Register today for the Class Clown Workshop

The 9th annual Cleveland Comedy Festival is quickly approaching. Seasoned veterans will perform hilarious showcases and 48 comedians from around the country will compete for the grand prize of $2,000.

One particular class of benefit at this year’s festival is The Class Clown comedy workshop. Available to children ages 11-17, stand-up is more than just being funny. Don’t associate ‘class clown’ with someone who acts out or constantly gets in trouble. If done right, a class clown can become a class act sooner rather then later.

Here are 5 reasons why it pays to learn stand-up early on in life.

1)    Storytelling – Whether you’re in job interview, on a date or doing a presentation at work, you’re going to have to be a persuasive storyteller. Stories are easy to follow and if you can communicate a beginning, middle and end you’re already ahead of the pack. Stand-up are many short stories put together. With the instructors at the Class Clown workshop, you’ll be able to get a base of what stand up: short stories with surprise endings. Instructors Rodney Bengston, Mike Scanlon and John Wellington have decades of experience to guide you through your setup and ultimately land on your punchline.

2)    Writing – Believe it or not, writing is a lost art. I know this because I am a copywriter and people depend on me for the simplest of sentences. Through touch screens and texts the generation coming up won’t rely on the pad and paper like we do. This class will have students in the mindset of constantly writing by looking at life differently. A workshop like this is a great way to mold the minds of young people to recognize the funny things that happen every day.

3)    Presentation Skills – If you can do stand-up, you can do probably knock out any form of public speaking. Book reports, interpersonal communications and a host of other everyday things benefit from learning how stand-up works. Stand-up has helped me turned me into a storyteller in interviewing for jobs or even with a creative presentation to clients. Much of today’s youth has their heads buried in their phones or tablets. You can stick out by getting out… in front of people.

4)    Humor is universal – A sense of humor goes a long way. Learning stand-up accelerates your child’s education of how the world works. The class clown workshop provides a great platform where the instructors can hone in the comedy that already comes from the mouth of babes. You always hear learning a second language is essential to getting ahead. Stand-up is a second language where you can take your confidence to the next level. Also, sometimes stand-up sets don’t go well. And sometimes you don’t get the job you interviewed for. Your kid has the benefit of learning how to deal with setbacks and for every bombed set, there’s a stage that’s just waiting to be killed.

5)    It worked for me – I took Dave Schwensen’s comedy workshop when I was 25 and it was the best investment I made in my life. Stand-up has led me to sharing the stage with some great comedians to eventually starting my own business. It also got me a job in corporate America, which is actually pretty cool too. I know, I sound like a sell out.

If your child decides to take the reigns of comedy maybe he or she will be a sell out, too. In theater and comedy clubs all over the country! It starts with registering for the class. Do it here!

Josh Womack is Head Writer of Laugh Staff, where he writes hilarious wedding speeches. He is also a copywriter for Progressive Insurance.

Hosts: Chris Paugh & Ryne DiPerna

Showtime: 8pm

Location: Canopy Collective

Address:  3910 Lorain Ave, Cleveland, Ohio 44113


Last night 16 comics went head-to-head in battles of wit and cruelty in the back of a Cleveland art gallery. The Ad Hominem Attack Show is one of the best new shows to pop-up this year. Founded by Chris Paugh and Ryne DiPerna, these roast battles pit two comedians against each other, exchanging insults in front of a panel of judges and ravenous crowd. This month’s show changed up the format a bit, being the first of two shows dedicated to a tournament that will reward one comedian with a chance to perform on a special Roast Battle at the Cleveland Comedy Festival. Each battle consisted of five insults from each comedian.

Next Level Showcase at the Music Settlement at The Bop Stop Cleveland Comedy Festival

Be sure to check out the Next Level Comedy Showcase Wednesday, October 6th at The Bop Stop!

