New comedy fest stands up for funny

Fans of all things funny can get their fix this weekend, when the Norfolk Comedy Festival debuts at the Generic Theater.

The two-day festival, the brainchild of three original members of The Pushers - Hampton Roads' longest active sketch and improvisation group - will showcase four two-hour shows, two sketch/improv bits and two stand-up comedy performances.

"The stand-up shows will feature entirely different comics each night," said festival co-creator Ed Carden. "Sketch and improv shows will feature the same groups both nights; however, the material performed, or improvised in the case of the improv groups, will be different each evening."

Carden and co-creators Sean Devereux and Brad McMurran, used their connections to secure improv sensations Cats Hugging Cats (from Charleston, S.C.), The Richmond Comedy Coalition and Norfolk's Plan B.

Carden said Cats Hugging Cats perform a long-form style of improvisation, similar to what folks would see at places like Second City in Chicago or The Groundlings in Los Angeles.

"Long form is all about creating comedic scenes and characters with less prompting from the audience, whereas short form is about playing theatrical games and stock scenarios with the assistance of an emcee," Carden said.

RCC also performs this long-form improvisation, while Plan B's show includes both long- and short-form scenes that are either scripted or improvised.

"They're also big into video-making, and some of their viral video prowess will be on display for the audience to see at their show," Carden said.

The Pushers' act - which Carden described as "SNL" minus the FCC decency rules - will showcase their sketch comedy with a bit of improv thrown in.

And to keep things interesting, each show will open with the winners of the stand-up and sketch and improv competition held Wednesday night at The Virginia Beach Funny Bone.

The idea for a local bash came about after The Pushers performed in the Charleston Comedy Festival, which they have done for the past five years.

"Since day one, we've wanted to copy what they have done with their festival," Devereux said. "Unfortunately, Brad, Ed and myself are notorious screw-ups.... So it's taken a while for us to get our act together."

Last year, they got serious about creating the festival and chose to partner with Generic Theater, to which the three have connections. Generic's artistic director, Jeremiah Albers, used to be a member of The Pushers, and last year, the theater featured a play - "Wanderlust" - that McMurran wrote with a friend.

"This is the first time anything like this has been attempted in Norfolk, let alone the Generic," Devereux added. "If serious theater actors and moronic comedians can get along, then why can't our audiences?"

Speaking of audiences, this might not be a good show for all ages. McMurran said he would rate the content PG-13 "with a chance of R," because The Pushers don't believe in censoring, and he's not sure what material the other groups and stand-up comedians are doing.

"A lot of what we do is improv and comes from what the audience gives us," Devereux added. "If the audience is in a particularly naughty mood, it will be reflected in our scenes."

GEEK GAGS

If you don’t get enough laughs at the Norfolk Comedy Festival, get your geek and your giggle on again Tuesday night when “A Geek’s Night of Comedy, Episode III” flies its freak flag at the Funny Bone in Virginia Beach. The evening will celebrate all things geeky – from “Star Wars” to “Star Trek,” role-playing games to video games and everything in between.

“(The audience) loved the comedians a lot and you could tell,” said comic Sid Bridge, who created the event with partners in comedy Tim Loulies (“The Big 44”) and Derek Williams. “The deeper we dug into geek lore, the louder they laughed.”

Besides the founding geeks, the third installment will feature Episode II performers C.B. Wilkins, James Rodatus and David Carter, as well as the 501st Legion – a local group of “Star Wars”-costumed philanthropists.

New to Episode III will be Jon Small, a multiple winner of The Funny Bone’s “Clash of the Comics,” whom Bridge called “one of the best up-and-coming local comics.”

“He’s definitely a geek, and I guarantee he will make you laugh. He’s that good,” Bridge said.

Holly Van Auken, hvavb74@gmail.com


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