Festivals have always been a great way for new music, art and movies to be screened and heard, but now a new art form has come to be represented, stand-up comedy. Stand-ups and comedy-themed podcasters have begun to be scheduled into line-ups at festivals, such as the current South by Southwest Festival (SXSW), in Austin Texas ranging from March 10th-17th. Headliners of the SXSW festival include, Mike Birbiglia, Pete Holmes and Doug Benson.
Supplying comedy as an option between exhausting rock shows and emotional independent films is an excellent release at a major festival. It provides a time for guests to sit back, have a few drinks and enjoy some comic relief to end their day or help them rest up for their next activity.
I have enjoyed comedy at a major festival first hand. This past summer I attended Outside Lands Music Festival in Golden Gate Park. It was mid-day and I had already jumped around and sang to Foster the People, my friends and I weren’t hungry enough to grab a bit at one of the awesome food trucks participating in the festival, but we needed to kill some time before Muse headlined that evening. Luckily for us we stumbled upon what they called The Barbary, a tent they had comedy acts lined up all day. We were able to enjoy the hilarious jokes of Matt Braunger, which put us all in an amazing mood. The addition comedy added variety in an otherwise music dominated scene provided a more unique as well as memorable experience to attending Outside Lands.
Integrating comedy into large festivals where it is not traditionally found has had its ups and downs. Sometimes audience members walk into a comedy show expecting a rowdy band to start playing, so when a comedian begins talking they can easily turn into obnoxious hecklers. It is important for people to know what kind of show they will be watching in order for comedians to receive the amount of respect they deserve as performers. When asked about her experience performing at large music festivals Tig Notaro, of The Sarah Silverman Show, responded,
“A few times I was really concerned how it would go, but it always ends up being a great time. Maybe I thought I liked state fairs because of how many outdoor music festivals I do. Who knows.”
Eugene Mirman, a comedian who has been touring with various bands as their opening act for ten years, has expressed that the marriage between comedy and music is not always as harmonious as one would hope. It takes time to find the right balance between comedic and musical style, certain audiences just are not, and may never be prepared to give up an opening musical act for a thirty minute joke-set. Mirman expresses his feelings after his many experiences working with bands,
“The risk of losing people is bigger, it’s like a poet opening for a gymnast. . . . You have to really find a comic and a band and an audience where it jells. . . . If I tried to tour with Slipknot, it might be hard. How would (that audience) react? My guess is they would throw beer bottles.”
If you are open to a new experience next time you are at a festival that has included some stand-up shows in their line up, go experience a different art form while you are waiting for the next band to play.
This post edited on April 5th, 2012