What do fracking, lake effect snow, pie, and the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Deputies all have in common?
They and other subjects will be the targets of some of America’s funniest comedians at the Traverse City Winter Comedy Arts Festival, February 14-17 (Presidents Day Weekend).
Your hosts and volunteer organizers — that would be me and Miles Davis’s son, Jeff Garlin — are today announcing the return of this very popular event which many of you have begged us to do again.
So, because we’re huge fans of begging (and drones and Tab and Manti Te’o), we’ve decided to make this an annual tradition like Flag Day or the Hash Bash. Plus, we had so much fun at the Winter WOW!Fest on Presidents Day Weekend last year (during which Jeff pulled me on a dogsled all the way up Wayne Hill), we’ve decided to invite the Winter Fun people, the National Cherry Festival folks, to join us and make Winter Comedy Fest weekend one big blowout of laughs, ice sculptures, and tart fruit. Also, seeing how cold weather killed off our cherry crop last year, we figured, what better time to start celebrating cherries than BEFORE they freeze and drop off the trees! Climate change, you rascal, take a bow!
Reserved seating tickets for the TC Winter Comedy Arts Fest go on sale Saturday, February 2, online, and at the State Theatre box office downtown. We’ll announce the entire schedule a week from today (next Friday), but for now, here’s a sneak peek at a few of the comedians winging their way to TC:
* Robert Wuhl (“Arli$$,” “Good Morning, Vietnam”), reviewing the facts and myths of American history in a live version of his smash HBO hit show “Assume the Position.”
* Susie Essman (“Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Bolt”), lyrically purveying potentially profane streetwise vernacular.
* Paul Provenza (Showtime’s “The Green Room With Paul Provenza”), returning to his “Northern Exposure” roots (kind of).
* Neal Brennan, Dave Chappelle’s writing partner (“Half Baked,” “Chappelle’s Show”), bringing his Emmy nominated talent North to reveal hypocrisy and injustice.
* TJ Miller (“Cloverfield,” “How to Train Your Dragon”), acting every inch the EW’s “Next Big Thing In Comedy” and Variety’s “Top 10 Comic To Watch” that he is.
* Ian Edwards, returning by loud and boisterous popular demand to give us a full show, after he killed during his opening act for J.B. Smoove in 2010.
* Steve Agee (“The Sarah Silverman Program,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”), doing his great comedian’s comedian thing.
* Allan Havey (FX’s “Louie,” early host of what would become Comedy Central), sharing what is widely considered to be one of the best stand up acts out there today.
* Todd Barry (“Louie,” “The Wrestler”), playing himself doing stand up.
* Pete Holmes (CollegeHumor, “Ugly Americans,” voice of the E*Trade baby), joining our Hot List, just as he’s joined Comedy Central’s.
* Festival co-founder Jeff Garlin (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), taking the stage again this year and hosting his Late Night Combo Platter in the basement of Horizon Books.
In addition to the nighttime comedy shows at the State Theatre, City Opera House, Old Town Playhouse, and InsideOut Gallery, we’ve got some new events and great comedy films planned, including:
* Bonfire with free s’mores and music on Friday night.
* Laser Light Show on Saturday night, sponsored by the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau.
* “Co-Exist? Comedy Tour” with director Larry Brand, producers Rebecca Reynolds and Jim Carpenter, and one of the film’s comedians in person.
* “The Aristocrats” with director Paul Provenza in person.
* “Despicable Me” free on Saturday morning, with a bike giveaway sponsored by Grand Traverse Pie Co.
* Pancake Breakfast (with cherries!) to benefit the Fresh Food Partnership & local food pantries.
Now here’s the cool part: We’re closing Front St. to traffic and having a bunch of free winter games and events for the whole family on the street:
* We’re turning part of Front St. into one big Ice Rink with free skate rentals for everyone!
* We’re building a Big Sledding Hill on another part of Front St. so kids of all ages can go sledding.
* A winter Ferris Wheel!
* PLUS: Snowblower Races, Slip’n’Fall Olympics, Monster Dog Pull, and Kid Competitions.
How can you NOT be in Traverse City for Presidents Day Weekend? What are you going to do instead? Roast chestnuts with Lance Armstrong? Re-write “Charlotte’s Web?” Race your snowmobile through the hallways of the State Capitol? Read a book? Ha! No way! You’re going to be up here with us, freezing your butt off and having the time of your life.
Pass the word around to friends and family about the return of the Traverse City Winter Comedy Arts Festival, February 14-17. And stay tuned next week to see our final schedule and learn how to get tickets.
And how to use wiper fluid to improve your love life.
P.S. The festival needs sponsors, just like the film festival does. Only you don’t have to be handsome like we require for the film fest. Just an average person (or downstater) who wants to support something good happening in the winter here at our lone outpost, the last one till you get to Moosejaw. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. (Added bonus: You can guarantee the comic you sponsor will have a few things to say about you on stage!)