This month’s winners, who will advance to round two on Saturday, November 5th, are Tabitha Jones, Sam Latourette, David Gamble, Ian Miller, Kristin Galewood,  Spyder Jones, Eulise Dickerson, and Burner. These comics will compete in November to crown a Roast Battle champion who will go on to face Jeremy Sheer at the Cleveland Comedy Festival later that month. Right now, the show is one of the best and most unique experiences in the city, so don’t miss out on November’s show! For more details, follow the link to their Facebook event page:




Indianapolis native Brent Terhune was a huge hit at the 2012 Cleveland Comedy Festival, where he came in 2nd place for our comedy competition. Since then he’s been extremely busy. Aside from touring, he writes for “The Bob and Tom Show”, co-hosts the pro wrestling podcast “Wrastlemania”, and just last summer he released his first stand-up album “Mr. Turkey”.

Brent Terhune album Mr. Turkey on itunes

Check out Brent Terhune’s album “Mr. Turkey” on iTunes!

This week you can see Brent at Hilarities on 4th Street where he’ll be featuring for headliner Mark Normand. Also on the show is local favorite John Bruton who will be hosting all week. The first show was last night, where all three blew away an eager crowd during a night of non-stop laughs. They’ll be performing 6 more shows at Hilarities between tonight and Sunday, October 2nd. Be sure not to miss out on this CCF Alum! Tickets can be found here:

Cleveland Comedy Festival 2016 Comedian Registration Link

Interested in participating in this year’s Cleveland Comedy Festival? Click the image to register today!


By CCF Staff writer Jeremy Herbert

Stop Calling Cleveland #TheLand. That’s all I ask.  Well that’s not true.  I’d also appreciate it if we all left #CLE to the luggage tags at Hopkins and #ThisIsCLE to an android achieving sentience by spelling its model designation.  But mainly #TheLand.  You can find these all over whichever social media you find the most enabling.  Usually attached to a photo of a t-shirt bearing the red, rictus grin of Chief Wahoo or someone sitting on the big basketball outside The Q.  Now I’m not here to tell anyone their pride is invalid or to maybe not wear clothes with racial caricatures on them.  I can certainly suggest as much, the latter especially, but I can’t be mad about happiness.  My problem is with the nicknames themselves.  Frankly, they’re just too cool for Cleveland.

If you’re mad, understand that uncool does not equal bad.  Except in any movie set in a high school.  But usually the lesson of those ends up being that uncool is cool in its own way, which then equals good.  So even by John Hughes rules you’ve got no reason to be angry.  If you still are, I’m sorry. Go get an ice cream from the Honey Hut and tell ‘em I sent you. You won’t get a discount but hey – it’s an icebreaker.

It probably is heresy to call this place uncool in this, the year of the Cleveland renaissance.  The Cavs did good.  We welcomed that presidential hopeful who threatened to kill the other presidential hopeful and may also be a double agent for the Russians.  I found reruns of The Drew Carey Show on cable.  It’s probably been the best year for us since the Injuns won the World Series in 1997.  And that was four Batman movies ago. It is a time of joyous harvest in #TheLand.

Cleveland Comedy Festival 2016 Comedian Registration Link

Click the image to register for the 2016 Cleveland Comedy Festival!

We just need to work on the branding.  So let’s walk through our candidates.

CLE is a luggage tag. Next.

ThisIsCLE, derived from the Latin/slogan “This Is Cleveland,” is a nice, stern declaration, android aside.  It says you might think this is Pittsburgh with a lake, or Chicago with a smaller lake, but you’re wrong – this. is. Cleveland. I can get behind that.  But ThisIsCLE is just a lost tourist desperately checking luggage tags to figure out which nondescript black suitcase is theirs.  It exists for social media usage, but that’s only ever been a good excuse for Kardashian children and I’d like to think Cleveland deserves better.

ThisIsCleveland is better and it even doubles as the website for Destination Cleveland, the thankless few forever cursed to sell this town as that most unbuyable thing – a vacation hotspot.  But as a combination slogan-nickname, it reads like a mall directory.  ThisIsCleveland, across from the Wet Seal and within smelling distance of Auntie Anne’s. Which I hear has pretzel dog samples today, but don’t quote me on that.  ThisIsCleveland won’t do.

