It’s Always Funny in Salt Lake City is very excited to have the chance to talk with the creator of one of the hottest, newest comedy festivals, Megan Bryant of the Idaho Laugh Festival.
We talk about potatoes, the Idaho Laugh Festival and Idaho/Utah comedy.
The Idaho Laugh Festival is a first year festival based in Boise, Idaho that highlights a variety of different comedy show types. These range from stand-up showcases at Boise’s premier comedy club, Liquid Laughs, to the historical Egyptian Theater where the headlining shows will take place. There will also be a gambit of improv shows and several comedy workshops from seasoned professionals. Comedians from all over the United States are going to be in attendance. Utah is represented with 8 comics.
Describe yourself in 10 words or less?
Idaho is famous for potatoes, if you could replace that with a different vegetable or fruit, what would it be and why? It can’t be squash because that’s disgusting.
Oooooooooooo…this is tough because of the incredible versatility of a potato. Plus, I married into a potato farming family so anything else to me just seems criminal. Could we ditch the fruit or vegetable category and just go with ranch dressing? We put that on everything we eat anyway.
What are your thoughts on your Governor’s nickname “Butch”? Do you think it is a reason for a recall?
I actually can’t think of a name that sounds more Idaho-y than Butch. It perfectly describes our tough hunter-type men and 78% of our female population.
Why did you start doing improv? Stand up comedy?
I just wanted to try something new, nerve-wracking and unpredictable. I like trying new things. Like raising children.
Which do you enjoy more and which one are you better at? Why?
I think I’m better at improv. I’ve got much more experience with that and I like blurting out completely random words, songs, and sound effects. Stand-up is growing on me though, it’s a very different kind of challenge, what with having to prepare something in advance and hope that people laugh.
Who are your biggest inspirations in comedy?
Hmmmmmmmmm…this is always hard for me to narrow down. I grew up watching SNL. I love so many of those guys and gals. Phil Hartman, Cheri Oteri, Chris Farley…and of course, the women who took things to a new level there, Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, Kristin Wiig. They take performance and production to great levels individually. As far as stand-up I love Brian Regan, and his bro-ski Dennis Regan (who is performing at ILF), Jim Gaffigan, Maria Bamford, and the late great Mitch Hedberg. Guhh…so many other names could be listed here.
How long have you been doing comedy?
Both standup and improv. Improv 8 years, stand-up 3.
Who has been the biggest help for you in your comedy career?
I better just come right out and say it. My wise and courageous brother, Gavin McCaleb, invited me to try out improv and I never looked back. My good friend Jared Stull really taught me the basics back then and was very patient when I was a little slow to the draw initially. Heath Harmison is the one who made me try stand-up one random night at an open mic when I didn’t even have material prepared. Not sure WHAT he was thinking, but I had a blast. I’ve gotten to meet some great comics around the country who just keep motivating me and giving me feedback on how I can do better. My husband Mike has not only supported me along the way but now he gets just as involved with helping me plan and produce events and write better material than I could myself.
Idaho Laugh Fest
When did you decide to start the Idaho Laugh Fest?
I’d been thinking we needed a festival here for a few years. Sometimes you can’t wait for things to happen. I made the official decision in April 2013 and went full-steam ahead.
What finally pushed it from an idea to reality?
I attended the Wenatchee Comedy Festival, put on by a friend of mine, Alex Haley. I saw him pull off a great event that brought the whole community together. While I observed that event up-close and personal the thought clicked that I could do this in Boise. Next time I see Alex I am going to punch him in the neck for making it look so easy.
How many total applicants did you get? How many did you end up going with?
We got just over 80 total submissions. We selected 45 of those to perform stand-up and we have 5 improv companies performing.
What was the biggest challenge of the selection process?
Truly, this part of it was very difficult for me. I’ve been on the other end as a comic and have been turned down to be in several festivals. To be the one making the decisions was a little more emotional for me than it should have been, but hey, I’m an emotional basket case. That’s part of a comic’s MO, right? It came down to ranking the professionalism of the submission, the passion behind some of the messages sent to me, and obviously, the actual joke content. Festivals celebrate up and coming comics and I wanted to pick the ones I really see potential in and all of the selections truly made me chuckle at least once. That’s hard to do.
What is the schedule of shows for the Fest?
16 shows during 2 days. We have 5 venues hosting shows at 7:30pm, 10:00pm, a midnight show and a family friendly matinee on the Saturday at 2pm. Full listing is online at idaholaughfest.com.)
What are some of the shows set up that you are the most excited for?
I can’t lie, I’m really excited about the improv showcase Friday night because I get to play in that. Plus I get to host the stand-up show o n Saturday at the Egyptian and I love that theatre. I gotta say, there will NOT be a single show that won’t bring huge laughs. We took a lot of time crafting the line-ups to give variety to each show. I was blown away by the level of talent that came in during this inaugural event.
What advice would you give to a person organizing a comedy festival?
RECONSIDER. But seriously…don’t do it. Okay, okay, maybe you can just give me a call and I’ll give you my official words of warning. That, and you could do what I did, and that is that I called the directors from several festivals in other parts of the country to pick their brains before I really jumped in. I was given invaluable insight from people who are several years deep into their own festivals.
What is the biggest payoff to the comics will get from participating in the ILF?
I hope that it will be something memorable because of the fun atmosphere we have in Boise. We are a very fun community and we have a lot of cool local businesses to explore who are also big supporters of the festival. I’m so honored to have gotten support from industry reps for this and I think that could be a great opportunity for our comics. We have a Feature Producer from Funny or Die coming, Eddie Brill who currently works at Late Night with David Letterman, and reps from Greg Green Films & CatMac Productions. This on top of the already awesome representation we have from our local club booker at Liquid Laughs, Jen Adams. She’s going to be watching all of the shows at Liquid and conducting a workshop to help folks who are truly trying to make a career out of this thing called comedy.
I would like to be thank my presenting sponsors. I couldn’t have done this without them. Matt and Heather Dietz, local owners of Farmers Insurance and Foothills Psychiatry. Their financial support is what is making this all possible without me pulling from my retirement account. 😉
The selected several Utah comedians for the Fest. What were the things that impressed you about Utah’s comedians?
They are filled with the Spirit of the Lord.
Who are some of the Utah comedians your booked on ILF?
Jamie Maxfield, Marty Archibald, Dylan O’Neill, Alex Velluto, Christian Pieper, Johnathan Falconer, Wallace Fetzer, and Bemo Laizure. That’s actually all of them. Honestly as I reviewed film I didn’t pay that close of attention to where people were from and as I assembled the final lists I thought…huh, well look at that. Lots of Utah-ness.
What impression did it give on the Salt Lake Comedy Scene?
I’ve heard some great things about the Utah scene and that it’s been thriving. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of performing there yet, but I hope to get some stage time there in the future. I was very impressed that it seems that there is a scene growing and the fact that many of the submissions were fairly well done and in a real club. Good club settings make for good comedy and better submission tapes for comics!
How can people connect with ILF?
They should totally like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/
How can people connect with you?
I’ve got a few places I can be found. I’m kinda big into social media. www.facebook.com/
Video of festival Headliner Dennis Reagan: