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Laugh riot: Denton comics launch new fest

Profile image for Lucinda Breeding
Lucinda Breeding

The comics behind North Texas Comedy Festival aren't looking past this weekend. 

Not yet, anyway.  

Joe Coffee, a board member of the new comedy festival, said the event staff is putting its focus on staging a good three-day festival this weekend. 

North Texas Comedy Festival starts Thursday, Oct. 5, at Killer's Tacos. The festival continues with showcases at Backyard on Bell and Abbey Undergound on Friday, then moves on to the Bearded Monk on Saturday before closing at the PointBank Black Box Theatre that night. 

The festival's leadership was part of the Denton Comedy Festival, a single-venue event in 2016. Eventually, some of the core staff left the Denton Comedy Festival to start the North Texas fest. 

Comedy wunderkind Saffron Herndon returns to Denton to headline the North Texas Comedy Festival on Saturday, Oct. 7, at the Bearded Monk.
Comedy wunderkind Saffron Herndon returns to Denton to headline the North Texas Comedy Festival on Saturday, Oct. 7, at the Bearded Monk.

When the event wraps on Saturday night, Coffee said, audiences should leave with a real taste of Denton's comedy scene — a midsize community grooming sophisticated writers and confident performers who are poised to take their jokes to Dallas, Fort Worth, Chicago or Los Angeles.

"Our board is made up of Denton comics, people who perform here and in D-FW," Coffee said. "And our headliners are all Texas comics, something we're pretty proud of. But the idea is for people to know the Denton scene after this."

Festival coordinators scheduled comics with road tours and bigger club gigs on their resumes in headlining slots. Lawrence Rosales is a Dallas comedian with Denton gigs under his belt. He headlines the festival Thursday night. Dallas comedian Latrice Allen and Austin comic Jay Whitecotton headline on Friday night. On Saturday, Saffron Herndon makes her second Denton comedy fest appearance as the afternoon headliner at the Bearded Monk, and Houston comic Slade Ham closes the festival.

The festival features 35 comedians, and after the headlining slots were filled, the festival board studied video submissions to evaluate applicants' material, presence, delivery and what Coffee calls "the Denton factor."

"We looked for comedians who will connect with the Denton audience," Coffee said. "Something that plays in one city doesn't always go over in another. Now that I've been on the road, I've road-tested my jokes, and I have a better idea about what works in different cities. So we looked at comedians and graded them on the Denton factor.

Austin comedian Jay Whitecotton headlines the North Texas Comedy Festival on Friday at the Abbey Underground, 100 W. Walnut St.
Austin comedian Jay Whitecotton headlines the North Texas Comedy Festival on Friday at the Abbey Underground, 100 W. Walnut St.

The festival is under the umbrella of Language of Laughter for a Cause, a local nonprofit that stages all-ages comedy showcases  to raise money to buy materials and books for local classrooms. 

"Everything after expenses is going to charity for local literacy efforts," Coffee said. "That's a big thing for us."

 The festival is surprisingly affordable, too. You can get a Thursday pass for $5. Friday and Saturday single-day passes cost $10, and a weekend pass costs $20. 

"If someone comes and doesn't love what they see, they're only going to be out $20," Coffee said. "And we don't want to price anyone out. It's hard to have an expectation with a first-year festival, and you can't ask too much. You don't want people to leave without feeling like they got their money's worth."

And the Saturday afternoon showcase at the Bearded Monk is free. 

What would it take for the festival coordinators to start planning for a 2018 fest?

"We want to take this one step at a time," Coffee said. "We want to raise money for charity, a decent amount, and we want to have the local scene grow. The idea is to have comics who do the festival to tell other comics about Denton, about our scene, and tell them that this is a good place to perform. But we also don't want to promise too much. So we're taking it one step at a time."

North Texas Comedy Festival schedule 

Festival kickoff

8 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5

Killer's Tacos, 424 Bryan St. 

Host: Joe Coffee

Featuring: Alvin Newsome, Mikey B, Crist Guzman, John Brown, Alex Gaskin, Kat Yeary, Parker Slavens and Brandon Davidson

Headliner: Lawrence Rosales

Friday, Oct. 6

Backyard on Bell, 410 N. Bell Ave.

7 to 9 p.m. 

Host: Nick Fields

Featuring: Jamie Gravy, Angelo Vescio, Zachary Arredondo, Taylor Higginbotham, Zach Brown, Allie Wolfe, Colton Jones and Shahyan Jahani

Headliner: Latrice Allen

Abbey Underground, 100 W. Walnut St.

10 p.m. to midnight

Host: Stu Hollowell

Featuring: Zahid Dewji, Wes Stein, Dalton Pruitt, Rachel Hall, Tyler Elliott, Brett Peveteaux, Wes Corwin and Gabe Bravo

Headliner: Jay Whitecotton

Saturday, Oct. 7

Saturday Saffternoon (free event)

The Bearded Monk, 122 E. McKinney St. 

1 to 6 p.m. 

Hosts: Dalton Pruitt and Brett Peveteaux

1 to 2:30 p.m. — "Comedy Science Theater 3000" — Dalton Pruitt and friends make fun of Space Jam.

2:30 to 3:30 p.m. — GoldenEye Shoot Death — Can millennials beat an old man at N64 GoldenEye?
Sign up and find out.

3:30 to 4 p.m. — Improv Performance with  Folding Chairs

4 to 6 p.m. — "Guess List: Improvised Standup" — Which local favorites drop in to do a set off the dome? Draw topics from a hat and riff. Featuring: Spencer Sileo, Brad McKenzie, Dani Balda and Daniel Magden.

Headliner: Saffron Herndon

Black Box showcase

PointBank Black Box Theatre, 318 E. Hickory St.

8 to 10 p.m. 

Host: Dan Danzy

Featuring: Mark Nash, Luke Moore, Andrew Burnette, Brandon Davidson, Jesse Mundy and DeDeT

Headliner: Slade Ham

Festival after-party

10 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Backyard on Bell, 410 N. Bell Ave. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Frazzled and sad over the state of things? North Texas Comedy Festival starts Thursday, Oct. 5, and runs through Saturday, Oct. 7, in four Denton venues. Getty Images/iStockphoto.