Cape Fear Comedy Fest
5/1-4 • Tickets: $10-$40
Nutt St. Comedy Room, Soapbox,
Front Street Brewery, TheatreNOW
Taking place at four venues around Wilmington (Nutt St. Comedy Room, The Soapbox, Front Street Brewery’s Beam Room and TheatreNOW), the event involves three major types of stage comedy: stand-up, improv, and sketch. “Stand-Up is, of course, my favorite because Timmy and I are also stand-ups,” Ward explains. “It brings a quick, often punching laugh to the audience, and can vary dramatically in style and delivery. More than any other style, it has to tap into the vibe of the room in order to keep the laughs coming.”
What all three of these types of comedy share is that they can be thoroughly enjoyed live; however, they seldom come together at one time in one place. “Other festivals have weeks dedicated to each art form,” Ward explains, “but we have them all in the same festival in the same venues together.”
For 2013, 64 comedians are slated to perform. Some of the top names include Sean Patton, Jared Logan, Tony Boswell, Tone-X and Derek Sheen. “Sean Patton is a New Orleans comic that made his way to New York City to make a move with his comedy career,” Ward says. “Since, he has been on TV quite a few times and has appeared at Nutt St. Comedy Room a few times as well.”
Jared Logan has been featured on John Oliver’s “New York Stand-Up” and can be seen regularly on “Best Week Ever” on VH1. Tony Boswell is a comedian Ward considers to be a mentor, and one of the most mechanically perfect stand-ups in the South, if not in the entire country. “Tony Boswell’s timing, pacing and tone is perfect. He allows the perfect amount of time between set up and punch line without a bunch of needless fluff,” Ward says.
Tone-X is new to both Ward and Sherill. He has family in Wilmington and used to call the town home. He currently is on tour with Mo’Nique and holds much promise for this year’s event.
Derek Sheen is a “bundle of fun,” according to Ward. He is a Seattle comic that can relate to just about any crowd, but doesn’t have that fear of doing rooms outside of comedy clubs. “Look for him to be on TV in the future,” Ward notes. “For now you get to see and meet him during our festival.”
Neither Sherill nor Ward have slots at the festival; yet, they have made rare appearances in the past. “It’s a festival for us to be what we are when we aren’t performing, which is huge fans of live comedy,” Ward says. “We are privileged enough to put some of the best comedians in the country onstage and often become friends with them in the process.”
Along with the comic performances, the festival will show two films on Saturday, “I Am Comic,” and “Alone Up There.” The first is a peak inside what it is like to be a comic for a living. The film chronicles comedian Ritch Schydner’s contemplated return to the stage after years of writing for other performers. Schydner was a successful comedian during the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and stopped performing to focus on writing.
“The film’s director will be appearing via video to do a short question-and-answer during our comedy matinee on Saturday,” Ward notes. The second film, “Alone Up There,” is a documentary about a comedian trying stand-up for the first time after getting advice from professional comics. “Director Sean Shaul will be on hand at the festival to discuss the film and hang out with is,” Ward explains.
The festival is a huge part of the ever-growing comedy scene in Wilmington. Ward hopes the scene will continue to gather a strong fan base as it develops. “Our very own local Nutt House Improv [performing Wednesday at 8:30p.m. and Saturday at 9p.m.] and the Pineapple-Shaped Lamps—[also performing at the festival, TheatreNOW, Saturday at 9:30p.m. ]—are growing their fan bases each week,” Ward says. “I see more open-mics developing around town to give the talent more places to work their chops.”
Outside of the festival, Ward would like Sherill and other locals to set up satellite shows around the coast to help bring live comedy to an even broader audience. Traversing back to Wilmington to perform and produce shows a few times a year, Ward already has his hands full in building the comedy scene in Knoxville, Tennessee, his current hometown.
The festival prides itself in having no influence from outside sources. Having toured the country and seen what works and doesn’t, Ward and Sherrill believe they’re well-versed in what it takes to run a successful comedy show.
“We put some of our own money into it, mostly Timmy did to get his venue going,” Ward says. “I worked hard to get the word out about submissions, which brought in a modest amount.” Help from local sponsors has helped curb the costs of advertising and signing comedians for the festival. Some include: local beer distributor R.A. Jeffries, Holiday Inn, Hilton Riverside, TheatreNOW, Front Street Brewery and more.
“We also really appreciate what John Hinnant at Downtown Wilmington Inc. has done for the festival and the downtown community as a whole.”
Day passes for Cape Fear Comedy Festival run $10 with weekend passes running $40. They can be bought online at www.capefearcomedyfestival.com.