From humble beginnings under a bridge six years ago to five days of programming at Hilarities on East 4th Street, the Accidental Comedy Fest has sure come a long way. Everything kicks off on Wednesday and the laughs continue through Sunday. You can find a full schedule of events here
and ticket information here
. Ramon Rivas was kind enough to give some insight into how the fest has matured and expanded in its young history and what to look out for this year as he splurged on some in-flight WiFi on his way back to Cleveland for the big week and weekend ahead.
Hey, where have you been, man?
I've been mostly in L.A. being sad since I moved there in September (coming up on a year), but have been doing a bit of traveling doing comedy fests like High Plains in Denver, Just For Laughs in Montreal, Sketchfest in SF and short residencies in Atlanta, Denver and NY.
Everything good on the road and in your new home?
For the most part. I'm just as broke as I always am but I'm paid to be high and charming on TV sometimes so it balances out.
Enough about you. Let's talk Accidental Comedy Fest. When does the planning start for this and how long does it take to put together the delightful lineups?
Usually around the beginning of the year. For this year's move to Hilarities we wound up beginning talks back in November 2016, made the official announcement in March 2017 and announced initial artists in May 2017. Even then, some stuff has still been elusive to track down, like partnerships with businesses and sponsors. Hilarities being a host and presenting sponsor definitely helped elevate things, and we did get some support from OKpants.com as well as Oskar Blue and Brick & Barrel Breweries which helps make being hospitable to comics. It takes from the moment we start planning until the last comic leaves town. Maybe I need to start even sooner...
You've scored lots of remarkably talented comics, up-and-comers, and folks who fans might have seen on comedy specials or TV. We're assuming that even then you've missed out on someone you've wanted to book.
It happens fairly often. I had some initial targets and soft confirmations for a few comics but the delay working with a lot of moving parts caused them to have other bigger bookings come along. Both comics have since recorded half hour Comedy Central specials and other TV shows since. But we still got a comic who taped this year (Jenny Zigrino) coming out. The good news is, everyone coming is wanted. Comedy consent is a great thing. I guarantee folks coming to this fest that you're unfamiliar with will start blowing up very soon. Happens every year!
Tell our readers three shows they shouldn't miss.
Comedy at the Knitting Factory is the best show in Brooklyn and the trio of Will Miles, Kenny DeForest & Clark Jones are bringing the show to town for 2 nights and folks will get a fantastic mix of performers for only $10 on the cabaret stage.
This is the first trip to Cleveland for a few artists so I'm a firm believer you shouldn't miss someone's first time: Jak Knight (Wed 9 pm), Dulce Sloan (Thursday 8pm), Ron Funches (Friday 7 pm) and Jenny Zigrino (Friday 10 pm).
You'd also be remiss if you didn't support your native sons returning home to headline their own blocks: Curtis Cook (Friday 11 pm) Ramon Rivas (midnight Saturday) Ryan Dalton (Sunday 7 pm) and Jim Tews (Sunday 9 pm).
I've made sure to make the festival as affordable and enriching as possible, so any block people pick Wednesday through Sunday will be worth the time. Tickets start as low as $10 and cap out at $25 for DOUG LOVES MOVIES (Saturday 4:20 pm). Just pick something and roll up.
Six years in now, you've been able to attract bigger names each year and have brought back some comics for second stints. What sort of feedback about the Cleveland comedy scene and the city itself have you gotten from participants?
People look forward to coming back. Comics have heard Cleveland has a cool comedy scene and it's even gotten to the point where Comedy Central is sending some execs to check out the fest, scene and city. Which is dope.
What has the move to Hilarities meant for what you can do with the fest?
Hopefully make it accessible to a majority of Cleveland. The fact is, to date the fest has been under bridges and in rock venues and bowling alleys outside of Cleveland. Now we're smack dab in the heart of East 4th Street, which sprang up around Hilarities since 2002. Thousands of people pack out the Q & Progressive Field, which is a short walk from the club. One percent of a sold out Cavs or Indians game would be a successful comedy festival. Five percent would be a sellout. Hopefully through the club's partnership with MVP Parking and the low price point we can engage as many of the 18+ folks who are into intense joy and fun. I've done some regional gigs and have audience members driving hours and staying overnight in hotels to watch the fest, so hopefully people in Lorain/Eastside/Akron don't let a 30 minute drive keep them home.
Last one here. We watched your first pitch at the Tribe game the other day. Did you, um, practice at all for that?
Nah, I didn't have time or a dad on hand to play catch with. Or a glove. Or a ball. It's very expensive to practice alone. But that was a real cool experience to share with my family. Felt like acceptance. All I wanted to do was field a grounder barehand and turn a double play like Omar but instead I totally Nagy'd the situation.