The Cleveland Comedy Festival Is a Laughing Matter


Wed 11/16-Sun 11/20

Cleveland and comedy go together! Well, not always comfortably. Legend has it that long ago a Cleveland comic (not to be named here) moved to L.A. and began writing prolifically for Johnny Carson and others. He insinuated references to Cleveland into patter so often that, in time, the Cleveland joke was born. And never went away.

Hopefully the fallout won’t be the same for the Cleveland Comedy Festival All-Stars Show, now ensconced in PlayhouseSquare.

“We started in 2008 with four shows at the Hermit Club, featuring only local comedians,” said Joe Hannum. “The festival was founded by three local comedians — myself, John Wellington and John Sidley (now deceased).

“It began simply as a desire to celebrate Cleveland’s rich comedic history and because we looked around and wondered why Cleveland didn’t have a comedy festival. So we decided to create our own.”

The Cleveland Comedy Festival hosts shows from Wed 11/16-Sun 11/20, including one on Thu 11/17 at Sachsenheim Hall. Back in Playhouse Square, a Happy Hour of free standup routines runs Wed 11/16-Sat 11/19 in Kennedy’s Down Under.

The Cleveland All Stars (Fri 11/18 at PlayhouseSquare) can be considered a sort of best-of. Funny folks in the all-star lineup for 2016 include WMMS afternoon radio personality and comic-about-town Bill Squire, Cabaret Dada founder and WNCX/Channel 19 past alumnus Jeff Blanchard, Juanda Mayfield (“winner of Ohio’s Funniest Comedian”) and Dave Arena (IDMYGD podcast).

Ubiquitous comic/columnist/author/ videomaker Mike Polk Jr. performs at PlayhouseSquare’s Hanna Theatre Sat 11/19.

“Mike Polk is most definitely involved,” said Hannum. “He is doing a music-comedy-variety show with a David Bowie theme. The show is called “We Can Be Heroes” and is a fundraiser for the Food Bank.”

Said Hannum, “Most of our shows are stand-up — that’s our strength. But we’ve done comedy video shows, sketch, improv, game shows, roasts, panel discussions, fan forums, comedy-music variety shows. You name it, if it’s funny, we’ve done it.

Most of the material, he said, should be considered for adult audiences, PG-13 to R level, with the exception of a “Class Clown” component that showcases teens who have taken comedy-workshop courses. That rates a PG.

Tickets for the Cleveland Stars show are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. See a full schedule of events here.

[Written by Charles Cassady]

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