Time Out Chicago blogger Steve Heisler makes an interesting point about the recent announcement of two new comedy festival in the Chicago area (one being the co-production of TBS and Just For Laughs). Though he sees the fest could be great for infrequently scouted Chicago talent, he pointed describes the fest as akin to the Olympics, meaning they will be “making a lot of noise, then leaving a mess for us to clean up.”
By Steve’s estimation, non-comedy nerds go to comedy shows once every six months and when they do go, they go to the big stuff, putting money into known entities like Second City or big name stand-up talent. So while these Chicagoans will attend shows at these fest, they’ll only go to the big events and use up their comedy budget, making it unlikely for the local scene to gain any traction or a new audience.
It’s an interesting thought. Though it was home to the biggest U.S. industry fest for more than ten years, Aspen has had trouble since the fest left sustaining a comedy club. Of course, the Aspen fest was never really about exposing local talents and is certainly not a major metropolitan area like Chicago.
My personal experience after going to comedy fesitval is that I a week detox from live performances, at least. But my case is a little exceptional - I see almost everything I can, with my press access allowing me to take in three to four shows a night. I doubt many attendees are keeping my schedule, but if some rare big names or events are happening, it’s likely you might try and see two or more shows over the course of a fest, which for non-comedy-nerds can be pretty draining to the funny bone as well as the wallet.
So are comedy festivals not necessarily great for the local talent after the shows close? What’s Montreal’s comedy scene like a few months after Just For Laughs? Does comedy go into remission in SanFran after it’s increasingly popular Sketchfest? Can any locals attest to seeing increasing attendance at their shows in the weeks after a comedy festival?