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Success of inaugural comedy festival set high hopes for the future

Success of inaugural comedy festival set high hopes for the future

Comedian Dan Danzy performs at Mable Peabody's for an Orlando shooting benefit. Danzy co-hosted the Denton Comedy Festival. Tomas Gonzalez | Visuals Editor

Success of inaugural comedy festival set high hopes for the future
August 05
14:15 2016

Kayleigh Bywater | Senior Staff Writer

@kayleighbywater

Although J&J’s Pizza usually serves up slices of pizza on Friday and Saturday nights, they spent this past weekend serving up entertainment instead.

While the restaurant is usually full of foodies enjoying a slice, the Old Dirty Basement of J&J’s was full of hundreds of guests waiting to laugh, joke and celebrate Denton’s comedy scene.

The inaugural Denton Comedy Festival welcomed local comedians and comedy lovers from all over the area to kick off Denton’s first comedy-only festival. Behind the idea was RJ Avery, a Denton local, a real estate broker and comedy fan. Avery doesn’t perform stand-up, but he said he wanted to provide a medium where performers and fans could come together.

“I grew up listening to stand ups at such a young age,” Avery said. “Instead of coming home from work and watching Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, I watch stand up.”

Avery originally had the idea to start a monthly comedy night at J&J’s Pizza but wanted to do something different than the open-mic nights held all over Denton. When he mentioned the idea to create a festival, he said he was immediately approached.

“I really just put it out there and before I knew it, I was approached by people who wanted to help and people who wanted in,” Avery said. “These comedians see the same faces every time they perform, so this was an opportunity to perform for a whole new crowd.”

Avery said it was as easy as buying the domain name and getting the word out, with planning only taking three months. He wanted to bring Denton’s comedic community to light, but he received negative comments geared toward how he was running the comedy show.

Unlike bigger Denton festivals, Avery said he wanted this to be an intimate celebration of everything comedy brings to peoples’ lives, not a wide-scale event.

“There were rumors that we weren’t planning the event right, or that we were just being sort of lazy about it, but honestly, it’s a comedy festival. I haven’t planned one before, and we were all just learning,” Avery said. “I guess we had just thought of something special, and it intimidated those who hadn’t thought of it already.”

The event, which started out Thursday at Killer’s Tacos and ended Saturday night at J&J’s, exceeded Avery’s expectations. Even though it was tough, Avery said they even had to turn people away because there was no room left in J&J’s basement.

Denton comedian and English senior Angel Garcia, who holds comedy house shows, also known as Comedy Guerilla shows, has been a supporter of the Denton Comedy Festival since day No. 1. Although he was excited for the event, he said the turnout was not expected.

“We sold out four shows,” Garcia said. “People [really got] to see how funny Denton is. [Comedy] is kind of insane. You’re going to a show where one person stands in front of you. It’s super vulnerable [and] personal, and it has the power to change perspectives and opinions.”

Angel Garcia, English senior and comedian, attend the festival with an unexpected turnout. Ranjani Groth | Staff Photographer

Angel Garcia, English senior and comedian, attend the festival with an unexpected turnout. Ranjani Groth | Contributing Photographer

One of the headliners, comedian Carey Denise, performed Saturday night at J&J’s. Denise has performed stand-up all over the country, but wanted to be a part of this historic event in Denton’s comedy scene.

Denise started performing comedy when she was 25 and said that even though she has performed in many different places, there was something about the Denton Comedy Festival that really attracted her.

“Denton’s always had a cool music and arts scene,” Denise said. “But the comedy scene has always been kind of small. You can listen to the same song over and over or watch the same movie again and again, but comedy is about the spontaneity of one person. I think it just got to a point where we felt it was just really needed.”

With the success of this festival, Avery, along with Denise and others, are already prepping for next year’s festival. The festival, which will be called Denton Comedy Festival 1.5, will be held next May. The original mastermind behind the event, however, will be taking more of a back seat in the planning.

Avery will still be involved in the planning, but he said he wants the comedians to take the reigns for the next year. As a single father with a full-time job, Avery wants to make sure that the festival is in the hands of the comedians rather than a fan.

“I feel so lucky that the community in Denton were so accepting of this idea,” Avery said. “But I want to make it more of a comedian’s comedy festival. I’m extremely excited, though to see how far we will come the next time around. Comedy is such a unique form of expression, and I’m just glad we were able to share it with people all over Denton.”

Featured Image: Comedian Dan Danzy performs at Mable Peabody’s for an Orlando shooting benefit. Danzy co-hosted the Denton Comedy Festival. Tomas Gonzalez | Visuals Editor 

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