TheLand has been the most popular, at least in my social media feeds.  It sounds like a big-budget Mad Max rip-off starring Jeremy Renner as one of the last Landers immune to the apocalyptic virus known cryptically as “Big Chuck.”  Once his daughter comes down with it, he must fight through the roving gangs of mutants, like the Tribe and the Dawg Pound, in a desperate bid to find the fabled cure, “Little John,” somewhere in the ruins of The Land.  Coming Summer 2022. Preorder your tickets now through Fandango.

Despite the franchise potential, The Land rings hollow.  It’s dramatic in the way Top 40 lyrics sung by artists too young to loiter at the Casino Formerly Known as Horseshoe are dramatic.  It sounds like Instagram filters and rooftop parties some quirky bastard thought it’d be safe to light with Sparklers.  It skews toward the “kids” and while that’s certainly to whom Cleveland ought be skewing to ensure it doesn’t collapse within the decade, it’s chintzy.  And if there’s one thing this town ain’t, it’s chintzy.  Cleveland is durable.  Almost stupidly so.  We’ve survived burning rivers, Donald Trump and the Mean Streak.  And at least two of those are Biblical plagues.  The Land is on the right track, its heart is in the right (commercialized) place.  But no dice.

Now we get into some of the nittier, grittier business.  These aren’t as widely used as the others, but I’ve seen them at least twice and that’s good enough for me.

#Clevelandgram is supposed to be a catch-all for any local Instagram pictures but instead sounds like the worst way to wish a friend happy birthday.  A construction worker shows up to their house, sings a Michael Stanley song, dumps a bucket of sauerkraut pierogis at the feet of the plastic goose on the porch, blasts them in the face with a snowball then fills their shoes with road salt.  Happy Birthday from the Land.

#ClevelandOverEverything is what the city would scratch into a bathroom stall if it was a bully who substitutes fists for feelings in the aforementioned John Hughes high school movie. It’s hard for me to hear it any other way than in the squeaky shout of a six-year-old walking into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Adorable, to be sure, but little nuance.  It makes Cleveland sound like the muscle of the Great Lakes, and that’s just nonsense.  Chicago would kick our ass and Milwaukee would loot the body.  If we’re anybody in that John Hughes analogy, we’re the kid who gets bullied all the time, but takes the pounding without making a sound, thus impressing the bully enough to leave them alone entirely.  Even in an abstract sense, Cleveland Over Everything is absurd.  Is Cleveland really over banana splits?  Over truth? Justice? The American Way?   That’s a bottomless can of worms we don’t need to open with a reckless hashtag.

#Clevelander doesn’t really mean much for this exploration, but I like it because it reminds me of the Highlander. When they reboot that movie, they should shoot here.  I mean still set it in New York City, but shoot it on Euclid.

#CityOfChampions exploded when the Cavs won, but that makes Cleveland the City of Champions in the same way Detroit is the City of RoboCops.

#ClevelandThatILove implies there is another Cleveland that the user does not love.  Which is rude.  I mean hate a city if you want, but to use that hate to compare another entirely unrelated city? That’s unnecessary.  This is the #LakewoodThatILove, not to be confused with Lakewood, Texas. That place can burn for all I care.  At the end of the day it’s clunky syntax.  There’s no way that can be used in an ordinary sentence.  “There’s nowhere I’d rather be than here, the Cleveland That I Love.”  That’s bad Shakespeare.  Why not just #ILoveCleveland?  Take out the conjunction and let the verb do the work.  Not only does it express the affection faster, it’s a free writing lesson.  And people love those as much as Cleveland.  So this won’t do, even with the improvement.

Cleveland Comedy Festival presents Unsuitable Language open mic at Sachsenheim Hall

Check out CCF’s weekly sketch and stand-up open mic every Thursday at Sachsenheim Hall

So what does that leave us?  Cleveland isn’t the Nike ad-ready “The Land.”  It’s not luggage or a mall directory.  I am pursuing a start-up Clevelandgram business, so please contact me if you own or know someone who owns a pierogi and/or road salt wholesale company.  All the others are too dramatic.

