It’s 10 AM and I just woke up. Which isn’t like me. I was out late gophering the two Friday shows that closed the Laugh Your Asheville Off comedy festival.
People have tried and failed to bring stand-up to Asheville before and make real money off of it. Turns out the person who finally did it was a 29-year-old waiter/chef/cyclist and aspiring comedian with absolutely no experience in production or booking comedy whatsoever.
Greg the waiter had a chubby, babyfaced 22-year-old “booking agent” who still lived at home, and who somehow managed to land a major act to headline the show. Greg’s girlfriend Rowan handled marketing duties and somehow raised several thousand dollars in sponsorship money — in one week. Their friend the freelance writer provided a free press release, comic bios, a seriously discounted per-hour rate for editing and writing, and behind-the-scenes advice in cracking the pages of the city paper and the local entertainment weekly. (She also sold concessions, set up comedians’ merch tables, tracked ticket sales, watched the same fucking comedy routines 3 times in two days, and, on the last show, took about 30 amazing pics of the excitement.)
Greg’s parents drove in from Georgia expecting to see their son’s show at the coffee shop, with a handful of comics and 10 or 15 people in the crowd half-assedly watching over espressos and cafe food. They arrived at the packed and buzzing lobby of the biggest theatre in town and watched their son become a comedy impresario. The three shows never quite sold out, but everything but the balcony filled up, and I’d say that well over a thousand people saw the show. The first show was on Thursday, and by Friday night the town was buzzing with the news of the new comedy festival.
I’d say that Rowan and Greg, who are working-class Asheville people with no health insurance who drive shitty cars and live in a duplex in the poor part of town, easily made 15 or 20 thousand dollars.
It’s been a crazy whirlwind of sweaty comedians and darkly freezing air-conditioned theatre balconies. Sometimes dreams come true and the good guys win. Sometimes freelance writers who typically spend their Friday nights knitting and watching a documentary find themselves eating cold mushroom pizza at midnight in the green room and humping a suitcase full of t-shirts and CDs up two floors for a fire-eating comedian named Johnny. Sometimes the things that happen in your wildest dreams really happen and you collapse into bed at 3AM still too excited to sleep.
I’m going to go have some coffee now.