Comedy has had an up-and-down history in Asheville. “This is a big experiment for us,” says Pola Laughlin, Renaissance Asheville Hotel sales director. “But there are so many comedy acts here in Asheville, at smaller events, all kinds of bars and breweries. There’s a market for it. We’re going to cross our fingers.”
So, the Renaissance Asheville Hotel decided to go all in for two nights of comedy Friday and Saturday, Feb. 8 and 9. Renaissance Comedy Weekend will feature nationally touring stand-up comedians who have appeared on shows such as “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “Last Comic Standing,” “Conan,” “Inside Amy Schumer” and “Late Show with David Letterman.” There will be three comics each night, plus an emcee. The Saturday closer, Michael Palascak, a finalist on “Last Comic Standing,” has performed on every late-night show.
The other comics scheduled to appear are Rocky Dale Davis, Mia Jackson, Brent Blakeney, Andy Hendrickson, Caitlin Peluffo and Grant Lyon. Peluffo, Davis and Jackson have made national TV appearances in recent weeks.
This year, the Asheville Comedy Festival celebrated its 12th anniversary, and the LaZoom Comedy Tours have been rolling around greater downtown for years. But there is currently no comedy club in town like the Asheville Comedy Club, formerly located on Biltmore Avenue, which closed in 2003. The Grove Park Inn has scaled back its late-winter Comedy Classic Weekend to one night (March 16 this year). The Orange Peel occasionally has comedy shows, and, while The Funny Business Comedy Club at the S&W Cafeteria Building is no more, the Funny Business Agency — the company supplying the comics for the Renaissance Comedy Weekend — produces comedy shows at The Grey Eagle.
Both of the Feb. 8 and 9 shows will be “clean,” Laughlin says. “What you don’t want to have is edgy. [Edgy] is funny, but for people in a hotel, that’s not what you want to bring your family to. Mia Jackson, she’s totally hilarious. You can tell she’s been funny since she was a little bitty thing.”
Jackson, who appeared on “Last Comic Standing,” is particularly hot right now. She has been opening for Amy Schumer in big venues all over the country, and this year she’ll have her own half-hour special on Comedy Central.
Jackson is that person you wish worked in your office (which she did, as a corporate trainer before becoming a comedian five years ago). Her trenchant observations about dating, dealing with your boyfriend’s roommates and what it’s like to be tall (she’s 6 feet) are dead-on and hilarious. She’s best-friend material — warm, funny, sympathetic, someone who makes it easy to laugh at scary things like breaking up and receiving inappropriate gifts.
The comedian pulls tidbits like these out of thin air, she tells Xpress. Sometimes she sets aside a block of time to write new material. But often, she jots her experiences down just after they happen to her. Or after she tells a story to a friend.
“One of my girlfriends,” she says, “if I call her with some dramatic news and I’m going on about how I’m going to fall apart, she’s laughing the whole time. I’ll go, ‘I am having a problem here.’ And she’ll say, ‘I know, but it’s funny.’”
Jackson’s humor is personal, she says. “I try to make it relatable to everybody. Everyone has a relationship issue, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. Even if my thing didn’t happen to you, you might think there’s a crazy connection to what happened to you the other day.”
Making comedy out of personal moments helps her — all of us, really — deal with the pain, Jackson believes. Some of the things she talks about onstage are things she thought she’d never share publicly. But when she does, “it takes the sting off things,” she says.
“The joke I do about getting pulled over by police, which we know is a thing that is happening right now, I decided when it happened multiple times in six months, let me talk about this and inject some humor so I can show that I am being pulled over for a ridiculous reason. It’s like saying to people, ‘Lighten up.’”
WHAT: Renaissance Comedy Weekend, avl.mx/5mm
WHERE: Renaissance Asheville Hotel, 31 Woodfin St.
WHEN: Friday, Feb. 8, and Saturday, Feb. 9, 8-10:30 p.m. $25 general each night/$35 VIP