This week, 50 Philadelphia acts will take the stage at the Walnut Street Theater to perform in the F. Harold Comedy Festival. Featuring stand-up, sketch, and improv the F. Harold Festival is a mixture of some of the best comedy Philly has to offer. The performances start at 6pm each night, Tuesday through Sunday and acts have been given 30 minute blocks to show audiences the wide range of comedy available right here in the city. Tickets to the show are available at the door or online at $10 for one night of shows, or a full festival pass that gives you access to all six nights of comedy for $25. We caught up with festival organizer Rick Horner to ask him some questions about F. Harold.
How did the festival come together?
The festival is a way to let Philadelphia and everyone in it know how lucky I feel to be involved in it and able to be around such wonderful, hilarious, damaged people. I feel like it is kind of a theater of the heart. By focusing on the entire spectrum of culture, the hope is to continue to find and build a Philadelphia audience for comedy, a devoted crowd of regular attendee and fans. Huge thanks to Emily Davis, Cara Schmidt, Mark Dames, Jess Carpenter and Chris Calletta — who are amazing and invaluable to me and this community. Hug them!
How is F. Harold going to be different from other festivals in Philly?
F. Harold is going to be a little different from the other festivals in Philly because I tried to blend the parts of comedy that seem to be finding so much overlap in the city already, thanks to Philly Improv Theater and The Philadelphia Joke Initiative. They have fostered a true sense of cohesiveness between stand-up, sketch and improv and the goal of the F. Harold is to allow all the talent Philly has to offer the opportunity to both demonstrate and exhibit each other, and showcase new ideas and people. Also, we will have polar bears with waffles. Haha. That is wacky.
What are some of your favorite comedy festivals and have you incorporated any ideas from them in planning F. Harold?
There are a ton of good ideas that I have seen at other festivals and the main ones I am going to attempt to incorporate are keeping shows tight time-wise, making the performers happy (who in turn make the crowds happy), and do my best to keep the enthusiasm high for these deserving folks.
There’s a good mix of improv, sketch, and stand-up in the festival – how did this come into play when making the nightly schedules? Did you try to mix things up?
There IS a good mix of improv, sketch, and stand-up in the festival. I agree. I love that all of these important pieces are coming together. It was fun to try and honor time requests and feature all the talent in great places throughout the night. I truly feel like there is NO night or show that is not going to be great! So excited!!
What are your favorite things about comedy in a festival format?
Well, when you talk about a well-done festival — like , for example, Upright Citizens Brigade’s Del Close Marathon — it is a wonderful chance to see great improv. It features hundreds of groups from cities all around the USA performing around the clock for three days! So I guess for me, it is all about featuring all of the talent Philly has to show off. We are so awesome and incredible and we should be thought of as a comedy city. I hope that this festival is making an important contribution to that notion.
Are there any performances or appearances that you are especially looking forward to?
Well, I am excited for all of them really. I mean it. I was so ecstatic at every one of these submissions, I want to see them all! Improvisers belong to a tradition that has already spread far from its young Chicago roots.
There’s a lot of comedy in Philly right now (enough to pack a weeks worth of festival shows!) Where do you see the scene heading? What’s in store for Philly comedy in the next few years?
It is so amazing that so many great companies are producing such great comedy — PHIT, ComedySportz, PHIF, PJI, The N Crowd — I could go on and on. The exponential growth is absolutely incredible and I feel infinite power over all matter and energy cannot be far behind. But will I use that power for good? Or does absolute power corrupt absolutely?