Let’s think about Cleveland as a person. A neighbor, let’s say.  We need a neighborly name for a city whose film industry is based on it having three blocks that look like another city if lit properly.  The first major city, in fact, to default on federal loans since the Great Depression. A city that needed to spruce up its theater district and decided the best way to do that was to hang a chandelier outside over traffic.

The best name I can think of for that neighbor is Cleve.  Clumsy, a bit misguided, but tough as nails.  Always complains about the weather but never moves.  Lives in a restored house and quickly reminds visitors how bad it used to be, how much better it is now and how many paychecks and paint chips made the difference.  Leaves a game on the TV, doesn’t matter which.  Works in a mill, never mentions what kind, but always wears a mascot t-shirt when he isn’t in uniform.  He’s a busy guy but sometimes he’ll cut your grass for you if he’s already out there.  Or bring over a beer if you’re not doing anything later.  He’s not the best neighbor – he’s sometimes loud, a bit too proud and brings up his brush with rock and roll fame entirely too often – but he is your neighbor, and you could do a lot worse than Cleve.

I like #Cleve.



For more articles like this, visit Jeremy’s film blog at

Whether you’re a comedian looking for places to practice material, a fan looking for live shows to frequent, or someone who wants to get on stage for the first time, it can be hard to keep track of all the open mics in the area. That’s why we’ve set up a handy comedy calendar to keep track of all the open mics and showcases around Cleveland and Akron, as well  special events happening outside of the major local clubs.

Shows are subject change often, but we’ll do our best to keep this calendar regularly checked for accuracy and frequently updated.

By CCF Staff writer Jeremy Herbert


If any comic ever knew a thing or two about respect, it has to be Rodney.  He could give you a thousand and one reasons he wasn’t getting any without breaking a sweat.  Well maybe he would be sweating, but it wouldn’t be for nerves – he was just a sweaty man.  Funny, considering Rodney Dangerfield was one of only three comedians to earn the respect of Roger Ebert in his review of 1988’s dramedy-prototype about stand-ups, Punchline.


The other two comedians given a pass? Jay Leno and Garry Shandling.  An eclectic group, to be sure.  But why was Ebert singling them out in the first place? To put it gently, he was no fan of stand-up comedians.  At least not at the time.

Dangerfield, Leno and Shandling, to him, were the only comics to elevate the self-loathing desperation of the craft into something above an exercise of naked, misshapen ego.

His words, not mine. Though I did paraphrase.


stand-up comics

August 3rd 9 pm Bop Stop Tell the bartender at the Bop Stop you have a ‘Secret’ to tell him & get in free.

Ebert seemed baffled by the sudden outgrowth of stand-up comedy. It was no longer relegated to the dead stretches of variety shows between Russian jugglers and a harmonica player or the five minutes of Carson you were allowed to miss until Burt Reynolds was on again.

Stand-up comedy was entering the mainstream. And not even a clumsy misfire like Punchline could stop it.

Before 1988, stand-up hadn’t made much of a mark on the big screen.  Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy were among the only comics to see a special hit theaters.  Besides similar showcases, the only feature films to pay much attention to stand-up comedy were 1974’s Lenny Bruce biopic, Lenny, and 1982’s The King of Comedy, which startlingly if not convincingly explored the link between stand-up and mental illness.  The small screen fared better, but only just. George Carlin turned out an almost daunting number of specials for the burgeoning experiment in premium cable, HBO. A revolving door of promising young comics kept spinning at 30 Rockefeller Center as Saturday Night Live sacrilegiously struggled to find replacements for the holy cast of 1975 to no avail.

All of which makes Punchline a strange artifact.

The idea started in 1979 with screenwriter David Seltzer, best known for his work on The Omen, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and a movie about run-off from a paper mill accidentally creating a mutant bear.  Seltzer was spending time in comedy clubs for another project and thought the scene hadn’t yet been explored on film.  He wrote the first version of the script in the joyous tone of a movie similarly focused on a niche of the arts, the blockbuster hit Fame.

How would an overtly cheery flick about stand-up comedy work?  You’ve got me, but I’ll gladly take suggestions.

For one reason or another, the script languished until the late 1980s.  It was pulled out of storage, dusted off, rewritten and pushed into production.  It was to be a low budget feature with a relatively no-name cast.  Until Sally Field came on as producer.   That was enough to attract Tom Hanks and soon they were set to play the leads.

So where to start with Punchline.

The beginning seems natural.

The movie opens on a seedy New York street at that time of night when everything looks like an Edward Hopper painting.

Mousy housewife Sally Field anxiously crosses the mean streets and walks into a diner. You know the one. The one in every movie downtown.  She mumbles a cryptic code – “Romeo sent me” – to the only other patron and sits down.  The crusty-looking customer soon joins her and they exchange anonymous drug deal dialogue. Mention is made of “the stuff” and “the cash.”  A brown paper bag is revealed.

Anyone guess the gag yet?

Of course it isn’t drugs – he’s selling her jokes.


She asks for proof of quality and he gives her a set-up for a Polish joke. She asks for the punchline and he says she’ll get that once she pays.

This opening scene pretty well sets the tone (or lack thereof) for the rest of Punchline.  The set is serious, even grimy. The actors do their best with what they’re given.  But nobody seems to know much about the actual practice of stand-up comedy.

It’s later revealed that Field’s character has spent $500 on jokes from this “dealer.” Five. Hundred. Dollars.  And we almost immediately find out that the joke isn’t even fresh; the audience shouts the punchline before she can even get to it.  There are hundreds if not thousands of joke books between two and ten dollars on Amazon, on specialized concentrations from zoo animals to your mother.  Even the most expensive joke book I could find on the site – Garfield’s Big Fat Hairy Joke Book – only came out to $472.97.  And that’s for a first edition, which I imagine has a return-on-investment not unlike a Matisse or Manet.

I realize that Amazon and similar services were but glimmers in the eyes of depressed science fiction authors in 1988, but I imagine there was at least one used bookstore in New York City.  They had to have a 101 Ghost Jokes or a Killer Knock-Knocks For Unfulfilled Housewives.  But no. This movie immediately asks us to believe in and care about a devoted mother who stays out almost every night to do stand-up badly and routinely wastes hundreds of dollars on canned, vaguely offensive jokes.

This is our protagonist.  This is Punchline.

Fields is unhappily married to none other than John Goodman, who tolerates her stand-up dreams only because he thinks it’s a phase.  While he does have solid arguments against her hobby (see: spending $500 on jokes), he’s pretty much an ogre. For most of the movie, anyways.  He’s her snarling opposition until he isn’t because the script needs him to be supportive all of a sudden.  It’s a sharp enough turn to give you whiplash, but it’s the only way the cop-out of an ending makes any sense.  Her kids, ultimately, are pointless.  More passive opposition to her dreams.

The movie also wants us to care about Tom Hanks’s character, a failing med student but thriving comic.  Unfortunately, that’s another tall order.  He’s got a confident swagger to him that not only threatens to but frequently does trip over the line of douchebaggery, to use a clinical term.  When Field first talks to him, he blows her off as a second-rate hack and ignores her.  But he does come back around when money’s on the table and she asks for his help in the ways of stand-up.  They spend time together. He tells her what’s funny (Manson jokes) and what isn’t (Son of Sam jokes).  Like clockwork, he falls in love with her in the full knowledge that she’s quite married.  He admits he regularly lies to women, but never when he says they’re funny because he’s a man of honor.  He even kisses Field.  When she turns him down, he snaps and starts singing in the rain.  That’s not me playing with words, either.  He runs into the rainy street and recreates some of the famous moves from Singin’ in the Rain like an unhinged madman.

