The comedy forces of Northwest Arkansas and beyond are coming together for three nights of improv, stand up, storytelling, music and general hilarity this weekend.
Huge Lightning Comedy Festival is returning for its second year at Path Outfitters — behind Tiny Tim’s Pizza on the square — in Fayetteville April 20-22. Featuring improv troupes and comedians from Chicago, Kansas City and New York as well as local talent, the festival acts as a bridge between local and national comedy acts.
“It’s an amazing chance to not only see all of the great talent in Arkansas in one place for one weekend, but for people to see all the national acts packed into one room with them,” said Jordan Haynes, co-creator of the festival. “Besides that, it’s really important and a blast for our performers to hang out with all of these people from all over and see how they work and get advice.”
Each night of the festival will offer up two different variety shows of improv, stand up, music and storytelling. Tickets are available for $10 for single events, and all night passes are $15. For the whole weekend it’s $40.
Thursday night offers up a unique blend of readings from Houston Hughes and Last Saturday Word War regulars with Bango!, a bingo-type game of improvised theatre from Artist Laboratory Theater. On Friday and Saturday, the later shows will feature the wild Mess Hall Variety Show.
Shows last year provided a mix of stand up sets or readings from Comedians NWA and improv from national and local groups such as Rodeo Book Club and Ft. Smith’s Naturally Improvable — both of whom are returning this year. Between sets there would be live music, and at the end of the night a live painter revealed their artistic impression of the shenanigans that took place from the stories and performances.
“Each show is going to be packed,” Haynes said. “If anybody buys a ticket for any slot, they’re probably going to see something unexpected and have a great time.”
Many improvisers present, such as Morning Gents and Mammal/Mammal, will have performance experience and training from Second City improv school in Chicago and New York. Ashley Nicole Black of “Full Frontal with Sam Bee” will be teaching a free improv workshop April 22, too.
Half of the festival will consist of long-form improv comedy. Essentially, long-form is a series of scenes that are made up on the spot by the performers based on a random suggestion from the audience. The entirety of the improvised “play” depends on the chemistry, imagination and quick wit of the performers involved, which leads to one-of-a-kind performances and hilarious, occasionally awkward moments.
Craig Tommey, a former El Dorado, Ark. resident and current Chicagoan, will be performing alongside his fellow Improv Olympic colleagues in his group Morning Gents. The group’s performance last year was a smash hit at the festival.
“Our performance last year was just so cool, we played to a packed house,” Tommey said. “Comedy is such an intimate thing, and if you’re in a medium sized venue when the wheels start rolling it can be an amazing experience. It was an electric atmosphere.”
For more information about the festival and the schedule of events, visit www.hugelightning.com.
Huge Lightning Comedy Festival
Where: Path Outfitters, 21 W Mountain St. #226
When: April 20-22, different shows each night at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
How Much: $10-$40
Huge Lightning Lineup
- BANGO! – a theatre improv game from Artist Laboratory Theatre
- Morning Gents (Chicago)
- Mammal/Mammal (Chicago/ The Crowd Theater)
- Kris Stoker’s Dracula (Kansas City)
- Rodeo Book Club
- Naturally Improvable (Ft. Smith)
- Laugh Track and Field (University of Arkansas Students)
- Closet Goblins
- The Chicago Fired (Chicago Supergroup)
- Troy Gittings
- Zac Slusher
- Kaia Hodo
- Caroline Ezell
- Adam Cole
- Joe Penn
- Paul Naegle
- BradChad Porter (Oklahoma City)
- Ryan Trickey (Kansas City)
- Stetson Banks
- Colin Nelson
- Trumann Rail Boys
- The John Charles Band
- Willi Carlisle Goehring
- Houston Hughes and Friends from Last Saturday Fayetteville
- Jane Blunschi
- Rachel Lynett
- Raeligh Anderson
- Brandon Bullette