They say that nothing good happens after midnight, but Memphis Comedy Fest-creator Katrina Colemanâ€™s less-than-sober set during the â€œUnderwear Comedy Partyâ€ proved that old saying wrong.
The â€œpartyâ€ 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.
Â â€œEvery single year I see all of these people from various cities; people I know and love, and people Iâ€™ve only just met being very funny and becoming friends,â€ Coleman said. â€œRight now Iâ€™m watching a dude from Detroit and Iâ€™m watching a dude from Denver take selfies together. Thatâ€™s the payoff.â€Â
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 â€œBudâ€ Bergstein on the Netflix show â€œGrace and Frankie.â€ Dierkes is a writer and producer whose body of work includes â€œWorkaholicsâ€ and â€œThe Comedy Central Roast of James Franco.â€
Nathan Hiller, the president of the Memphis Comedy Festival, said that the open mic comedians during the first night of the festival were â€œkillinâ€™ it.â€ He also said that the other events included everything â€œfrom improv to just straight stand-up comedy to theme shows.â€
â€œWeâ€™ve got â€˜You Look Likeâ€™ which is one of the best Memphis shows which I think everybody has heard about at this point,â€ Hiller said. â€œWeâ€™ve got a brand new show called â€˜Gimme props,â€™ - 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.â€
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.Â Â
â€œKatrina decided that we needed a way for Memphis comedy to grow and the best way to do that was to start something called the â€˜Memphis Roast Club,â€ Hiller said. â€œBetween Katrina, myself and another one of the founders, depending on who you ask, we all came up with the idea of the festival. Itâ€™s grown each year since then because weâ€™ve got that determination.â€
Another determined Memphis comedian is Richard Douglas Jones, who hosted two shows during the festival - A â€œSecret Showâ€ and the â€œBlack Nerd Power Comedy Hour.â€ Jones told his own festival origin-story.Â
â€œThe Memphis Comedy Festival started because a friend of ours booked a weekend but he couldnâ€™t do it,â€ Jones said. â€œWe were like eh, letâ€™s do it.â€
According to Jones, the Memphis Comedy Festival has an â€œunofficial mascot,â€ 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.Â Â
â€œThe comedy fest is awesome,â€ Folks said. â€œEverybody 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.â€
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.
â€œWeâ€™re the younger comedians that are doing our thing and bouncing around the U.S.,â€ Folks said. â€œWeâ€™re road dogs. Weâ€™re open-micers. Weâ€™re comics.â€Â