Three years ago, Addy Najera wasn’t thinking about doing stand-up. Having recently moved to New Orleans, finding a job was a bigger priority.
But that was before she went to Hell Yes Fest.
Najera had just finished her stand-up set at the Lost Love Lounge’s weekly Comedy Catastrophe event. Four local comedians had done five to 10 minutes, but then a secret headliner showed up — Hannibal Buress, of “Broad City,” “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live” fame.
“It was so much fun,” Najera said. “So the second one I started volunteering, and the third one I was a venue manager. And that’s what I’m doing now.”
Hell Yes Fest is in its fourth year and can boast that it is the biggest comedy festival in the Gulf South.
The name is derived from the motto of improv comedy: “Yes, and … .” The festival organizers wanted to harness that supportive idea and decided to anchor the festival within it.
Founded when The New Movement co-founder Chris Trew and a few other local comedians saw the need to promote the New Orleans comedy scene, Hell Yes Fest’s aim is to expand comedy in the city and showcase the city as a viable stop for national performers.
“Every good comedy scene is anchored by some sort of annual event,” Trew said at District Donuts over a couple of sliders, his chest-length beard providing a young Santa Claus-vibe.
“I’m a big believer that festivals are that anchor in New Orleans,” he said. “New Orleans needed a big, fat, legit comedy festival that people all over the country were aware of and wanted to get into.”
Run almost entirely by members of The New Movement, New Orleans’ comedy theater and conservatory, Hell Yes Fest is that festival, striking a healthy balance between local acts and comedians from around the country.
“Every single show has a local on it,” Trew said, starting into his second slider. “That’s very important to us. The goal of the festival is to highlight the locals, but it’s also to highlight New Orleans to the national comedy scene.”
It’s amazing to realize how much comedy careers are based on word of mouth. Trew decides whom to bring in for the festival based on his own tours and the tours that New Movement members go on.
The theater sponsored four tours for its members over the past year, which covered almost 50 cities, hitting most two or three times. When members returned, Trew picked their brain.
“So those people came back and said, ‘Danny Felts from Portland, you have to book him, and Brian Cook from L.A., you have to book him.’”
But it’s also about those people the festival brings in enjoying their stay.
“The guy from Portland or the guy from L.A. who’s coming in,” Trew said, “I want him to have an amazing time here, and the next time he’s at the bar talking about great comedy cities, I want him to say, ‘New Orleans was incredible.’ That’s very important to us.”
But comedy can’t be done without a crowd, so Trew wants to see faces at the 48 different shows scheduled this year. Many of them are within walking distance of each other on St. Claude Avenue. “Anyone who hasn’t seen comedy on a regular basis, take the challenge,” Trew said. “Buy a wristband and come see a bunch of shows and become a fan of the local scene. That’s so important. We just want to create as many fans as possible, so that more comics here can get better faster, make some money, work less hours at jobs they don’t like and put New Orleans on the map.”
Hell Yes Fest runs Nov. 12-16. Check hellyesfest.com for details.
Hell Yes Fest
Thursday, Nov. 13
7 p.m. — Greetings from Queer Mountain (storytelling) at Cafe Istanbul
7 p.m. — Hell Yes Film Fest — Shorts night (film) at Indywood Cinema
7:30 p.m. — The Real @ChrisTrew Show (variety) at TNM Nola
7:30 p.m. — Tour Stops (stand-up) at AllWays Bar
7:30 p.m. — The $5 Show (stand-up) at Hi-Ho Lounge
8 p.m. — Megan Simon + Raw Honey (sketch) at Shadowbox Theatre
8 p.m. — Stupid Time Machine (sketch) at AllWays Lounge
8:30 p.m. — Studio 8 Showcase No. 1 (stand-up) at Hi-Ho Lounge
9 p.m. — LateBit: Gaming & Comedy (video games) at Cafe Istanbul
9:30 p.m. — Feathers + machine A (improv) at Shadowbox Theatre
9:30 p.m. — Boogie Woogie Google Boys (podcast recording) at TNM Nola
10 p.m. — TBD at AllWays Lounge
10:30 p.m. — Close Me Out (storytelling) at Hi-Ho Lounge
Friday Nov. 13
7 p.m. — The Grawlix (sketch and stand-up) at Cafe Istanbul
7 p.m. — Hell Yes Film Fest — Pilot night (film) at TNM Nola
7:30 p.m. — Martha + Dean’s List + Liquid Feet (improv) at Shadowbox Theatre
7:30 p.m. — Creek & Cave Showcase (stand-up) at AllWays Bar
8 p.m. — West Coast/Gulf Coast (stand-up) at Hi-Ho Lounge
8:30 p.m. — Giulia Rozzi’s Bad Bride (sketch) at AllWays Lounge
9 p.m. — Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction (variety) at Cafe Istanbul
9 p.m. — Vanessa Gonzalez + Oakwood Glen (sketch) at TNM Nola
9 p.m. — Treats + North Coast (musical improv) at Shadowbox Theatre
9:30 p.m. — Studio 8 Showcase No. 2 (stand-up) at Siberia
10 p.m. — Homecoming Show (stand-up) at Hi-Ho Lounge
10:30 p.m. — Stoned vs Drunk vs. Sober (stand-up) at TNM Nola
10:30 p.m. — Quiet on the Set (silent improv) at Shadowbox Theatre
10:30 p.m. — Bad Example + rude. (sketch) at AllWays Lounge
11 p.m. — Power Violence (stand-up) at Siberia
Saturday Nov. 14
6 p.m. — The Coalition Tourco + Assembly (improv) at Shadowbox Theatre
6 p.m. — The 2-Man Boys’ Choir + Martha (sketch) at TNM Nola
7 p.m. — HYFF: Colt Cabana & Friends (film) at Cafe Istanbul ($12 online/$15 door)
7 p.m. — Stand-up Records (stand-up) at AllWays Lounge
7:30 p.m. — Dad’s Garage + Handbomb (improv) at Shadowbox Theatre
7:30 p.m. — Brito/Cook/Falcone (stand-up) at AllWays Bar
8 p.m. — Studio 8 Showcase No. 3 (stand-up) at Hi-Ho Lounge
8 p.m. — Charles + CJ Hunt (sketch) at TNM Nola
8:30 p.m. — Kath/Mullen/Broussard/Bond (sta ndup) at AllWays Lounge
9 p.m. — HYFF: Colt Cabana & Friends (film) at Cafe Istanbul ($12 online/$15 door)
9 p.m. — Super Computer + Good Fight (improv) at Shadowbox Theatre
9:30 p.m. — Altercation Punk Comedy (stand-up) at Siberia
10 p.m. — The tim&micah project + Conversations with Body Language (sketch) at TNM Nola
10 p.m. — O’Connor/Andy Sell/Elias (stand-up) at AllWays Lounge
10:30 p.m. — The Gross-Out Show (stand-up) at Shadowbox Theatre
11 p.m. — Wham City (stand-up) at Siberia
Sunday Nov. 16
7 p.m. — The Wiseau Awards (film fest awards) at TNM Nola
8 p.m. — The Kickstarted Sketch Show (sketch) at TNM Nola
8 p.m. — Nola Comedy Hour (stand-up) at Hi-Ho Lounge