What would you do if there was a contest showcasing something you love to do? Would you not be doing everything possible to participate? For Austin standup comics, their opportunity is the 2014 Funniest Person in Austin contest, hosted by Cap City Comedy Club.
The Laff Stop opened in 1986. Ten years later, the name changed to Cap City Comedy Club. A year after that, the club started its Funniest Person in Austin Contest. This contest, now in its 17th year, draws in enough contestants for the competition to last roughly six weeks, and has gained the attention of national entities like Comedy Central.
Previous contest winners Ramin Nazer (2012) and Mac Blake (2013) have benefited greatly from winning the contest. Mac Blake puts it into perspective: “Adding ‘Funniest Person in Austin Winner’ to my name leaves a mark on people. It’s definitely better than ‘Mac Blake – comedian.’ It’s a title I get to keep, like Miss America.”
Both Ramin and Mac tell me that winning the contest is essentially comedy street cred. Like Miss America, a comedian can only win the title once. It’s a good win that comes with a cash prize. Also, previous winners get valuable stage time by hosting the preliminary rounds of the next Funniest Person in Austin, while the newest winner traditionally hosts the finals.
Since winning the contest last year, Mac has teamed up with fellow comedian Joe Halfkey to take over the reins of the Jazz Cigarette showcase at Spiderhouse Ballroom. This event takes place on the 2nd and 4th Monday of the month.
I went to the Jazz Cigarette show during SXSW. They packed the house and comedians like Matt Bearden, Kath Barbadoro and Danny Polumbo had the crowd rolling. In fact, these three comedians have competed in Funniest Person in Austin, with Matt Bearden being a former winner. Tickets to Jazz Cigarette are $5 regular admission, $2 for students and free for service industry workers.
Mac Blake also hosts the occasional Mac and Cheese Show at Cap City Comedy Club, headlining the night. Mac and Friends is $5 plus the traditional two-item minimum that all comedy clubs feature.
Ramin Nazer has been hosting Live at Coldtowne Theater since 2007. This particular show, much like the Sure Thing Showcase at Austin Java, technically has no age restrictions. Taking a minor to the show should be left to the discretion of said minor’s legal guardian. Live at Coldtowne Theater takes place every Friday night and tickets are $5 plus BYOB.
Since winning Funniest Person in Austin, Ramin has made appearances at SXSW, Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival, and Bridgetown Comedy Festival.
The Funniest Person in Austin Contest
The contest is pretty simple. It’s an elimination type of contest that spans the month of April and half of May. This year, preliminary rounds start April 4th and run three days a week from Sunday-Tuesday.
The comedians who make it through the grueling preliminary rounds head to the semifinals, scheduled for May 11-13th (these dates may be changed to May 12-13th). After semifinals, finals take place on May 19th.
Each preliminary round is judged by a panel of people pulled from the local media scene. Each night, the top three acts are moved forward in the competition, and an alternate is picked in case one of the winners is unable to continue.
But wait, that’s not all. There is an $100 prize to the comedian who makes the funniest joke.
The details may seem a bit dry, but consider this: what other time of year would you have the opportunity to see 200+ unique individuals perform, whose sole purpose is to bring laughter to people by performing their A-list material in a single location? When, I ask you, when? This is like American Idol, but with talented people, and the cost to watch is nominal. In other words, this the Mortal Kombat of comedy, so check it out.
There is always a two-item minimum.
Where will you be when the 2014 Funniest Person in Austin is crowned?