I am hanging out in Asheville, North Carolina. I got here Friday night and I am here until Thursday morning. The road here was tricky. I need to organize my thoughts so I can tell you that story.
First, though, I need to tell you about why I came here to begin with. About a month ago, I performed in the annual Laugh Your Asheville Off comedy festival. To save money on lodging, and to meet somebody cool to hang out with, I used my couchsurfing.org account to find a host. I met Callie Fagg, a wonderful person, an "avid equestrian" (her words), and an epilepsy advocate. Please read her blog at seizuretheday.org. I just read the most recent entry Seizure The Day… one ‘weirdo’ at a time…. Very funny, Callie! Anyway, I was supposed to be in South Bend, Indiana this week, but the gig fell through due to construction at the club. Since I am in Indianapolis next week, and since Asheville is only 8 hours away from Indy, I came here to visit Callie, one of the best and brightest people I have ever met. Anyway, I will talk about her more later (ask my friends: I can't shut up about her).
PROPS TO THE LAUGH YOUR ASHEVILLE OFF COMEDY FESTIVAL
With that said, I need to give some much-delayed props to the Laugh Your Asheville Off Festival. I came here July 12-16th this year- and then I stayed a couple extra days to hang out with Callie. My show was Wednesday, July 13th at the Highlands Brewing Company. Being as I had to drive almost 900 miles from the Loony Bin in Wichita, Kansas, I decided to get in a day before my show.
I was exhausted all day on the 13th. Callie told me she didn't know if she liked me much at that point. She said I was nice and everything, but I was so tired so I know I didn't have much of a personality. We ate at The Early Girl Eatery, a local Asheville favorite. I had boogers in my eyes because I had been wearing the same pair of disposable contacts for almost a year. I am pretty sure they were the sample pair my eye doctor gave me when she filled my prescription. They hurt my eyeballs bad. I couldn't stop blinking. I excused myself and went to the bathroom. I told Callie I wash my hands a lot. That was a lie. I came back and told her I had actually just gone to the bathroom to rinse my contacts with contact solution and that I wasn't sure why I lied about being an obsessive handwasher. She later told me she thought I was really weird.
Guess what: looks like the heading of this last section was a lie too. I didn't even give props yet. I just talked about eye boogers and lying. Good job, Jake!
PROPS TO THE LAUGH YOUR ASHEVILLE OFF COMEDY FESTIVAL (FOR REAL)
So, I performed at the Highlands Brewing Company with Kyle Kinane and a slew of fricking hilarious comedians. Here's the thing: in a competition, when everybody else is kicking butt, you start thinking about your set and whether it stacks up. However, LYAO was not a competition. So, I could actually watch the other comedians- and get this: I got to enjoy their set instead of wondering who is better. That was awesome. I laughed my Asheville off the whole night!
I have done several festivals now and LYAO has become my favorite. Here's why:
I liked how all performers had access to every show's green room and its amenities regardless if they were even on that show. That was super cool. I hung out with comedians and stuffed myself with local pizza, pulled pork, sandwiches, and too many desserts to count.
2. The Industry Panel
The comedians from the week sat in the audience as a panel comprised of bookers addressed us and our concerns. Their information was extremely enlightening. We got to hear from a variety of different kinds of bookers (club owners, one-nighter bookers, festival representatives) about how they do business. I liked hearing the undiluted version of what comedians do right and wrong and specifically how they need us to communicate with them so we can get work with them. It was cool to have them hear from us comedians, too. It was very efficient. Instead of making 50 phone calls to indirectly hear what everybody wants, we just hashed it all out. Also, there were cookies.
3. The Line-ups
The line-ups for each of the shows were amazing. I was so glad to be on Kyle Kinane's show. So funny. I had met him in June after watching him do a benefit show In Seattle. I had been looking forward to sharing the stage ever since.
4. A Festival, Not A Competition
Moreover, every single comedian was super funny. I also think that goes to the heart of the festival. Laugh Your Asheville Off is different from many other festivals because it isn't a competition. Lao Tzu says "The sage does not compete... hence no one can compete with him." Wise words, Tzu!
Since LYAO wasn't a competition and the comedians weren't trying to figure out what jokes the judges might have a problem with, everybody just did their favorite material and put on the best show possible. Instead of experiencing stress and fear and judgment, the comedians relaxed, had fun and made sure the audience did too.
Comedy is about connection, connecting a comedian with a room full of strangers. Competitions are about separating comedians from each other, trying to figure out who is better than all the losers, establishing a caste system.
Competitions are also about profiting off comedians during the competition (via entry fees, and ticket sales they don't get a percentage of) with the promise of profiting off them again if they are lucky enough to win the competition and get booked by the clubs affiliated with the competition. So, to me, competitions go against the very heart of stand-up comedy.
In short, I like how this festival was about showcasing talent and making sure everybody involved had a good time. Also, I connected with a lot of great comedians.
In short, LYAO is the best festival I have ever been to. Also, Callie farts.
Bye! I'm Jake!