When you decide to pursue a comedy-based career, sometimes it will require you to explore and test material beyond your comfort zone. Cultivated Wit created such an opportunity with their Comedy Hack Day events. They combine application developers and comedians in an environment to generate funny material while stretching levels of creativity. The time limit to bring their ideas from concept to reality is 24 hours. Several members of the D.C. comedy scene met with developers to participate in the debut of Comedy Hack Day DC on Oct. 24th-25th.
No One Is A Stranger Here:
Performing artists and technical folks have two things unite us: Food and drinks! Attendees arrived a hour before the formal presentation to eat, drink and network. Both groups represented being in a profession they are passionate about, and the positive buzz in the air proved that! Ross Nover reminded us how this was not a competitive event. The goals were to have fun playing with our imaginations, and deliver a fun show to our audience.
The ideas pitched for creating apps ranged from “totally outrageous” to apps that you would probably purchase if it did exist. Some of my favorite suggestions that didn’t quite make the cut included:
- Measuring the air quality and cleanliness of public bathrooms and port-a-potties.
- Reviewing the status of open mic comedy shows.
- NFL trading cards that also tracked a player’s abusive and criminal history.
- Rewarding unsuspecting people with points towards becoming a hipster.
- BlackStars: Finding African-Americans performers that we can only identify by their face.
Slack.com was the application used to communicate between members. It allows teams to share files, ideas, and updates between each other and the event organizers. This eliminated the need to make announcements in a disruptive fashion.
24 Hours of Creative Madness
Attendees who pitched ideas were identified by placing sticky pad note on their body. The remaining attendees gathered around them and began tossing concepts to enhance their suggestions. Teams were formed, beers was pass around, and the breakout sessions went live!
The key application developer for my team was Paul Doulatshahi. We didn’t realize it at that moment, but three of the members in our team were comedians. Alli Hanley, Tok Moffett, and I were the comedic force behind “Off-The-Hook.” Using a suggestion by Tok, we began to design an application to help people get out of awkward social situations by creating an excuse generator. We designed a list of questions that people might ask themselves. For example:
- Are your really going to ask that guy or gal for a second date?
- Do you really want to attend that dog’s birthday party?
- Can you miss a family function because you’re dating a white woman?
Pushing the envelope and testing the boundaries of exaggeration played a huge part of demented creation.
As a comedian who is also a social media whore, I began using my platforms to communicate the status of our progress. If an idea we suggested was rejected, I converted it into a funny tweet. When someone said or did something that made us all laugh, I tweeted that too! Crazy pictures were posted on Instagram. In my world, there are no bad ideas or jokes. It may need to be adjusted and presented differently to make it work. This also helped to build some excitement for people who followed the #CHDDC hashtag.
The audience begins to arrive on Saturday evening, and there is a lot of excitement in the air. The television show Shark Tank would be a great example to describe the concept of this performance. Each team described their application to the audience, and received questions and feedback from the judges. No one held anything back with their zany team names or the abilities of their hilarious applications:
Democrashot: A drinking played while watching political broadcasts.
Indiehobo: Track and rate the homeless people in your area.
Secret Family: Using this app can help you create the family you really wanted.
ParkNow: Parking signs are confusing and misleading. Can you avoid getting a ticket?
TamaDrizzy: Manage the emotional well-being of your virtual pet Drake.
Off-The-Hook: Generate excuses to avoid attending social and family events.
FitBitch: Nothing helps people lose weight like an app with a snarly attitude.
GTFO: Based on the situation, how many f**ks do you give?
The panel of judges included Allison Jaffe (DC Improv), Comedian Seaton Smith (The Mulaney Show), Sibyl Edwards (DC Web Women) and Bryce Taylor Rudow (Random Nerds). Comedian Haywood Turnipseed, Jr. excelled at making the crowd feel welcomed, and provided solid comedic entertainment for the entire evening as the emcee. Each group was rewarded with accolades, and Indihobo was acknowledged by the judges for having the most creative app.
There were several “take- a-ways” from participating in this event that I didn’t expect:
- By tweeting the activities of our group, I gained additional followers on Twitter.
- Several of the ideas I pitched didn’t work at that time, but now I have new premises that I can apply to my stand-up act.
- Our comedy community continues to connect and expand with events such as this one.
Comedy Hack Day can be held in any city by contacting the organizers at Cultivated Wit. The D.C. version was produced by Kelli Herod (sponsorship/budget), Ross Nover (website/applicant logistics), Terry Biddle (design), Isaiah Headen (promo video editor/live event producer), Shoa Appelman (social media/press), and Elizabeth Kemp (co-produced the live event).
“The core team has been working for months together to lock in sponsors, secure venues and make the event the best it can be with the resources we had. We also had a solid volunteer team that supported us greatly,” Kelli explained. “Of course, we couldn’t do ANYTHING at all without guidance from Cultivated Wit. They created the foundation for an amazing, unique experience and was nice enough to share their ball at recess. The “Run Your Own Comedy Hack Day” opportunity is such an incredible way to bring CHD to people who can’t travel to the main flagship events.”
While it would be impossible to thanks all of the participants involved, I wanted to thank the other comedians who helped make this event a memorable one: Leon Scott, Kasha Patel, Kandace Saunders, Eva Mozena Brandon, and the gang from Bad Medicine.
See ya next year!