Though there’s some sort of show to check out every night of the week in Asheville (dance, theater, music, visual art, etc.) the one performing field that’s under-represented is comedy. Luckily, for stand-up fans, local comedian-turned-show producer Greg Brown is changing that.
Brown and his partner Rowan Lischerelli introduced the first-ever Laugh Your Asheville Off Comedy Festival back in July. The three-show run, held at Diana Wortham Theatre, brought an extensive roster of local and regional comics to downtown Asheville. But Brown and Lischerelli didn’t sit back and bask in the success of that first production. They immediately set about organizing other comedy events including last weekend’s one-night follow-up.
The Friday, Oct. 12, show at Diana Wortham featured Charlotte’s “Comedian of the Year” Joe Zimmerman as the host of the show along with other up-and-comers like Carlos Valencia, Felicia Gillespie and Justin Chambliss.
If you caught the July show, you recognized Zimmerman, Valencia and Chambliss. All three pretty much repeated their earlier performance to varying affect. Zimmerman’s riff on the Asheville scene hits pretty close to home (his bit about protesting Staples: “If we get office supplies, what’s next? Offices?”). Valencia’s schtick about STDs and having a terminal disease named after him was more awkward than funny. Comedians tend to ride that line between humorous and creepy, but Valencia edges closer to creepy for me. Then again, his MySpace quote is “Bringing unsettling creepiness back” — mission accomplished!
My favorite acts of the evening were headliner Dave Landau, whose laid-back delivery and banter with the audience made for a fun and fast-paced routine, and Asheville-based comedian Tom Chalmers, who started his set with an impression of a bluegrass band.
Chalmers came to WNC from New York City where he served as artistic director for Gotham City Improv. In Asheville, he teaches comedy writing workshops through Asheville Community Theatre. He also performs the annual one-man play, The Santaland Diaries.
On the whole, this second Laugh Your Asheville Off show was a fun evening with plenty of laugh out loud moments and a pleasantly surprising number of good regional artists. Hopefully what was originally intended as an annual festival will quickly become a quarterly event.
—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter