After launching the inaugural Queen City Comedy Experience in early 2017, Charlotte’s homegrown festival of funny ups the ante this year with bigger names, bigger venues, and a much bigger to-do list.
“The one we did last year was 100 percent local, Charlotte-based comedians, sketch and improv groups. This year, it’s over 90 percent local, but we wanted people to show up for Randy Rainbow and stick around for (local comedy collectives) Robot Johnson or Now Are the Foxes,” explains organizer Cale Evans of Improv Charlotte, which helped kick off the event Thursday. “We want to get the crowd in, but shine the spotlight on the local acts.”
Shows range from $5 to higher-dollar headliners, but the funny also spills out of the theaters with a pie-in-the-face fundraiser, card tricks in the lobby, and a dad-joke contest. Whatever your age, taste or tax bracket, there’s likely something funny stirring in or around a Blumenthal Performing Arts venue this weekend. Here’s a sampling of some of the acts to experience.
Brian Regan kicked off the festival with a set at Belk Theater on Thursday night. Over the weekend, McGlohon Theater hosts three nights of big names: Internet sensation/comedy writer Randy Rainbow — whose political parodies and songs have garnered hundreds of millions of YouTube views — is there at 8 p.m. Friday; actress and comedian Janeane Garofalo and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Jay Pharoah perform at 7 and 9:30 p.m., respectively, on Saturday; and “SNL” vet and actor Rob Schneider at 7 p.m. Sunday.
Sample local laughs for free after work with Happy Hour Stand Up featuring regular performers from The Comedy Zone, All Organic Comedy Open Mic, Cabarrus Brewing’s Craft Comedy Series, the Factory Comedy Room and other venues. 4 p.m. Friday at Middleton McMillan Gallery at Spirit Square. Free.
All the Funny Ladies features the one-two punch of Greenville’s Kissmet (which skewers reality dating shows) and the Triangle area’s curiously named improv act Land Mermaids. 8 p.m. Friday at Knight Gallery at Spirit Square.
Looking like the offspring of Kids in the Hall and Upright Citizen’s Brigade, Chicago’s five-man Cook County Social Club will bring irreverent sketch and improv to Duke Energy Theater at 6 p.m. Friday. Windy City peers Whirled News Tonight — its city’s longest-running independent improv group — follows with satirical send-ups of politics and current events at 8 p.m. Saturday at Duke Energy Theater.
If you remember comedy in Charlotte in the ’90s or early ’00s, you likely remember The Perch, which once brought cerebral sketch comedy to the space that Soul Gastrolounge now occupies. While some players went on to form other local comedy groups, others hit the road to become comedy writers and standup acts in their own right. They reunite for this one-off show at 10 p.m. Friday at Duke Energy Theater.
While many acts are clearly not appropriate for all ages, Friday’s “Family Friendly Comedy” event keeps it clean with improv sets by Teenage Handbook, Brothers Grimprov and Background Noise at 6 p.m. at Knight Gallery at Spirit Square. Then at 4 p.m. Saturday at Duke Energy Theater, “Puppets, Seniors and Magic” will feature family-friendly improv acts No Strings Attached and Social Insecurity, and Charlotte magician Haydini.