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Addicted to Comedy: How to Create a Comedy Festival

What I discovered from that interview is the grey space that exists between comedians who performing at open mics shows and the lack of locations for those who want to build their craft on the journey to paid performances. Last year I interviewed Jessica Hardy about how she created the Chicago Comedy Film Festival, and she provided me with the motivation I needed to host a comedy festival in DC.


Addicted to Comedy - Wayne Manigo

The Georgetown Voice wrote an interesting article titled “Funny Business: D.C.’s Second Tier Comedy Scene” back in 2012. Several of D.C.’s comedy brass including Tony Woods (Comedian), Allison Jaffe (DC Improv), Eddie Bryant (Comedian), and others were interviewed.

What I discovered from that interview is the gray space that exists between comedians who performing at open mics shows and the lack of locations for those who want to build their craft on the journey to paid performances. Last year I interviewed Jessica Hardy about how she created the Chicago Comedy Film Festival and she provided me with the motivation I needed to host a comedy festival in DC.

Most comedians who book their own comedy rooms stink at the promotional work. We might create a flyer, post the event on Facebook and probably send out a tweet or two. If you want to build a dedicated audience, comedy fans should know where shows are located. Ralph Cooper proved this by creating “Awesome Thursdays,” one of the most popular open mic comedy shows in this area.

So I decided to leverage the power of my Washington DC Comedy Writers Group (WDCCWG) to create a comedy festival. While I’m in the planning stages, I decided to document my thoughts, ideas and actions plans for this project.

Wayne Manigo - D.C. Comedy Writers GroupStep #1: Decide the purpose of the festival.

I want people who live in the D.C. area to:

  • Identify the resources available for learning comedy.
  • Showcase the venues that host comedy on a regular basis.
  • Provide comedians with an opportunity for additional exposure.
  • Allow the audience to meet, network, and learn from the comedians and comedy writers.

Step #2: Identify the resources!

I reached out to members of the existing comedy community. The comedy arena may be considered competitive at times, and it may have seemed impossible to pool the existing resources together. When I pitched this concept to a few local promoters, some of them scoffed at the idea…especially due to the 3rd Bentzen Ball arriving one month prior to my proposed schedule. But since the Bentzen folks did not utilize much of the local talent, I decided to continue with my original schedule. There is enough room in this town for everyone!

Some people have comedy interests outside of stand-up comedy. They love comedy, but may be interested in learning other forms of being funny. So I contacted DoJo Comedy to assist with hosting a sketch comedy workshop, and the gang at Jellyvision to recruit people would be willing to host an Improv workshop.

Step #3: Create a schedule!

I took a rather aggressive approach in creating the schedule. Each year, there are two events that I host the WDCCWG:

Comic Sunday Funday

This is a networking event where those who are comedians, writers, or anyone who wants to learn how we create our magic can hang out and have fun with us. In the previous years, we included surprises like discounted headshots from Y&D Photography and other activates. This year we’re showing Jordan Brady’s new comedy documentary, I Am Road Comic.

WayneMan Annual Birthday Comedy Roast

Each year, I allow members from the comedy community to roast me. There is no restriction or barriers on any topic! A prime example was the time members discovered I was living in my car during 2013. Some of my favorite jokes include:

“Wayne can’t be homeless. He’s got a laptop, cell phone, and a car. He’s like the one percent of homelessness!” – Michael Black

“Wayne is the happiest homeless guy I know!” – Ol’ Mike Brown

Once my core events were in place, I contacted the comedy promoters for permission to include their venues for the festival. My goal was to feature at least two events per night. They were wholly responsible for booking the comedians for their comedy nights. It also reduced the amount of hands-on work required on my part.

Wayne ManigoStep #4: Inform The world!

When it comes to promoting events, I remind everyone about one of my golden rules:

“You know somebody that knows somebody!”

Although I have connections with the local media, I think the best way to get the word out is with the assistance of other folks who use social media actively. I created the hashtag #LaughInDC for participants to help promote the event. Based on the number of people who are performing, we’re bound to attract some media attention if we’re working on this as a collaborative effort.

This project is a grass roots effort and I’m throwing my heart into it. I’ve learned that sometimes you can’t sell your vision to others. But if people observe your level of commitment, they may want to become involved. This is a team effort and the more team members we have, the better it could work out for everyone. Why not try this in your hometown? You might be pleased with your results!

Keep laughing!



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