- PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIC SHANTZ
- A STAND-UP GUY : Eric Shantz hopes to make San Luis Obispo a haven for world-class comedy.
Merriam-Webster defines comedy as “humorous entertainment,” which is a little vague. New Times defines it as “watching a person be unexpectedly struck in the groin,” which is oddly specific. There are countless competing definitions in between, but none of them are entirely accurate, because humor varies from one person to another.
By bringing 40 professional comedians from around the world to town for four days of stand-up, organizers of the first ever San Luis Obispo Comedy Festival hope to address the whole gamut of funny—from witty political observations to relationship issues to fart jokes.
“We can pretty much guarantee that there will be something there for everybody,” said comedian and organizer Eric Shantz of Rebel Rouser Entertainment.
The schedule for the event can be seen at slocomedyfestival.com, and it includes performances that are rated PG-13 at Mo Tav; an all-female show at Cielo Cantina (formerly Native Lounge); a no-holds-barred, guaranteed-to-offend event at Creekside Brewing; and “Poisoned” at Spike’s Pub, where the comedians must be drunk to get onstage.
“I basically stole the idea for the poisoned show from the festival in Edinburgh,” Shantz said. “It’s always hilarious.”
In fact, Shantz is molding this festival almost entirely after the big one in Edinburgh, Scotland, where performers are packed into every available nook and cranny for nonstop comedy, and big names like Dave Attell sell out auditoriums every night. Shantz said festivals in other countries have an aura of camaraderie that American-style competitions lack. He hopes San Luis Obispo, with its laidback culture and proximity to Los Angeles, can eventually play host to a world-class comedy festival.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF ADAM RICHMOND
- HIGH-ENERGY ENTERTAINMENT : Comedian Adam Richmond says performances are always better when the audience is ready for a good time.
“This first year, we have to prove it can work,” Shantz said. “There’s no limit to how far it can go as long as the town’s behind us.”
Shantz said his biggest obstacle was securing venues. Originally, he was aiming for just three, but when one bar backed out, he desperately sent requests to every place he could. To his surprise, he ended up with eight spots to put on shows, including Steynberg Gallery and Mee Heng Low Noodle Shop.
Finding eager comedians was much easier.
“Comics are whores for the stage,” Shantz said. “They’ll do anything to get their jokes out there.”
Two-hundred comics responded to an open call for submissions, sending short videos of their routines to Rebel Rouser, who trimmed the pool down to the 40 best. Most have professional credentials, but a lucky few will be onstage for the first time, getting a unique chance to impress talent scouts from Warner Bros and ijoke.com.
New Times spoke with a few of the comics, and their styles were drastically different.
Adam Richmond has appeared on Last Comic Standing and Last Call with Carson Daly. He described his comedy as edgy and full of energy, which was apparent even over the phone.
“I like to bash political correctness,” Richmond said. “Laughter makes any message a little easier to swallow, but it’s not about being preachy. It’s about being funny.”
On the other end of the spectrum is Jen Murphy. She said her routines center on real-life stories and humorous observations. She talks a lot about dating and sex, but keeps her jokes clean.
“You don’t need to offend people to make them laugh,” Murphy said. “Comedy’s always better when it’s true, when you can find something that people can relate to, something they do and they think no one else does it.”
This idea matched up with the sentiments of Shantz and Richmond, who said comedy plays a special role in society by giving the artist free license to say things people feel but don’t usually speak out loud.
“Comedy is the last line of defense. There’s no filter,” Richmond said. “It’s just me and the audience, and they let me know immediately if my words are relevant.”
Contributor Nick Powell still hasn’t heard the one about the president’s favorite horse. Send it to his very own email: firstname.lastname@example.org.