Comedian Jen O’Neil Smith performs a set during the second night of the 2017 Memphis Comedy Festival. Around 45 comics performed from March 9-12 at four different Memphis venues: Theatreworks, Growlers, The Hi Tone and The P & H Cafe.

They say that nothing good happens after midnight, but Memphis Comedy Fest-creator Katrina Coleman’s less-than-sober set during the “Underwear Comedy Party” proved that old saying wrong.

The “party” was one of about 20 different shows scheduled for the sixth installment of the Memphis Comedy Festival, which ran from March 9-12. The 2017 festival included local as well as traveling stand-up comedians who performed at four different Memphis venues: Theatreworks, Growlers, The Hi Tone and the P & H Cafe.

 “Every single year I see all of these people from various cities; people I know and love, and people I’ve only just met being very funny and becoming friends,” Coleman said. “Right now I’m watching a dude from Detroit and I’m watching a dude from Denver take selfies together. That’s the payoff.” 

Around 45 different comics performed during the four days of the Memphis-based festival, including headliners Baron Vaughn and Dominic Dierkes. Vaughn is a comedian and actor known for his role as Nwabudike “Bud” Bergstein on the Netflix show “Grace and Frankie.” Dierkes is a writer and producer whose body of work includes “Workaholics” and “The Comedy Central Roast of James Franco.”

Nathan Hiller, the president of the Memphis Comedy Festival, said that the open mic comedians during the first night of the festival were “killin’ it.” He also said that the other events included everything “from improv to just straight stand-up comedy to theme shows.”

“We’ve got ‘You Look Like’ which is one of the best Memphis shows which I think everybody has heard about at this point,” Hiller said. “We’ve got a brand new show called ‘Gimme props,’ - the audience member picks out a prop and the comic has to do a bit about or with the prop, or else they spend time in the dog house. Literally, we made a doghouse that they have to spend time in.”

Hiller has been performing stand-up for 8 years, and working the festival for 6. Every year has been a bigger year for the festival, according to Hiller.  

“Katrina decided that we needed a way for Memphis comedy to grow and the best way to do that was to start something called the ‘Memphis Roast Club,” Hiller said. “Between Katrina, myself and another one of the founders, depending on who you ask, we all came up with the idea of the festival. It’s grown each year since then because we’ve got that determination.”


Comedian Andy Fleming performs a set during the second night of the 2017 Memphis Comedy Festival. The 2017 festival included headliners Baron Vaughn, an actor known for his role on the Netflix show “Grace and Frankie” and Dominic Dierkes, a writer and producer who worked on “Workaholics” as well as “The Comedy Central Roast of James Franco.”

Another determined Memphis comedian is Richard Douglas Jones, who hosted two shows during the festival - A “Secret Show” and the “Black Nerd Power Comedy Hour.” Jones told his own festival origin-story. 

“The Memphis Comedy Festival started because a friend of ours booked a weekend but he couldn’t do it,” Jones said. “We were like eh, let’s do it.”

According to Jones, the Memphis Comedy Festival has an “unofficial mascot,” and that man is Chicago comedian Jason Earl Folks. The 33-year-old has traveled from the Windy City to the Bluff City 5 years in a row to perform his brand of stand-up to Memphians.  

“The comedy fest is awesome,” Folks said. “Everybody that runs the comedy festival is amazing. The producers are amazing. The sponsors are amazing. They bring people from all over the country. They bring to Memphis an eclectic view of stand-up comedy that is not necessarily on TV or on the internet.”

Some other traveling comedians included Nathan Mosher from L.A., Nour Hadidi from Jordan, Aaron Naylor from Missouri, Roxxy Haze from Texas, Mina Daniels from L.A., Steve Vanderploeg from Colorado and Tawanda Gona from Boston.

“We’re the younger comedians that are doing our thing and bouncing around the U.S.,” Folks said. “We’re road dogs. We’re open-micers. We’re comics.” 



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