Every November, Hell Yes Fest turns New Orleans into a comedy haven by unfurling a world-class comedy festival at seven locations around the city. This is a tall order for a city that rarely has been historically associated with comedy. However, the festival marks a steady shift away from that reputation. The premise of the festival is simple: an outstanding comedy event is something New Orleans desires and deserves and serves as the face of the city’s increasingly vibrant local comedy scene.
This year’s fest opened Tuesday, November 12, and runs until Monday, November 18. It features some of the nation’s most prominent headliners (Sara Schafer, Eric Andre, Todd Barry), alongside beloved local acts (Chris + Tami, You Don’t Know the Half of It, Joe Cardosi). Year after year, the festival, led by creator Chris Trew (of Air Sex and the New Movement), delivers on the HYF vision with outstanding performances, sold-out crowds, and a not-so-well-kept secret: New Orleans is a comedy town.
Hell Yes Fest bills itself as “7 day/ 7 venues/ 7 million shows.” This guide is an attempt to answer the question, “Which of those 7 million shows should you see?” There is literally something for whatever you enjoy: improv, stand-up, sketch, movies, podcasts, storytelling, music, and webseries.
There will be two guides released this week, one for Wednesday through Friday of the festival and another for Saturday through Monday. It will highlight a “Can’t Miss” pick for each day in addition to a few “Hell yes! I want more!” picks. This, ladies and gentlemen, is only the tip of the iceberg. Get out there and see some local comedy this week.
Can’t miss: Todd Barry with Andrew Polk, Vincent Zambon and Ariel Elias (Stand-up), Cafe Istanbul, 10:00 PM
Todd Barry is one of the biggest names to grace Hell Yes Fest this year. There are plenty of reasons to go see him, including his work on Aqua Teen Hunger Force, his special on Comedy Central, and his four outstanding stand-up albums. Also worth seeing is the group of stand-out local comics joining him, including host of NOLA Comedy Hour with Andrew Polk.
Hell yes! I want more! : The Bounceback and Sunken City (film and webseries), Prytania Theater, 7:30 PM
One of the most exciting branches of Hell Yes Fest this year is the Hell Yes Film Fest, curated by Michael Domangue. The Bounceback is an Austin-based story of the unexpectedly difficult task of bouncing back after a break-up. After receiving rave reviews at SXSW, the film comes to Hell Yes Fest and is sure to charm with its hilarious, irreverent, and heartfelt take on the romantic comedy. Also, check out a sample of the locally produced web-series Sunken City. The show is a creation of local comedians CJ Hunt and Kyle June Williams and is directed by Jonathan Evans.
Check out the trailer for The Bounceback:
and episode one of Sunken City:
Can’t miss: Stupid Time Machine (sketch), The New Movement, 7 pm
Stupid Time Machine has been creating sketch and representing New Orleans around the country for four years now. They are returning to Hell Yes Fest and have also been seen at Chicago Sketch Fest, San Francisco Sketch Fest, and many more. STM is known for its fearless and absurd brand of humor and is comprised of a strong group of New Orleans comedians. Here is one of their most recent video sketches.
Hell yes! I want more!: Rob Gagnon’s 1 Hour Comedy Festival (sketch, stand-up, improv), The New Movement, 8:30 pm
Led and curated by Austin’s Rob Gagnon, this comedy festival features every comedy festival stereotype over the course of one frantic hour. Gagnon gathers comedic talent from The New Movement and sets them loose in what is unlike any other comedic experience at Hell Yes Fest. Prepare yourself to meet characters such as Mom Comic, Michael Jokeson, Twitter Comic, and Sponsored Comic.
Can’t miss : Sara Schaefer with Mark Normand, Nick Rutherford, Jono Zalay, and Addy Najera (stand-up), One Eyed Jacks, 10:30 pm
Sara Schaefer is one of the most exciting draws for Hell Yes Fest. She is an Emmy award-winning writer who has appeared on everything from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to Inside Amy Schumer to AOL. She also hosts MTV’s Nikki and Sara Live and a popular podcast called You had to be there. She’s very, very funny and is joined by an outstanding group of comics, including Mark Normand, who was “Esquire’s Best New Comedian 2012.” Check out Sara and Mark below, and don’t miss this one.
Hell yes! I want more! : Machine a, Handbomb, Nolen + Nolen (sketch), The Shadowbox, 7:30 pm
The improv you see tonight will make you fall deeply in love with improv. Machine a (Chris Kaminstein and Cecile Monteyne) is one of New Orleans’ most beloved comedy groups that artfully mix acting and improvising in unique, hilarious, and poignant ways. Handbomb is the high-power, high-speed Austin duo of Vanessa Gonzalez and Micheal Foulk. Be warned: this group can get very raunchy, but of even more concern is how hard you’ll laugh while they’re doing it. Nolen + Nolen is an extraordinary husband and wife improv team that co-founded the Arcade Comedy Theater in Pittsburgh and is sure to please New Orleans’ crowds with their character work alone.
Here’s Machine a on WWNO as the “NPR couple.”
*Check back on Friday for the second batch of picks to get you through the HYF weekend.
James Hamilton is a writer, comedian, performer, and producer based in New Orleans. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter @oldjoytree