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Posts Tagged ‘Garden Fresh Laugh Detroit Comedy Festival’

Epic Comic Showcase Comes To Royal Oak

By John Horn

The fourth annual Garden Fresh Laugh Detroit Comedy Festival is coming to Royal Oak, and is bringing with it some big-time comedic names in the form of David Alan Grier, Bob Saget and Lynne Koplitz, as well as showcasing a crop of rising stand-up talent.

Stretched out over four days, Laugh Detroit kicks off Sunday, 3/27 with a live performance by Detroit native and comedy legend, David Alan Grier. The Cass Tech High and U-M graduate became a household name on the ground-breaking TV comedy In Living Color, and has never looked back.

His show will start Laugh Detroit 3/27 at the Royal Oak Music Theater. After that, the festival shifts to Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle, where national and local comedians will be showcased all week long. Koplitz co-headlines with performances 3/31 through 4/2. Laugh Detroit concludes 4/2 at the Royal Oak Music Theater with a live performance by Bob Saget.

Grier’s career has taken him from the staggeringly hilarious characters he created on In Living Color to feature films, programs on Comedy Central and his book, “Barack Like Me,” released in 2009. He grew up in Detroit and still has family ties in the area, where he makes his way back a couple of times a year.

Grier wastes no time in painting a picture of what visitors to Laugh Detroit can expect.

“They are going to come out changed. We are going to save lives,” he says, chuckling. “No, we are going to bring it strong. The best compliment I get from fans around the country is when they say ‘I came here, I laughed, I cried, I had a wonderful time.’ It’s going to be a really great evening of comedy.

“There is nothing worse than boredom, being distracted during a show, when someone in the audience is asking ‘Why am I here?'”

Why will you be there? You’ll be there to not only drink in Grier’s distinct wit and uncanny ability to be funny, but to check out some of the most promising stand-up talent not only in our region, but nationwide.

Beginning Monday, 3/28, the Comedy Castle will host three nights of performances, each one hosted by nationally known comedians, including Auggie Smith, the duo of Brian McKim and Traci Skene, and Karen Rontkowski. Each night through Wednesday, 10 different comics will be featured live on stage. The showcase wraps up Thursday, 3/31 with Koplitz.

Saget closes out Laugh Detroit completely with his 4/2 show at the Royal Oak           Music Theater.

Thirty-plus comics in a four-day span, including some serious up-and-comers, makes for quite the showcase. For Grier, it’s an opportunity not only for the comics to make an impression and a name for themselves, but for the industry to get some new blood.

“These showcases are very important,” Grier says. “For 10-12 years, the same people were headlining every club I went to. You have to nurture new talent, or you’re going to get me and Carrot Top until we are 100 years old. There has been a shift of young comedians coming up. The industry has to grow that next generation.”

And the industry, at least on Royal Oak’s end of things, is working tirelessly to cultivate a growing generation of comedians. Mark Ridley has owned the Comedy Castle since 1979, with guys like Tim Allen and Dave Coulier getting their starts on the open mic nights there. Ridley’s operation has evolved into the household name in metro Detroit that is synonymous with quality, live, stand-up.

Laugh Detroit is now in its fourth year and for Ridley, his designs on the festival and showcase seem to have no limits. The event, for him, sends a clear message.

“It shows we are serious about comedy,” Ridley says. “Last year, it was Lewis Black and Kathleen Madigan. If we can continue to draw big names, it will help us grow, especially working with local businesses and charities. Down the road, we would like to make it a stand-up comedy and comedy film festival.”

Ridley points to cities like Montreal (its comedy festival is now in its 25th year) and Boston as models he hopes Laugh Detroit emulates.

“Being that Detroit is a fairly new festival, we hope to push it to more prominence,” he says.

For the New York-based Koplitz (she’s moving back to L.A. after her show, Joan Knows Best, with Joan and Melissa Rivers, was picked up for a second season by WE tv), festivals like Laugh Detroit are critical opportunities for rising comics to establish themselves. Like any career endeavor, especially in entertainment, gaining experience and paying your dues is essential to survival.

“It just adds to your credibility in the business,” Koplitz says. “Festivals, doing the road, it’s part of the dues you pay to earn your stripes. Industry people are around at these festivals and they tend to take a look at it. Any time you can be included in something like it is good.”

Koplitz has been performing in Detroit and Michigan consistently for the last couple of years and absolutely gushed at the amount of comedic talent in metro Detroit. Like the region in general, she pointed out that the rest of the country hasn’t yet caught up with the talent pool in metro Detroit. To hear her tell it, it probably won’t be long before they do.

“I know a lot of comedy comes out of places like Chicago and Boston, but there are a lot of funny people in Michigan. I don’t know why people don’t look at Michigan and Detroit more, but there are a lot of funny guys in Michigan.

“What I think is cool about Michigan is that, no offense, Detroit got hit pretty hard with the depression. But the funniest shit comes out of people when they are going through hard times. That’s why Michigan comics have been so hilarious over the last couple of years. I do love you guys. The people are kind, the area is beautiful and you’re all straight shooters. I don’t think anyone understands the Midwest but you guys.”

Published originally by Real Detroit Weekly Magazine

 

 

 

 

 

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