To the movie’s credit, it’s a decent portrayal of a predatory male stand-up, warts and all.  Sadly I don’t think it’s at all intended.  We are supposed to like this man and want him to succeed.

Which is the central conflict.  Hanks might be a stand-up hotshot, but he breaks down in tears when talent scouts show up in the audience.  Field can’t tell a joke to save her life, but the audience has a natural love for her.  Together, maybe they can achieve everything they ever dreamed of.

But they don’t.

This movie wants to be a breezy comedy and difficult drama at the same time.  In the tussle, neither ends up working.


One comedian dresses as a nun. Goodman bellows at his Field over a suspected affair.  Hanks harasses and vaguely threatens a woman scouting the comedy club.  Field frantically gets ready for a family dinner so her husband doesn’t know she was out with Hanks, set to the clichéd madness of “Sabre Dance” (look it up; you’ve heard it before).

It’s a weird ride and the weirdest part of all is the stand-up.

There are no bar basement open mics.  There isn’t a churning line-up of unpolished hopefuls laying it on the line.  There’s not much of a reason the comedy club in this movie, The Gas Station, should even be in business.

The same six-odd comedians plays every night. Hanks and Field are only two.  The others include the aforementioned nun, a guy whose entire act seems to boil down to a comically oversized boombox and a mime.  It’s like the writers got tired of coming up with different personas and jokes so they threw out anything even vaguely related to comedy.  I was honestly impressed by the time the credits rolled that a ventriloquist wasn’t wheeled out in desperation.  And that’s to say nothing of the actual jokes we do get to hear.  According to everything I could find on this movie, multiple stand-up comics came on as consultants.  Tom Hanks (disastrously) tried stand-up on his own before getting training.  Field also performed in preparation.  A bunch of comedians even show up in bit parts throughout the movie, most notably George Wallace.

But it’s a screaming shame that all the behind-the-scenes talent doesn’t come across in a single joke.

Everyone earns their participation trophies; they all do their best.  Field is supposed to be stiff as a corpse in the beginning and improve throughout, which she does, but at no point does she seem like a comedy club regular.  There’s little indication anyone had to really work to even achieve that level.  Goodman mentions she’s been on this little comedy kick for about six months.  Hanks shows her up by telling her he’s been at it for a year.  It’s supposed to be a statement of sobering commitment, the rough equivalent of a seventy-year-old vet scaring sense into a fresh-faced private with several days’ worth of Vietnam horror stories.  I know people who took over a year just to figure out if stand-up is even what they want to do.  I know people who have used a few of the same jokes for longer than a year. Two, even.

It’s one of many, many glaring blind spots in the film, where the reality of stand-up was romanticized, smudged or outright ignored.

But it’s not the worst example.

Just before the final showcase, Field and Hanks mend their proverbial fences.  They exchange friendly banter and peek at the crowd from backstage.  Standard “break a leg” stuff.  Until the very end of the scene.

Field says she’s trying out a bit of new material.  Hanks confidently tells her his entire set is brand spanking new.

For a showcase.

For talent scouts.

For a shot at The Tonight Show.

All. New. Material.

This from a character who forgot everything shy of the English language and cried the last time a scout was in the audience.

This lunacy is just a cheap-and-easy way to heap on some extra tension for the final competition.  It doesn’t work and the movie can’t even be bothered to let it make a difference.

If you still want to watch this picture on your own, here’s the part where I reveal the exciting conclusion.

Field goes out and kills. Well, kills by this movie’s definition.  But we know she grew as a person because her husband has turned around completely and is laughing the loudest from the audience, even at jokes about himself.

Hanks goes out and promptly blanks.  He insults the judges for a bit. Somehow he brings it back to his act and picks up steam again.  He also ends up killing (by this movie’s definition).

Backstage, the owner of The Gas Station tells everyone the judges want to announce the winner on stage.  Field finds out that she’s the winner, but she doesn’t want it anymore – her husband sent her a lovely note on a cocktail napkin.  She withdraws, leaving Hanks the winner.

