June 4-6 some of the biggest names in comedy will be heading up to Bloomington, IN for the 3rd edition of the Limestone Comedy Festival. Headliners Janeane Garofalo, Kyle Kinane, Michael Che and Doug Benson lead the way alongside Tom Brady, Chad Daniels, Dana Gould, Aparna Nancherla, Esther Povitsky and Dave Waite. The shows will also feature plenty of local talent as well as some live podcast tapings such as Doug Loves Movies, Weird Adults with Little Esther and Arguments & Greivances. The festival will showcase said talent across 5 venues within a 3 block radius making it one of the most accessible fests with no travel stress from show to show. We here at The Laugh Button had the chance to chat with one of the festival’s creators and stand-up comic Mat Alano-Martin. In our interview he’ll explain what the “Leak of the Week” is, the meaning behind VVIIPP, and what would culminate the ultimate line-up of comedians for a show live or dead. You can get all the info and purchase badges to festival on their site. And now the interview…
When you envisioned doing something like this, a festival, did you know what you were getting into? What was year one like?
To a certain extent, my partner is Jared Thompson who owns The Comedy Attic here in Bloomington, IN. And I’ve traveled and performed at comedy festivals so I’ve seen them from a performers perspective. And in a previous life I was an event coordinator. So it wasn’t that foreign to me. I originally wanted to start smaller, but it was Jared’s vision to come out with a bang so we got Maria Bamford, Doug Benson, Pete Holmes, Tig Notaro year one. So it was pretty massive and was worth taking that chance.
How you announce everything for this festival is quite interesting. Explain the Leak of the Week.
Well, I can’t take credit for the concept. I used to work in the music industry in PR and one of my clients was the Calgary Folk Festival and they use to do the leak of the week and thought it was cool. And as a publicist it gave me an excuse to bug people and keep them engaged. It has created a bit of a challenge though booking headliners six months in advance with pilot season falling right in the middle of that stretch leading up to the fest. But Jared gets it done impressively.
I’ve got to ask when checking out the badges, is VVIIPP a typo? I laugh every time thinking someone spilled water on their keyboard.
Haha, they are basically the ultra V.I.P. badges. At one of our venues there is this orchestra pit section, kind of its own section right on top of the performers, and we thought why not make this an upgrade from the normal V.I.P. section and make it something difficult to say. It stands for Verified Very Incredibly Important Party Person.
So what does Bloomington, IN provide as a town that other festivals don’t?
The reason why this festival is so successful is because of Bloomington. We’re a big College town. It’s a really great place. All of the shows and after parties take place within two blocks of each other. So if you’re going from show to show there’s never this “oh we’ve got to hurry”. Once you’re on site, you’re on site. We really designed the festival for those who want to come and spend three days with us. The venues we use are ready made for comedy shows. This along with the pre-existing support for the arts has made the festival work.
How would you describe the comedy scene and what kind of comedy is generated there in Bloomington?
It all comes from The Comedy Attic here. They’ve really carved out an identity as a club, like who they were booking, they’re taste in comedy. And as a comedian coming up here through open mics, guest spots, and eventually featuring, you grow up in the shadows of the headliners they bring. So performing with the likes of Marc Maron, Maria Bamford, Nate Bargatze and Tig Notaro that’s sort of who you aspire to become. What I consider to be intelligent comedy. I personally got into comedy late, at 35. And my first hosting gig at the Attic was for Marc Maron. And you can’t be a hack in front of his audience, so it sets the bar pretty high locally. So that’s kind of the wheelhouse.
Where do you want to see this festival go as far as expansion?
We are definitely up for growing if it’s in a controlled manner. We’ve definitely see other festival grow too fast and become a mess. We don’t want to grow the festival until we absolutely have too. We have great attendance and a good audience and until we are bursting at the seams we aren’t going to grow it. The worst thing would be to have shows where no one is there. We want this fest to be around forever. We want to treat the comics well and take care of the attendees so we want to make sure every show is packed.
So this thing is called The Limestone Comedy Festival, what were some of the names that fell to the way said that you are saying, “Thank god that doesn’t exist”.
Haha. Jared originally had the idea to call it something that really focused on the fact that it was in the mid-west, like the Midwest Comedy Festival and I was adamantly against that. So I jokingly came up with the Midwestival Festival. I came from Rock ‘n Roll and what’s cool about Bonaroo is that it’s just a word. And even something like Woodstock, you don’t know that’s a town unless you are from there. It just sounds like this cool abstract thing. And that’s what we’re going for with Limestone. Our inspiration for that was Moontower which opened a year before us.
And if you are from Austin, TX you are in on it, but if you’re not, it’s just a cool word. And that’s the theory behind Limestone. Indiana is the leading producer of Limestone. Most of the buildings in NYC are made from Indiana limestone. So there’s history with it but it still sounds abstract.
If you could host any show at The Limestone Festival, what would the line-up be – living or dead comedians? Let’s say an opener, a feature, and a headliner. You host.
Wow. There are so many comics. Well, Pryor comes to mind first of course. He’d be the headliner. I don’t think anyone could follow him. I would have Jonathan Winters, he was a genius, so underrated. It’d be a wacky bill. And then I’d go with Dave Attell. Each of those comics do something that I really like. And as far as Dave Attell, I think he’s the greatest joke writer pound for pound to ever live. I think you get a little bit of everything with those three.
Well they do have the holograms these days, you never know?
That’d be great! Hologram Pryor at the fest. Got to find out how much that would cost.