Memphis Comedy Fest rolls in
Four-day event draws performers from far and wide
“Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.”
Usually attributed to Shakespearean actor Edmund Kean on his death bed, that show business aphorism acknowledges that making people laugh is not as easy as falling off a log. (Except when it is; see “pratfall,” noun.)
Memphis standup comic Katrina Coleman knows all about the hard work of comedy. As if mastering her chosen discipline wasn’t difficult enough, she’s also herding close to 60 comedians into multiple venues this weekend for the fifth annual Memphis Comedy Festival, a four-day “celebration of the comedic arts” that may be the city’s most unsung major performance event.
Growing from a “one-off” comedy showcase held at Theatreworks in Overton Square, the festival finds room for standup performances, “themed shows,” short films, workshops, experimental comedy, improv routines, “open mic” shows, comedy karaoke and more, attracting comedy creators from New Orleans, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Canada and elsewhere.
Events include such promising titles as “Argument and Grievances,” “The Black Nerd Power Comedy Hour” and the 11 a.m. Sunday “Hangover Mic 2: Electric Boogaloo.” The headliner is New Yorkbased Phoebe Robinson, who has appeared on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.” The sponsors include Jack Pirtle’s Chicken and Wiseacre Brewing (a combination New york-based Phoebe robinson is the headliner for the Memphis Comedy festival.
that somehow seems comical itself). “We’re officially a nonprofit,” Coleman said, which makes sense because “comedians have been not making profits for years.”
Wry self-disparagement aside, Coleman said the festival has become well-known enough to attract inquiries from all over the country. Many touring comedians now make a point of coming through Memphis during festival weekend.
“We’re really trying to establish
MEMPHIS COMEDY FESTIVAL
March 31-april 3, theatreworks and multiple venues. tickets range from $90 for a festival pass to $7 for some individual performances. visit www.memphiscomedyfestival. com. Memphis as a comedy city,” said Coleman, 31. “There’s a really strong comedy scene here that’s growing and growing.”
She said regular comedy showcases at such places as the P&H Cafe and The Brass Door can be “absolutely packed. We used to get very excited about 15 people paying to get in to a show. Now, we end up turning people away.”
Coleman said she was “always running off at the mouth” as a child, but comedy nevertheless is a serious means of self-expression for her, as well as a natural inclination.
“I prefer standup, personally,” she said. “I prefer it because it’s a very, very personal art. There’s nothing else on stage with me. The success and failure of each performance lies entirely with me. I wrote it, I deliver it, I’m responsible.
“So when you watch a live comic, they’re not only talking to you, they’re also living in that same moment as you, and they’re also creating in that moment. It’s very intimate, and very personal.”
Local comic Katrina Coleman is the organizer of the fifth annual Memphis Comedy festival, which runs through sunday.