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Solid as a rock: Limestone Comedy Festival returns

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Limestone MCC (Master Master of Ceremonies) Brad Wilhelm and co-founders Mat Alano-Martin and Jared Thompson - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted Photo
  • Limestone MCC (Master Master of Ceremonies) Brad Wilhelm and co-founders Mat Alano-Martin and Jared Thompson
 

Is the third time still the charm if times one and two have been pretty damn charmed?

This weekend marks year three for Limestone Comedy Festival, the state’s largest comedy fest in terms of performers brought onstage. Credit the festival’s success to apt management by Jared Thompson and Mat Alano-Martin. Thompson, owner of the Comedy Attic, brings in rising stars and cult legends to his club at Fourth and Walnut weekly. Alano-Martin, a full-time road comic, spends about 35 weeks playing out a year. In between, they’ve found a festival formula that works, and they’re not going to mess it up.

“We’re very cautious about maintaining the quality control of the product that we present to both the customers, the audience members and the comedians that come,” Alano-Martin says.

This year Janeane Garofalo, Kyle Kinane Michael Che, Doug Benson and Tom Brady will headline the three-day festival, along with Chad Daniels, Dana Gould, Aparna Nancherla, Esther Povitsky and a few dozen other comedians that will take over the fest’s five venues between June 4-6. Booking a diverse and eclectic lineup is something both Thompson and Alano-Martin take very, very seriously — like Alano-Martin says, Limestone would be terrible if it was just 60 sarcastic white guys.

“There’s no question that it’s extremely important to us as a festival and as a club with the Comedy Attic to make sure that within reason, everyone that we can represent on our stage is represented,” Thompson says. “You don’t want to go into this booking all of the same type of everything. You want to give people options, and you want to give people viewpoints, and you want to give people a snapshot of what is exactly happening in standup right now.”

The fest’s booking philosophy grows out of Thompson’s rigorous standards for his club.

“Most of what we do with the festival is an extension of the Comedy Attic’s booking ethos, and that is comedy that was born out of or carries the tradition of the ’90s alt-comedy movement,” Alano-Martin says. “It’s our main interest and our brand. And Janeane was right there at the beginning of that.”

The high-profile 2015 headliners join the ranks of previous Limestone heavy-hitters like Patton Oswalt, Maria Bamford and Tig Notaro. But most important to Thompson is the local comedians that join the fest and play his club.

“The local comedy scene is the most important piece to the puzzle that there is for me,” Thompson says. “Providing folks an opportunity to get better is something that I look at as a privilege. [Headliner] Tom Brady is a perfect example in every single way that there can be of what we try to do here.”

Brady grew up at the Comedy Attic, going up at open mics during its first few years of operation. He’s since relocated to Chicago (more on that in an interview on page 21), but Thompson is eagerly anticipating his return to his comedy home.

“The amount of fun and joy that he brings to an audience when he goes on stage is something that I see in very few people,” Thompson says. When he called to ask if Brady would accept a headlining spot, “It was such an exhilarating conversation to have with Tom” he says.

In the festival’s first year, Brady held a slot on the Blooming10, a showcase of ten local standups that’s been a cornerstone of the fest since.

“I wish we hadn’t come up with this clever little wordplay of the Blooming10, because we’d probably have 15 or so that deserves to be up there,” Alano-Martin says. “These are the guys who’ve earned it, or that we see a lot of promise in. … These are the people that have been putting in the work here locally and are clearly serious about it. This took forever this year for us to figure it out. It just comes down to feeling.”

This year, Stephanie Lochbihler, David Britton, Austin Frields, Jordan Mather-Licht, Doug Drury, Jesse Bush, Bob Nugent, Mo Mitchell, Aaron Nadell and Mitchell Potts will take the stage on Saturday at the Buskirk-Chumley for the Blooming10. All have appeared on the Comedy Attic stage at some point.

“It all extends from the Comedy Attic,” Alano-Martin says. “Some comedian, I think it was John Roy, says that what Jared does at the Comedy Attic is like the Professor Xavier School for Gifted Comedians.”

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