by Alex Grubard
This past week was the stand-up comedy portion of the month-long 2013 North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival. The festival takes place in central Carolina right inside Tar Heel country. Centralized in Carrboro and Chapel Hill and including venues in Raleigh and Durham, NCCAF is now in its 13th year and features one week of stand-up, one of improv and one of sketch. The biggest shows are at the Dirty South Improv Theater in Carrboro, which seats 100 and despite its name is kept in pristine condition using classic Northern efficiency.
I applied to the festival this year and was accepted. The application included a headshot, bio, online video and an application fee, which sucks because I don’t have any MONEY. I paid for it using beach chairs I borrowed from Temple.
Every comedy festival is different and they intentionally focus on unique elements of comedy and show formats. Carrboro and Chapel Hill are young college towns full of students from University of North Carolina. Tar Heels. Even the firetrucks are Carolina Blue. Even the police sirens are Carolina Blue!
The Chapel Hill comedy scene has a comforting, hometown feel. Like a local film festival it showcases a lot of young, independent talent for a group of cultured comedy audiences somewhere other than a major Metropolitan city. A lot of graduate students and oddball dirty southern locals came out to all of the shows. I talked to all sorts of fun, drunk, American young people who were fixing to save the world one little league basketball team at a time.
I felt that while watching and performing on shows I noticed the crowds were not as rowdy and riotous as Philly crowds. They tended to have a liberal sensitivity about misogynistic or homophobic jokes. Unbelievable, right?! They would often pass it off when it was brought up as, “This is Carrboro.” Whatever hippy dippy stuff that means. Needless to say I went to Carrboro Farmer’s Market early Saturday morning for a cup of local coffee and a hot sweet potato maple doughnut.
The comedians invited to the festival this year were all booked on 2-3 shows at the Local 506 or the Dirty South Improv Theater performing 10-15 minute sets. Comics also could volunteer to host or do one-minute guest sets on shows throughout the festival. For several comics this was their second or third year performing at NCCAF.
Comedy festivals are a great way to interact on stage and off stage with comics from other cities. The festival’s producer Zach Ward began and operated the DSI Theater for years before moving to Boston just a few months ago to take over running ImprovBoston in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There were numerous comics from Boston, Chicago and New York as well as Philadelphia’s Ian Fidance, Lisa Yost, Latice and myself. Obviously the four of us were the best and everyone said so. Go Philly! For a full line-up of all the hilarious comedians go to http//www.nccomedyarts.com and read about what’s happening the rest of the month. And if you’re interest is peaked about NCCAF and the Triangle cities in North Carolina, but you’re bummed you missed out on the stand-up week, you’re in luck! Steven Wright will be headlining the festival February 8th.
Alex Grubard (@alexgrubard, http://alexgrubard.tumblr.com) is a stand-up comedian who has performed at the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival, the Cape Fear Comedy Festival, the 1st and 2nd F. Harold Comedy Festival and Live Arts & Philly Fringe. He has written about comedy for Campus Philly, the NY Examiner and now WitOut. He is a student at Temple University and he needs you to buy him beer, because he doesn’t have any MONEY.