For the past 13 years, a group of comedians from Northeast Ohio organized and produced the Cleveland Comedy Festival. This year, a few organizers decided it was long past time to bring the festival to Akron, highlighting comedians in the Rubber City and paying homage to where many of these comedians got their start: The Funny Stop in Cuyahoga Falls.
Kyle Haunhorst, one of the festival’s several organizers, says, “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be doing something down there because really, anybody who does comedy in Northeast Ohio or starts up here, The Funny Stop is kind of the place to go to really develop yourself.”
The Rubber City Comedy festival and its sister festival, The Cleveland Comedy Festival, serve several purposes for local comedy scenes. One of those purposes is fundraising to invest in comedians. Kyle says some of the money is used to purchase podcasting equipment, green screens, and cameras.
“Basically, you volunteer and help us out, we’ll be able to help you out in whatever endeavors you’re doing,” Kyle says.
He says local festivals also provide comics with an opportunity to network with other comedians and a place to hone their craft.
“At the end of the day, we want to create a quality brand not only for fans of comedy but for comics themselves. And we want to be honest and straightforward and care about the artist, because it is an art, and I think that’s something that gets lost,” he explains.
Kyle says getting the owner of The Funny Stop, Pete Barakat, involved was the first step in planning the festival and for the organizers, it wasn’t optional.
“It all depends on if Pete’s on board. Not because he’s the end-all, be-all here, but… I can’t say enough for what Pete has done for comedy in Northeast Ohio in general,” Kyle explains.
According to Kyle, many comedians found guidance and community at The Funny Stop and from Pete, which helped them further their careers.
“You can go up there and just screw up royally, and he’ll pull you off and… he’ll tell you, ‘that sucks,’ but sometimes you need to hear your art sucks and go back to the drawing board and it’s been beneficial to have that club here,” Kyle explains.
However, the Rubber City Comedy Festival should have been putting on its second show this year, instead of its first. The original dates for the festival were for last May until COVID-19 forced them to pause. Kyle says they were in a “bad spot” when events were canceled left and right last year, since they had already spent money on T-shirts, advertising and sold tickets. The organizers decided that after watching trends and the rollout of vaccines, “People need to laugh, more so now than ever.”
The show’s headliners include Mike Conley, Mary Santora, and Ian Fidance, and will feature dozens of other comics from Northeast Ohio and other states.
For the poster: Photo by Rubber City Comedy Festival. Used with permission.
Other photo: Festival organizer, Matt Farkas, at Late Night Laughs, 2018; Photo by Allyson Smith
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