Seventh Annual Cleveland Comedy Festival Goes Big on Local and National Acts


Cleveland is known to most locals for its stellar cultural offerings (visual arts, theater, music, comedy...), of course, and the city's rep is growing all over the world. This year, the seventh annual Cleveland Comedy Festival highlights that simple fact and the multitude of footprints Northeast Ohio natives have left on the nation's sense of humor.

Back in 2007, co-founder Joe Hannum and his buddies were kicking around talk of Cleveland's comedy scene and it's place in the national community of funny business. "How come Cleveland doesn't have a comedy festival? None of us really knew the answer," he says. "And then somebody, and I don't know who to blame for this, said, well, maybe we should create one. So that's what we decided to do."

Since then, the event has taken off. Hannum points out that the last two years' winners of the festival's comedy contest (Brad Wenzel and Eric Andrews) have gone on to perform at Montreal's Just for Laughs, among the world's premier comedy gatherings. 

"We feel like winning Cleveland is kind of becoming a thing," Hannum says. "It's not Boston, it's not some of these larger festival that have corporate backing and major television backing and things like that, but it's a stepping stone. And it represents the quality of comics that we're getting. We're getting submissions from all over the country."

The comedy contest, which takes place in phases over each night of next week (Nov. 17 - 23), is the marque event, but from there dozens of comedy gigs spring forth and hold court at venues across the city. Some are free and some cost money, but they all shine a light on the funny side of life. All of the festival information can be found online, but here are some of the highlights:

Marina Franklin, who recently appeared on “Inside Amy Schumer” and “@midnight” brings her edgy sense of humor at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18: "She's really, really funny," Hannum says. "She was handpicked by Wanda Sykes to be on her recent special. If you like Wanda, you'll like Marina. She's very smart and sassy." She'll be performing at the Hanna Theatre. 

“Cleveland Writes! An Evening with Comedy TV Writers from Northeast Ohio” at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21: This unscripted panel discussion will feature Steve Skrovan (“Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Hot in Cleveland”), Marc Jaffe (“Seinfeld,” “Mad About You”) and Lisa DeBenedictis (“Mad About You,” "Dream On”). "They represent not just themselves, but all of these other writers who have come from Cleveland," Hannum says. 

“Cleveland Tonight,” a “Tonight Show”-style offering set for 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22: "[Host] Mike Polk is such a versatile performer," Hannum says. "We figured it'd be fun to build a variety show around Mike and sort of like Mike be Mike." And it sounds great. Polk will take up the Johnny Carson role and bring on guests like Kris Pickel, Matt Fish and others. Hawkeye will perform, and Al Jackson will do some stand-up, as well.

Check out the whole calendar for everything going on all over Northeast Ohio, from Nov. 17 - 23. 

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