Review: Laugh Your Asheville Off

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

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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4 thoughts on “Review: Laugh Your Asheville Off

  1. chall gray

    I enjoyed the show as well, especially the headliner.

    Though I don’t know Greg Brown personally I hear he is a nice guy, and I’m glad that he’s working to broaden the spectrum of the performing arts in Asheville.

  2. While I am glad to see Greg Brown & his partner Rowan Lischerelli trying to expand Asheville’s performance scene, when I saw the show back in July I was slightly put off by the festival.

    It is true that since the dismal comedy club that was briefly open years ago on Biltmore closed there is no formal place to perform stand-up or other comedy. However Asheville does still harbor some very talented comedic acts.

    My personal favorite is the Feral Chihuahuas. When I saw Laugh Your Asheville Off back in July I was disheartened to see their acts missing as an integral part of Asheville’s comedy scene. When I asked them why they were not there they informed me that the festival had all but avoided them.
    To shame.

    However Asheville’s other comedic troop – The Oxymorons – were one of the opening acts. While I may personally appreciate one comedy troop over another it does not mean that I am biased in my ability to appreciate good comedy. However I found, at least during that performance, The Oxymorons to be distasteful. I realize that often times you have to make fun of people in order to make comedy, but on this particular evening I personally felt them cross a line with me.

    Perhaps I was so offended because I had spent several months interviewing various people of the community while doing a social documentary on the city, but the Oxymorons had a skit where they compared the “tourist” Ashevillian to the “local” Ashevillian. They made the local out to be a slack-jawed cross-eyed dip-chewing retarded red-neck, while the re-located tourist Ashevillian was more of a affluent white bourgeoisie. While this may be in some cases more true than not – I felt it definitely played to tourists in the audience and it hurt me to see how transients during this time of expansive growth feel about the natural citizens of this area. It was so disrespectful. But then again – comedy isn’t about respect.

    I realize I am probably too soft skinned about this specific event, but nonetheless I would like more varieties of local comedic troops participating in the festival from here on out.

    Oh – and one last thing – the festivals name is way too long. Can’t we find a funnier shorter anagram or something?

    Here’s to smiles – JB

  3. chall gray

    When I said “broadening the landscape” I specifically meant by producing stand-up comedy. I have seen both the Feral Chihuahuas and the Oxymorons on several occasions, and I’ve found them both to be funny at times, and both unfunny at times.

    As to that particular bit, I thought it in poor taste as well. But anyone that has done improv knows that it’s quite difficult and sometimes playing to the stereotypes seems the only option you have.

    Anyway, time to go.

  4. tikitorch

    Henry Cho is a very funny guy with a special on Comedy Central, and he’s performing at The Orange Peel on Thursday, October 18. Will comedy-lovers in Asheville come out for this show?

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