During Homecoming week, performers from around the state will be in town for the first C-U Comedy Festival.
Head of C-U Comedy, Jesse Tuttle, has been wanting to do a festival for a while, but he says it hasn’t been until recently that Champaign had the resources, crowds, and venue connections to host a festival. The festival will take place from October 21st-25th and will include nine shows in eight different venues.
According to Tuttle, the C-U Comedy scene is getting pretty big, but unfortunately many people do not even know a comedy scene exists. He says he is hoping a festival will get more of the community involved.
“I think people are more likely to attend festivals because festivals are big in Champaign,” says Tuttle.
The tourism board and Mayor Gerard have gotten behind the event, and Gerard is expected to attend at least a couple of the shows.
Each show will have a different theme and different atmosphere. Tuttle says he is particularly excited to perform at the Suits and Ties show. All the performers will be dressed up, and drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be served before and during the show. It is planned for the show to have a more formal atmosphere, but guests are invited to wear whatever they would like.
A very different vibe is expected from Friday night’s show Shot it Up. Tuttle says to expect a house party atmosphere. The comics will take three shots about five minutes before their set. The goal is to allow time for the alcohol to kick in. Jesse says this is the show a lot of the comics wanted to be in because basically they all wanted free alcohol. Audience members will also get two free shots with entry.
Many of the comedians are local to Champaign-Urbana, but others are coming in from St. Louis, Peoria, the Quad Cities, and Chicago.
One of the performers is Nick Martin. Martin started comedy here in Champaign while he was an English student at the University of Illinois. He started in November 2010, when Martin performed at the Wednesday night show at Memphis on Main which is still around today.
“I was so weird, I thought I had to bring the hosts candy,” says Martin.
Martin has recently moved to Chicago to pursue comedy in a bigger city. He says Champaign allowed him the opportunity to get in front of real audiences in very professionally run rooms. One of the main differences he says he has noticed between Champaign and Chicago is the crowds. The crowds in Chicago are almost all comedians, while in Champaign the rooms are full of “human beings.”
As Martin puts it, “Comics are less than human beings.”
Since moving to Chicago, Martin has gotten a full time job. The new experiences gained from working and paying bills have given him new material from when he was only a college student. While he has never again brought candy to the hosts, Martin says he still remains true to his weirdness.
“I definitely didn’t start not weird, and Champaign has always been accepting of my weirdness,” says Martin.
He admits he has actually only gotten weirder.
Martin is excited to return to Champaign to see old friends, watch other comics, and to get a good milkshake.
He says he thinks it is awesome that Champaign has the comedy infrastructure in place to put on an independent festival. Many of the performance lists are still to be announced, but Martin will be performing in at least two shows.
Jesse Tuttle, and his twin brother Justin Tuttle, will also be performing in many of the shows. Jesse says he is hoping the festival will give those in town for homecoming something to do.
“You can go to bands or go to a sports bar, but this is a little different.”