All those looking for quality, week-long entertainment in the near future, look no further than the first annual NC Comedy Festival. Presented by Greensboro’s own Idiot Box Comedy Club (located in the basement of Geeksboro Coffee House), the festival starts this Feb. 19, running until the evening of Feb. 24, and promises an eclectic and entertaining mix of shows for comedy aficionados and newcomers alike.
Due to the closing of Chapel Hill’s popular and highly successful DSI Comedy Theatre in Summer 2017, amidst sexual misconduct allegations posited against owner Zach Ward, there would be no place for a 17th Annual North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival on Franklin Street this year – and Jennie Stencel, co-founder of the Idiot Box and Executive Producer of the new NC Comedy Festival, jumped at the opportunity.
“When (DSI) closed, the owner said he wasn’t putting on a festival this February. We had always wanted to do one, but we didn’t want to do a competing thing,” Stencel said in an interview with Tony Castleberry of online journalist group Raleigh & Sons. “With other clubs that close by, we didn’t wanna take anything away from anybody. With him not doing it, we decided we would do it.”
Within the first week of the announcement, headliners and venues had been booked by Stencel, and hotels had been reserved at their maximum capacity due to the enthusiastic patrons.
Stencel also stresses the uniqueness of this event to the widely-known cultural diversity of the Greensboro area. “Greensboro, we have folk festivals and food trucks, which are cool things, but there’s nothing like this in this area…” she said. In addition to that differentiation, the NC Comedy Festival is unlike other similar events in the state, due to the fact that it focuses on three main areas of comedy – stand-up, sketch and improv – as opposed to just one.
The festival lineup consists of about seven headlining shows each day, with performance approaches ranging from the more traditional and conservative comedic stylings to groundbreaking, boundary-pushing stand-up comedy. The most recognizable talent includes Sasheer Zamata, known for her roles on “Saturday Night Live,” well-respected and long-time stand-up artist Eddie Brill, 17-year veteran of “The Late Show” with David Letterman and Todd Glass, who has an astonishing comedic record ranging from appearances on Comedy Central to work on “Politically Incorrect” with Bill Maher.
Multiple up-and-coming or local acts will make the rounds as well, with crowd favorites including Wendy Steiner, Senior Social Media Editor at modern women’s publication Refinery29 by day, prolific stand-up comedian by night, Sally Ann Hall, half of the female-centric comedy group Left Breast Comedy, and Raleigh based Sam Mazany, who produces several popular shows around the Triangle and is the co-founder of No Poetry Comedy.
Venues include Idiot Box’s own stage for a smaller, intimate setting, while the Community Theatre of Greensboro and The Carolina Theatre have rented out their Starr and Crown stages (respectively) to larger acts and packed houses. Tickets range in price, starting out at the lower end of $12 and reaching approximately $35 for headlining acts – ensuring laughs for Greensboro residents on any budget.
In addition to the shows, the festival is hosting two workshops for aspiring comedians and performers. One, hosted by the aforementioned Eddie Brill, is highly exclusive, with only a handful of attendees being selected to engage in the six to seven hour session. The second employs a focus on two-person scene work, which host Sayjal Joshi refers to as “the most fundamental building block of all long-form improv.” Joshi is a Greensboro native and co-founder of The Idiot Box.
For its first year, Stencel, in addition to fellow organizers and co-sponsors, has truly taken a no holds barred approach in producing and planning every aspect of the festival. “It’s a pretty big operation for a first-time festival,” she said in the same interview with Castleberry. “We’re kind of going all for it.”
This dedication and drive ensures a much-needed revitalization and kick-starter to the Greensboro arts and culture scene, generating a comedic celebration that any stand-up buff or everyday entertainment junkie should mark as a must-see.
For more information on the event, including ticket purchasing, venue concerns and breaking festival news, visit the NC Comedy Festival website.