Photo: Zahid Dewji
For the first time in almost twenty years, people I know in cities like New York, Los Angeles, and even San Francisco are asking me, “what’s happening down there in Houston?” I think that if you sit back and realize how important hard work, talent, and determination is; then it’s really simple…Houston is working together to make things happen. In the world of stand-up comedy, it feels like the Outlaw Comic era where everyone is pulling together to see something big happen right here in our own backyard. It “feels” that way, but in reality, it’s really just a handful of people putting in the behind the scenes work. When Andrew Youngblood told me that he wanted to have his own comedy festival, I didn’t snicker or even question it. Guys like Youngblood remind me of those who run FPH, Pegstar, and Beta Theater, where they have a vision and they’re down to make that vision a reality. That festival, this weekend’s Come and Take It Comedy Festival at Warehouse Live, will bring some seriously big names to town all under the three rooms at the venue. Norm Macdonald, Todd Barry, Maria Bamford, are paired with Mike Lawrence, Brooks Wheelan, and Duncan Trussell and many many more. But, there’s been plenty of press about those names, whereas you might not know some of Houston’s talented and hilarious names on the two day event. Below is a rundown of some of the names who don’t get mentioned much, but who are definitely worth checking out.
The festival gates open at 3:00, but the action doesn’t get started until 4:00. That action begins in The Ballroom when Dem Damn Dames open the festival. If you’ve never seen this troupe of funny, beautiful, and talented ladies, then this is a great place to see them. The troupe comprises of many talents that include an aerialist, costumes galore, and even a bit of comedy to go alongside singing and very choreographed performance. Over in The Studio, newcomer Anthony Colicci will start the comedy off. I’ve been lucky enough to watch this guy grow in a very short time, where his act has gone from frightened open mic performer to a strong new comic in the scene. He will be followed by NYC transplant, Zahid Dewji. Zahid is one of these guys that you can’t appreciate with just a five minute set. I caught him do ten minutes early on, and I knew he was stronger than anyone knew. He just did a Triple Header show from Beta Theater, where he did a very strong and hilarious twenty minute set; one of which followed pro comic John Tole. Stephen Brandau will follow Zahid, and like him he’s come a long way since last year. Catching Brandau do ten minutes is where he seems to have his comfort zone, and if he keeps writing like he has been recently; he could be a real force in stand-up. Brandau will have one of Houston’s better and unsung comics, Reed Becker. Reed is getting ready to head off for San Francisco for good, but this guy is one of those that I feel like you’re foolish to miss. Reed writes the kind of jokes that draw you in right before he drops a usually strong punchline that can erupt any room in laughter.
A Little later on, still in The Studio, Youngblood will try his hand at stand-up and perform what I would guess is a five minute set. From what I’ve seen, it’s better than you’d think where he pokes fun at his kid and bad dates he’s had. The third place winner in the 2014 Beta Bracket Comedy Competition, Zach Dickson will follow. Dickson is seriously a strong comic who covers everything from UGK lyrics to grapefruit in his set. He could easily being a strong comic and his new stuff proves that he has what it takes with strong timing and great craftsmanship. Laff Town’s Funniest contest winner, John Nguyen will go on after Zach. John is such a talented guy who might have the best twenty minute sets you can hear. He’s been travelling all over lately doing sets in front of heavy hitting television executives, and when you see his set, you’ll see why. Over in The Ballroom, Warren Wright will teach you not to judge a book by it’s cover, when he leaves you in stitches from his set. Warren seriously looks like a squatter kid who would beat you up if you didn’t love Rancid; but he’s a super nice guy who can make you laugh at everything from his dating life to rednecks at a Waffle House. After Warren, Victor Tran will come up and will also make you laugh and think. Victor covers everything from his appearance to Saddam Hussein, and he does so like he’s been doing stand-up for ten years. He was on Andy Huggins show for his album taping, which should be enough to tell you that he’s a killer on the mic. Locals Scotty Peterson and Brian Zeolla go on after Victor Tran in The Ballroom.
Back in The Studio a little later on, Dale Cheesman will get things going for Andy Huggins and Bob Biggerstaff. Dale is a guy who from the first time I saw him, I realized that he’s seriously at the top of the newer Houston comic scale. He covers a whole host of topics where he can make you laugh at absurd premises to a Star Wars religious comparison. His stuff is really fresh and he could be really big one day, so check him out now while he’s still broke and isn’t headlining. I would guess that you would know that Andy Huggins was one of the original outlaw comics, and one of Houston’s funniest comics going. The same could be said about Bob Biggerstaff. Bob has the ability to kill pretty much everywhere he appears and he has a boatload of television credits to prove it. Gabe Bravo, Houston’s one man comedy promotion machine will follow Biggerstaff. Fresh from a stint out in California at UCB, and a couple dates opening for Todd Barry; hopefully everyone sees why he got an FPH article so soon in the series; because he’s on fire with plenty of room to just get hotter. Back in The Ballroom, the hilarious host of Beta’s Triple Header series, Bob Morrissey will perform prior to NickMom comic and funny woman Kristin Lindner. Lindner is a pretty tough act to follow with great premises on being married and a rapier wit to all of her material. That being said, Dusti Rhodes, host of the Rudyard’s open mic might be one of the only few who can follow her. Dusti has a whole new slew of jokes that cover everything to being a teacher to the crazy world of dating. Rhodes will be the lead in to Maria Bamford. After Bamford, a guy who has one of the best uses of silence in the Houston comedy scene; Nick Meriwether will perform. Nick is one of those guys who has stints of uncomfortable silence in his set that he utilizes with comedic perfection. I can’t stress how hard you’ll laugh when he performs, and there’s a reason he’s going on later in the day. The crazy and sideshow antics of the Punk Rock Circus will be back in The Studio before Whitest Kids You Know close out the day in The Ballroom. Houston’s Punk Rock Circus does all kinds of crazy things and features brothers Jacob and Chris Calle.
