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Report from the Road: Buscemi in DC

The Bastion wasn't able to make the rollicking DC Comedy Fest this year, so we asked one of our favorite performer correspondents, Robert Buscemi, for some details about his experience there. After recovering for a week or so, he was able to put together this fantastic little piece for us. And if you're Flickr friends with Joselyn Hughes, you can peep some of the behind-the-scenes nonsense that she captured for posterity.

Buscemi is fresh off this summer's Rooftop Aspen Comedy Festival, is filming a cooking show with Steve Delahoyde based on their hit mayonnaise commercials, and is posting batches of his legendary Facebook status updates on his blog, LittleFishPants.


The Chicago talent at the DC Comedy Festival was THICK, boy. Just as Rooftop Comedy and the Rooftop Aspen Comedy Festival sees lots of our work through their partnership with Chicago Underground Comedy, The DC Fest has eyed our talent pool for years now, and founder Blaire Postman manages Kumail Ali (formerly Nanjiani) and Jared Logan, and (I'm told) was very, very impressed at the audition showcase upstairs at the Beat Kitchen a few months back. So I would say to the newer comics who felt they did well that night, it probably registered. Sometimes it just takes a couple of years to keep turning in good work and auditions before they book you. By all means, keep the powers that be apprised of what you're doing. The Internet and online video have closed the communication and exposure gaps beautifully, so take advantage.

So. The fest itself. (Deep sigh.)

The whole ship ran very, very, very smoothly, in my observation. The Onion and Rooftop Comedy were two of several sponsors, which was way cool. We all stayed at the coolio Hotel Helix, which had free wine and Champagne 5 to 6:30 every evening. Venues were all pretty close. I saw an excellent panel (which was packed with fans and all-star panelists) on politics and comedy, and the big awards show. And I have to say it: Industry* were everywhere. (*"Industry" usually just means regular, friendly comedy people who happen to occupy positions with entities that employ or broadcast performers and writers. People in LA and NYC know they're approachable and relatively ordinary folk in general, many with their own writing and performing resumes, since they see them around at shows, but it can be a tougher lesson to grasp in Chicago, since TV and film aren't as pervasive.) In general there was a huge sense of camaraderie and of being taken excellent care of as a performer.

For me, far and away the highlight was hosting Friday's sold-out, prime-time "Chicago Comedy" show at the famous DC Improv. Hannibal Buress, Joselyn Hughes, Jared Logan, Brady Novak, and Team Submarine shook the rafters. The buzz afterward was that it was among the best shows of the weekend. I have DC connections and had five civilians in the audience, and they all raved.

To continue the roll call of Chicago talent who performed at the festival … Brooke Van Poppelen, Cayne Collier, Deb Downing, Greg Mills, Hey You Millionaires, Kumail Ali, Pete Grosz, Pat O'Brien, Pete Holmes, and TJ Miller. Not to mention films by auteurs Jordan Vogt-Roberts and Steve Delahoyde. Some great non-Chicagoans I saw perform: Tig Notaro, Todd Barry, and Andi Smith. A few personal faves I've seen before but didn't manage to see at the fest: Myq Kaplan, JB Smoove, Reggie Watts, and Baron Vaughn.

The festival did one thing which I've never seen before, that I loved. They had a rough-and-ready upstairs bar ("Solly's") booked for all three nights from 7 to 11 PM for informal sets by festival comics, run by a couple of local DC comics. Like a Schuba's for the festival, and they'd put you up when they could and according to when you had to scram for a showcase. You could use notes and do newer stuff and noodle around and shoot the shniz with other comics at a casual, clubby show. Nice non-comic crowds when I was there too. Other fests would do well to copy this, since it meant you could get in an extra, looser show under your belt before your bigger showcases.

What else? Of course lots of shuttling around to happy hours and then late shows and late parties with lots of good booze and good people, and 2 AM would come and go with no one paying much attention, which was fun, until breakfast the next day with your non-Festival friends, of course.

Ah well. It's the price you pay. All around a wonderful time, a very, very well done affair, and a glorious showing from the Windy City. Did my heart good to see my friends kicking such massive boo-tay.


Kristy Mangel

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