Looking to such events as the Aspen Comedy Festival for inspiration, Yvonne Landry, of La Nuit Comedy Theater, has pulled together a three-day New Orleans festival that includes national comedy acts.
“I bring in the industry, I bring in some headliners and we do some shows,” Landry said. “Meanwhile, I get showcasing comics, who get an opportunity to be seen by these big industries, and I can tell you that absolutely people make connections here.”
Produced by Landry and Michael Collins, the festival hosts a number of impressive national acts each year, and this year’s New Orleans Comedy and Arts Festival is no different.
Bill Chott, of “Wizards of Waverly Place”; Dave Cox, of Pax TV’s “Masters of Illusion”; Susan Messing, of “Let’s Go to Prison”; Randy Liedtke, of “Late Night With Seth Myers”; and Zach McGovern and Brendon Walsh all are set to attend.
Naomi Grossman, or Pepper from “American Horror Story,” and DJ Dougg Pound, of “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” will headline.
While stand-up will always have its edgy or crude elements, comedy clubs are not the free speech havens they once were, Landry said. As comics push the envelope, the industry has started to set limits on the kind of humor that’s acceptable.
“I actually asked all the headliners this year to please not tell any rape jokes or things like that,” Landry said. “I couldn’t think that was OK. … It creates a liability for me, because I don’t want to defend the fact that you said something horrific. Being horrible doesn’t make you funny. It makes you horrible.”
“We don’t stop people from cursing, but people want clean,” she said. “The Wednesday night 8 o’clock show is a clean show, where people could bring their families if they wanted to. The other shows, I cannot guarantee.”
Besides local and national comedy acts, NOCAF draws representatives from other festivals here to scout new talent.
Rooftop Comedy, Blackdog and Bridgetown Comedy Festival will attend to talk to comics and provide them opportunities to share their best work.
“One of the things I wanted to do is set up the festival so that it was a fun time to come to New Orleans,” Landry said “We are dark on Saturdays; there are no festival shows. We all go have industry meetings and industry Q&As on Saturday morning. They have pitch sessions they can do. The comedians can come in … and say, ‘Hey, what do you think?’ and get feedback, which is a really valuable thing.”
Kelly Stone has attended the New Orleans Comedy and Arts Festival for the past four years, and there’s a reason she chooses to continue to attend.
“What I really enjoy about the festival is the intimate setting with all the other comics from across the country, in particular being able to meet the industry,” Stone said in a phone interview. “I do like that Yvonne kind of requires them to go out at night and socialize.” She laughs. “I think it provides a more casual setting for learning more about the business and being able to market myself. The nerd in myself really enjoys the last day with the panel.”
Stone loves the opportunity for comedy and marketing as it allows her to grow as a performer.
“Any festival or comedy thing I do, I try to seek out those opportunities, because it kind of makes it more of a comedy conference,” she said. “Almost like you’re getting a continuing education credit towards comedy. I really enjoy that part of it.”
New Orleans Comedy and Arts Festival
WHEN: Jan. 28-30
WHERE: La Nuit Comedy Theater, 5039 Freret St., New Orleans
TICKETS: Prices vary
INFO: nolacomedy.com or (504) 231-7011
8 p.m. All-ages show featuring the Charlatans Comedy Magic Show
10 p.m. Naomi Grossman and Friends (“American Horror Story”)
8 p.m. The Boys
10 p.m. Randy Liedtke
11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Two workshops with Susan Messing and Rachael Mason
8 p.m. Zach McGovern and Brendon Walsh
10 p.m. DJ Dougg Pound