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New Orleans finally gets the comedy fest it deserves

One would think that in a city known for its irreverence – Mardi Gras, after all, developed as a way to parody European royalty – New Orleans would be a hotbed of comedy in all forms, from stand-up to improv to sketch.

This has not necessarily been the case, and local comedian Chris Trew thinks he knows why.

“There are just so many options for nightlife here,” said Trew, a graduate of Covington High School. “There’s the music scene, the bar scene and the food scene …”

Another issue, Trew said, is that many of the city’s top comedians – with some exceptions like the venerable, hilarious Dane Faucheux or the sketch comedy group Stupid Time Machine – end up leaving town.

Trew, himself, was forced to leave town at the hands of Hurricane Katrina. He ended up in Austin, all the while keeping an eye on one day returning to New Orleans to help build the city’s comedy scene. He spent the next six years performing and teaching at comedy festivals around the country, slowly building a list of dos and don’ts for the festival he would produce in the future.

Trew has recently moved back, and the result of his travels is Hell Yes Fest, which makes its New Orleans debut on November 9 through 12. Hell Yes premiered in Austin in April, and the plan is to have the festival twice a year, once in Austin in April and once in New Orleans in November.

Chris Trew: Trying to put New Orleans on the comedy map

Headliners include Moshe Kasher (iTunes’ 2009 comedy album of the year, as seen on Chelsea Lately), Sean Patton (as seen on Jimmy Fallon and Comedy Central), Laughter Against the Machine and groups from the famous Improv Olympic in Chicago and Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York.

Hell Yes will also feature a collection of the best talent from The New Movement, the comedy cohort with which Trew works and with whom he is producing Hell Yes.

“We do shows all over the city,” said Trew of The New Movement. “We teach improv and sketch comedy classes, and we tour the country actively, so it’s a collection of very hardworking, talented people who are doing all they can to put New Orleans on the comedy map.”

Hell Yes kicks off with an opening night headlining show at The Republic and an improv marathon at the Shadowbox Theatre. The Shadowbox will also be the site of unique improv, sketch and standup programming Friday and Saturday nights, as will the new Café Istanbul.

There will also be a special after-party battle rap show at the Hi-Ho Lounge on Friday night.

For a full schedule listing, or to purchase tickets, visit

Author and filmmaker Brian Friedman writes about New Orleans lifestyles and events for NolaVie.


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