Perception is reality.
Despite growing up in comedy clubs, and all the work I do in comedy I had never been to a comedy festival. I’ve been invited to several of them, but I’m not a typical comedy producer. I completely disregard videos, I never tell comics I’m going to be in the audience, and I believe I can book any comic for some sort of project someday. With that said, I never took up an offer for a comedy festival, because I always believed it was relatively cliche for a comedy person to go to one, until my buddy Devin Roessler invited me to the San Luis Obispo Comedy Festival, which he helps operate.
In years past I heard great things about the festival, mainly that it was a party-filled four-day weekend in a picturesque small town. The festival is only five years old but Devin would always talk about it with such passion that this year once February rolled around I told him I wanted to go. I think what appealed to me is that it wasn’t mainstream yet. Rarely do I enjoy mainstream things. He spoke to Eric Shantz, the comedian and founder of the festival, and they gave me a room and a festival pass.
I asked my girlfriend Zoe if she wanted to go. Our relationship is only a few months old so it was going to be our first trip somewhere together. Even though we spend literally every day together, it’s different when you’re on vacation.
Zoe and I sped up the 101 on Thursday night, missed the welcome party but got there just in time for the after-party. Miller Lite sponsored the festival, so a limitless supply of beer got me hammered that first night and each and every night thereafter. I don’t recall the sequential order in which things happened, because of all the alcohol, but here are some of the highlights.
Ended the four-day weekend even more in love with my girlfriend – In relationships past I tested the women I dated by seeing if they could hang with me at the Hollywood Improv. Since I met Zoe at the Improv, and she spends multiple nights a week there with me, this festival was a true test of how much comedy she could bare since we saw multiple shows a night and we were surrounded by 40 comedians staying in the same hotel as us. She’s also a great judge of character and we had a blast hanging with some of my favorite comedian friends that she also took a liking to like Flip Schultz, Allison Weber, Brett Riley, and Shawn Halpin. Comedians are not easy people to be around, but she probably fits in better than me.
Scouted some new talent – I am working on a pilot for CMT and an executive at the network asked me to recommend comedians that they might not know about which should be on their radar. I got to see Chris Cope and Mary Patterson Broome perform, both of whom I had never seen before, and promptly recommended them to the network for future consideration. Both seemed genuinely appreciative and it’s always cool to see that on the face of young comedians. Moments like that remind me of why I do what I do. Comedians often ask me why I don’t do stand-up, and I explain that they get a high off entertaining people where as I get a high off of putting them in a situation where they can get a high.
Spent time hanging with a peer – There’s not a lot of people who have a similar place in the comedy world as me. My buddy Michael is definitely one of those people. In fact, he has probably done more for comedians than I have. He’s a comedy festival veteran, has booked numerous shows including “Chelsea Lately” and “Funniest Fails,” and he’s one of the few people whose opinion on comedians I trust. It was fun hanging with him all weekend, because him being there meant comedians wouldn’t just be kissing my ass all weekend. But most of all it was good to sit through shows and get a perspective from someone who does similar work as me.
Met Rawle D. Lewis – Many of you are probably like, “who?” He played Junior in “Cool Runnings.” At this point in my career, I don’t get star struck. That movie, however, had a huge impact on my childhood. If you don’t know, it’s the movie about the Jamaican bobsled team. John Candy was in it and he was a huge comedy influence on me. It was also probably the first sports movie I can remember watching over and over as a kid, which led to me becoming a sports writer. And finally, my sister’s name is Jamaica so my family has always had quite the obsession with things related to Jamaica. I was pretty drunk on the Friday of the festival and didn’t want to approach him that night. Zoe and Michael teased me about how I really wanted a picture with him. The following night I spent some time chatting with him. He told me about what it was like working with John Candy, and about how he initially started as a stand-up comedian back in Trinidad and Tobago before acting became the path that was chosen for him. Eight-year-old Josh was living a dream.
Escaped Los Angeles – I love LA, but also hate it when I don’t leave it at least once a month. The people of SLO are so much nicer, as is customary of small towns. For Gods sake, that town is so small they still have coin operated parking meters.
This post is relatively late, because of how busy I’ve been in the month after the festival, but I wanted to make sure people, and especially the comedy community, start to recognize how great of a festival it is. It was run amazingly well, every show was sold out, the caliber of comics were exceptional, and I left impressed and ready to go back next year.