Everyone goes out but Field, who makes a subtle exit.  Hanks is praised.  Goodman excitedly offers new jokes to Field.

Happily ever after, allegedly.

It’s disappointing in completely unintended ways.  Hanks’s character flatly didn’t deserve the opportunity. He didn’t grow. He still froze like January on stage. Field somehow finds solace purely in her husband’s approval.  It makes sense in the abstract, but the movie never spent the time to make that her quest.  That’s not to mention the fact that it’s cripplingly reductive for Field’s story.  All she needed to feel fulfilled in stand-up is to finally let her husband watch.  Sure, she turned down a guest spot on Johnny Carson which would’ve undoubtedly benefited her career and the livelihood of her family.  Sure, she’s ten years older than Hanks who will have plenty more time to develop his craft and work on his nerves.  But all that doesn’t matter – her husband approves and that’s what matters.

Punchline is a strange beast.

It’s a half-comedy, half-drama without any connective tissue. It stars a Tom Hanks who hadn’t yet settled into being America’s dad, a Tom Hanks who still played pricks once in a while and played them well (Volunteers, The Bonfire of the Vanities).  It’s entirely about a culture that it takes almost no time to understand, appreciate or communicate to the audience.  It carries a sexist, though perhaps prescient, lesson, that young white guys win in the comedy scene at the expense of the women they harass on the way. And ultimately it’s boring.

But there are brief, fleeting glimpses of wasted ideas and intriguing, if missed trains of thought.

When Hanks breaks down upon Field’s romantic rejection and dances in the rain, the camera watches him through the windows of the diner.  His singing fades, as does all natural sound.  All that’s left is the score.  A lonely piano from some forgotten film noir.  Hanks dances madly and merrily in the middle of traffic. Field cries from behind glass.  For this brief moment, Punchline predicts and approaches the melancholy poetry of Louie.

Two of the other stand-up regulars at The Gas Station hint at more interesting, more heartfelt stories left in the margins.  One, almost a perfect stereotype of the middle-aged man, is awful at stand-up.   Early on, the audience eats him alive.  He doesn’t have the charisma to command the stage or the back bone to stand his ground when hecklers challenge his claim to it.  Hanks provides him a simple comeback to use on the rougher customers, but he immediately forgets it.  Again, he shrinks in the spotlight.  Though he’s still there in the final showcase and his wife even drove him.  How did this guy end up as a regular at an established comedy club?  Why would the owner let him onto a showcase of his best talents? Why did he turn to stand-up in the first place?  Any one of those answers would provide a much more interesting movie than the one we get, but they would still pale in comparison to the other stand-up of note.

Immediately, this comic stands out.  He’s got a face like a catcher’s mitt and a voice like cracked asphalt. He’s at least thirty years older than the likes of Hanks and Field. His act always ends with a tune, more crooned than sung.  And he always tells the audience he loves them, but his first love is comedy.  This man has more heart than any other character in the movie. So what does it do to him?  Just before the big showcase, he asks the owner why he isn’t on the line-up.  The owner first says he missed a sign-up sheet.  The comic takes it hard, but takes it in stride. Then the owner tells him it’s a showcase for new talent, and he’s anything but.

The man deflates.

It’s the single most affecting moment in the movie.  A supporting character, nearly an extra, has his dream crushed and buried in front of his friends.  Nobody says anything about it.  The owner attempts a recovery by suggesting he sit in the audience and provide some laughter.  But it’s a cruel joke.

This character shows up once more, as Field thinks he’s having a heart attack and grabs Hanks to diagnose him (med student, remember? The movie barely does.).  He’s fine, just depressed, and tells Hanks he’s staying to see who won.

Then nothing.

That’s it.  He has no real resolution.  He is there during the finale, but his life is still over.  He’s still lost more than anyone else in the movie.  How did he end up in stand-up somewhere north of his 60s?  He mentions wanting to make the Ed Sullivan Show when it was still around, so he must’ve been at it for a while.  But that’s it.

