Photo | Jason Johnson
Veteran comics and newcomers from across the Gulf Coast are converging on the Port City this week for the inaugural Mobile Comedy Festival, which will run Aug. 7-11 downtown.
While there have been pockets of stand-up comedy in Mobile for years, this first-of-its-kind event is meant to be a celebration and a showcase of the city’s growing scene. Organizers Zeke Buckhaults and Jacques “2 Loose” West said the festival was started as a way to bring talented regional comedians into the city and give local comics a reason to come together.
“I’ve been doing comedy here for years, and it’s like we have factions. Some comics don’t know about other spots because they don’t intermingle or don’t know each other,” West said. “We initially wanted an event to bring all the comedians together, but we also want to show people there is something else to do in Mobile. If you want, you can go see comedy three nights a week.”
The competition portion of the festival, along with some stand-alone shows throughout the week, will be held at various venues in downtown Mobile. It will also encompass the regular open-mic events Wednesday, Aug. 7, at the Blind Mule and Thursday, Aug. 8, at Serda’s Coffee Co.
There will also be a “Founders Show” Friday at the Blind Mule featuring performances from Buckhaults, West and local comedian Compton J. Smith. The Laugh, Live, Love Comedy Night will close out the festival Sunday at Halftime Sports Bar & Grill in West Mobile.
That said, the main focus of the festival is going to be a three-night competition that will pit comedians in a head-to-head battle for a cash prize.
According to Buckhaults, it will feature around 20 comics — some local and others from areas in Mississippi and Florida.
The first round of the competition will be split between two nights: Thursday at the newly reopened Alabama Music Box at 12. S. Conception St. and Friday at BOO Radley’s on Dauphin Street. The finals will be held Saturday night back at the Alabama Music Box.
Tickets to each of the three competition events are $10 at the door, though ticket holders for Friday’s prelims will get free admission to the Founders Show at the Blind Mule that evening.
The competition itself is going to be judged by a group of local comics and others familiar with the Gulf Coast comedy scene. Contestants will be graded on their performance, originality, crowd reaction and other factors. The winner will take home $500 and bragging rights for a year.
Buckhaults said the competition is meant to spotlight talented comics from the region, regardless of where they are in their comedy career. The most notable contestant is likely Ben Compton, who was featured on Comedy Central in season two of Kevin Hart’s “Hart of the City.”
“It’s definitely going to vary between all types of comedy,” Buckhaults said. “We’ve got people who’ve been doing this for years, but then we’ve also got some guys who’ve only been at it for six months.”
Comics participating in the competition have already been screened and selected by the organizers, but anyone with an interest in comedy is encouraged to come out to the open-mic events to meet comics, hear some jokes and if they’re ready, get up and try it themselves.
Both West and Buckhaults said they’re happy with the interest that’s been shown for the inaugural event, but they’re hoping to keep the Mobile Comedy Festival going and growing in the future.
“We have some very funny people from Mobile including some traveling, booked and paid comedians that people may not know about,” West said. “A lot of people will go see somebody with big credits before they go and support somebody local, and not to take anything away from those guys, but we do have pretty good comedians performing here.”
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