punch heavy.” He’s been doing comedy for thirteen years and enjoys it, but feels a need to diversify from simple stand-up. As a result, his CD, “Present and Talkative” will be available in a couple of weeks via itunes and other outlets. He’s also started a very successful web series, “The Ricky Erlando Show,” which features a southern, redneck character he’s developed. You’ll find that here, though you should know that it and much of the humor this weekend will be for grownups. He says he, “enjoys watching people I know do comedy,” and so he is looking forward to hitting town Saturday night.
Of course, comedy may not be your thing and never fear, there are around fifty other downtown choices from Friday through Sunday. You can look over the whole list and links on the weekly calendar, but I’ll hit several highlights. Disney on Ice is in town and Saw Works releases their Chocolate Porter through a Pub Crawl Dinner hosted by Preservation Pub and others. Alive After Five has the Steve Brown CD release party, Torsos and Tatas at Paulk and Company promises to be the most different sort of event, and Robin Trower rocks the Bijou and all of that is on Friday night.
Saturday features a Color Me Rad run, Jodie Manross on Kidstuff and Happy Holler Day with events all day long in the Holler. Lil’ Jon is at the International to top things off and Disney on Ice sits at the other end of that entertainment spectrum. Sunday is highlighted by Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam and more Disney on Ice.
There’s a lot more, so look at the list, but it’s one of those weekends where if you aren’t having fun, it’s on you. I hope to see you out and about throughout.