The Laugh Your Asheville Off stand-up comedy festival started with a local comic showcase at Fred’s Speakeasy. The multi-venue event continues throughout the weekend with an outstanding line-up of local and national comics, including Saturday night headliner Jake Johannsen, who’s performed on the Late Show with David Letterman a record 32 times. On tap for tonight: performances at Diana Wortham Theatre by Josh Gondelman and The Beards of Comedy troupe, which features rising Asheville pro-comedian Joe Zimmerman.
For more details and the complete line-up, check out the LYAO website.
We recruited local comedian Michael Channing, who performed at this week’s showcase, to report on the kick-off event:
I remember well the comedy scene in Asheville seven or eight years ago. I was exactly one half of it. The other half was a guy named Steve H whom I haven’t seen in many years. We performed at a coffee shop open mic along with poets and proselytizers, djembes and didgeridoos.
It’s amazing how far the hometown comedy scene has come over the years, and this week we started the LYAO festival off right with a local showcase to raise money for Brother Wolf Animal Rescue. It was a fantastic show, and I say this from the aspect of both comic and audience member. The comics were in great form, and the audience, though rowdy at times and restless near the end, were receptive and ready to laugh. If you were there to see the show, you were being judged before it even began. That’s what comics do.
Joe Zimmerman, one of the Beards of Comedy, hosted the show quite handily. In between a few of the comics, he asked animal-related trivia questions and gave away prizes like tickets to his show, a copy of his CD, and Laugh Your Asheville Off tee-shirts. One guy received a lady’s tee-shirt, and Joe suggested he give it to a girl, so the guy handed it to the first woman he saw in the audience. She happened to be Joe’s girlfriend.
As this was a benefit for an animal rescue organization, there were a surprising number of animal killing jokes. Tom Scheve was apparently under the impression that Brother Wolf only saved dogs and unleashed a vitriolic, yet hilarious, attack on cats. But we all knew he was kidding. He was kidding, right?
I would have said that Katie Hughes was playing to the crowd with her support of gay marriage had I not seen her perform the same joke a few times already. Tyler Greene, however, was totally pandering when he mentioned, in essay form, that Macs were better than PCs and that the British version of the “The Office” was way funnier than the American version. It’s good to butter up your audience, but did you have to play so blatantly into Asheville stereotypes, Tyler?
Michael Roach shared with us his aversion to a certain word he finds to be pretentious-sounding. I don’t know if I can get away with writing it here, but it’s the past tense of everyone’s favorite word for excrement. You know the one; just change that “i” into an “a.” Later on in the evening, another comic used the same word, and my heart soared as a tight core of the audience spontaneously began to chant a curse word. Lucky for me, I went on before Michael Roach when I used the word.
Speaking of chanting, Joe brought on a couple of quick guest spots and started out their time by having the audience chant “One minute bit!” over and over. Herbie Gill and Cody Hughes, two of the most talented comedians I’ve met in Asheville, got to perform for exactly one minute. Herbie described an amazing trick he once saw a stripper perform, and Cody explained how attending a good school as an art major is a lot like lining your ducks in a row then opening up on them with a hunting rifle.
Melanie Maloy came out of semi-retirement and headlined the show for us. A veteran of the road, Melanie has made Asheville her home for the past year and a half. In between jokes, she flirted with the audience and shook her dreadlocks as well as other things.
And because we do things differently in our town, the headliner was not the final performer of the night. That was Nick Thune, who has been on The Tonight Show as well as Comedy Central Presents. The crowd was fully expecting the show to be over, so they were talkative and didn’t pay full attention, but Nick had just come from opening for a band at the Orange Peel and was happy to get any laughs at all. Eventually most of the crowd settled down to listen to his smart and inventive one-liners. You know how you eat a great piece of cake and still want more? And then you find a bit of icing still stuck to the lip of the plate and lick that off? That’s a nice experience isn’t it? It has nothing to do with the show, but it is fun when that happens.
I’m extremely impressed with the way the stand up scene has flourished here in my town. It’s nice to be a part of such a fantastic group. I wish I could tell you about all the local comics. They’re my friends, and I’ve worked and travelled with them for a little over a year now. I’d like to introduce you to them one by one and let you know all about them. That way, when you meet them on the street or buy sandwiches or weed from them, you’ll already feel like friends. But for now, I’ll simply say: Asheville, this is Comedy. Comedy, this is Asheville. I know you’re going to like each other.