The second day of the festival means that you’ll have to make a decision on what room to attend, as the comedy gets started at the same time in both rooms after following another set from Punk Rock Circus at 4:00. At 4:40, Justin Thompson will bring his brand of humor from Beaumont to The Ballroom stage. Thompson has been doing stand-up long enough to get opening slots for Slade Ham as well as many other touring comics. On his own, the guy is a riot and one of the hardest working comics out there. Everyone’s favorite African, Ku Egenti will follow Thompson with humor that covers everything from the culture shock of coming here from Africa, to the pitfalls of driving a hybrid. Ku sold out Joke Joint recently when he taped an upcoming DVD show, and he’s a really strong comic on the rise. He’ll have Houston’s biggest hype man comic, Rich Williams following him. Rich is a funny guy who sells out pretty much every show he puts on. He’s opened for a slew of big names that include Red Grant and Rodney Bigham. Rich will have food reviewer and Improv Houston regular Owen Dunn on after him. Owen has a couple of different sets as do many good comics. Usually they’re peppered with jokes about fast food and observations that make everyone seated laugh. FPH Sammy Winner and Beta Bracket winner, Ashton Womack will follow Dunn. Ashton is full of energy, he might be Houston’s most charismatic comic, and he performs like a professional in year twelve, but he’s only two years in. Currently in a state of non-stop writing, don’t be shocked if this guy isn’t the next big comic out of Houston.
At the same time in The Studio, Al Bahmani will get the day started over there. So, Al B. is like a historian of the Houston Comedy scene. If I ever have a question about anything I may have missed, he’s the guy I ask. He’s been at stand-up for a good while, he’s performed in many of the rooms past and present, and he’s been on Funny Or Die as well as a staple here for over ten years. Clay Christofferson will follow him coming back to Houston from Washington just to perform. Christofferson is a really tall guy who would venture into town from the Woodlands, and he never disappoints on a mic. He has a quick wit and he’s a really smart guy who tells the kind of jokes that make you realize that you aren’t as smart as you thought you were. Following him, is one of the best comics I’ve seen in a long time, Bryson Brown. Bryson is a consistently hilarious guy who had to move from Austin to appreciate Houston’s scene a little more; though since he got here he’s been stronger than ever. He performs on his own shows at his own room, so it’ll be great to see him on this festival so everyone can see how funny he really is. Nia DeBose will go on after Brown, and will prove everything I said about how funny she is when I interviewed her. She doesn’t perform every week like many comics, so she’s definitely a great act to see. Local podcast host and comic, Josh Brokaw will perform before Houston’s Matt Han. If his set at Whatever Fest was one that if you missed, you missed out. Matt is a really great comic who also hasn’t been performing much lately, but is one you should see. Jaffer Khan will prove why he’s one of Houston’s most revered comics when he goes on after Han. His long form jokes are what many comics take years to just aspire to, and he’ll make you laugh while he makes you think.
All four of Houston’s The Whiskey Brothers will perform separate sets in The Ballroom. All four of these guys are strong comics will completely different paths. Sam Demaris and Slade Ham both have albums out and tour about nine to eleven months a year. The crew is rounded out by two other strong comics, the hilarious and well crafted humor John Wessling and the rapid fire jokes of Rob Mungle. Over in The Studio, Barry Laminack will perform. Barry has been featuring more lately, and when he does you immediately realize why, as his jokes about reality television and adulthood are pretty tough to beat. He will have funny man and laugh riot Ty Mahany perform after him. I wish Ty made the rounds more, as his sets are always peppered with life lessons and jokes about his son which are always top notch and funny as hell. In The Ballroom, Matt Hunt will return after being in Colorado to prove why he had a spots at Improv prior to leaving. Hunt looks like Thor, but his jokes about New Zealand are some of the funniest you’ll hear all day. Matt Hunt will have Houston comic and seriously funny guy, Joe Bates go on after him. Bates has been living in Chicago, but catching him around town over the holidays was a nice treat as his jokes have gotten stronger since he lived here. The last local guy to take the stage, back in The Studio, Theo Taylor will perform any amount of time that’s asked. Taylor has more jokes in his shirt pocket than most comics have in a filing cabinet, and his off the cuff style makes everything relatable and more funny.
That’s a pretty hefty list of funny people that doesn’t even include the epic list of touring names also performing. The names on this list aren’t even all of the comics Houston has to offer, but they’re a great representation of those who are here. This festival was first reported to be the first comedy festival in Houston, but it actually isn’t. What it is however, is the first of its’ kind that could plant the seeds of a yearly event. The festival is two days, Saturday the 24th and Sunday the 25th on the grounds of Warehouse Live. Tickets are available here, and there are single day tickets as well as a handful of VIP passes for the two days, and even a two day General Admission option, ranging between $35.00 to $99.00.