We watch a comedian age out of the business in the background, nothing more than set dressing for Field to learn how to be a better wife and Hanks to get a lucky break.


Punchline was a decent success with audiences.  Critics, including Ebert, weren’t so friendly.  Most agreed that a film about stand-up comedy should be funny.  Punchline is not funny.  It wins a few laughs by attrition, but none of the stand-up is funny.  But Punchline isn’t really supposed to be funny.

Stand-up comics

Tell the bartender at the Bop Stop you have a ‘Secret’ to tell him & get in free.

That was a downright alien concept back then.  Sure, it is by no means a perfect, great or perhaps even good movie.  But most of the negative reviews focus on the confusion of a movie about stand-up comedy not being a comedy.

Season 4 of Louie has almost no laughs.  It won four awards and was nominated for nine.

There’s certainly a canyon between the quality of Punchline and Louie, but look at that.  Not only did a serious look at the life of a stand-up earn critical acclaim, it earned, for now, five seasons.

And that’s just the easy example.  Sitcoms (or at least sitcom pilots) are relatively new rung on the ladder for stand-ups.  It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond. The Carmichael Show was just renewed for a third season.  Broad City was renewed for a fourth and fifth.  Maron is diving deep into showing a comedian fighting addiction.  Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite is entertainingly and honestly exploring depression and bipolar disorder while also deconstructing the recent trend of semi-autobiographical TV shows about comedians (or comediennes, as the case may be).

Everybody and his-or-her brother, perhaps literally, has their own podcast.  WTF with Marc Maron blazed the trail for more stand-up podcasts than any of us could listen to in a lifetime.

The big screen hasn’t seen too many fictional features about stand-up, though Judd Apatow’s Funny People is a stand-out.  But documentaries on particular comedians, specific tours and stand-up culture itself are more common than ever before.  Stand-up specials continue to thrive on cable and streaming services.


Stand-up used to get no respect.  Sure, the hipper crowd and the comedy geeks might’ve been able to rattle off Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words, but they were hardly the rule.  The biggest exposure the average person had to stand-up was The Tonight Show.

But these days, stand-up is more respected than ever.

I’m not saying Punchline brought it that respect.  Very, very, very far from it.  It’s a patchwork quilt of a movie that’s missing half its patches.

But somewhere behind its misguided comedy and half-hearted truth, it hides the beginnings of so many movies, shows and podcasts that surround us today.

And that, I think, is the funniest thing about it.


For more articles like this, visit Jeremy’s film blog at

What do you call a mentor, father, comedian & teacher? Marv Conner, has been a consistent supporter of comedians and the Akron/ Cleveland comedy scene for years. He is a staple of the Funny Stop Comedy Club in Cuyahoga Falls and has often taken part in and assisted with the Cleveland Comedy Festival. Marv attended Carrollton High School and the University of Akron. Conner taught for 30 years, coached basketball, track & cross country for 27 of those years. He and his wife Charlene who have been married for 31 years raised three children; Brittany, Colton and Devin, who is continuing the comedic legacy moving to Los Angeles to pursue comedy.



For 18 years ‘Mad’ Marv, as he is known, has supported & performed comedy in Northeast Ohio entertaining thousands over the years. He attributes his style and influences  to Bill Hicks and Dave Attell along with Mike Veneman, another staple of Northeast Ohio comedy.

The highlights of Marv’s career includes appearing in the very successful “American Gladiators- rejected auditions” and “Man Gets Ass Beat By Cop” which have been seen by millions of viewers. He has performed in the HBO internet series Runaway box, and Man in the box. He also has appeared on the Tony Rizzo Show and The Mike Polk Jr. Show which can be found on Fox 8 Cleveland. Marv is a regular on The Pretty Swell Guys comedy pod cast and has anchored their shows at local comedy clubs. Marv took part in The Pretty Swell Guys Cleveland Comedy Festival TV broadcast where he appeared as a feature act. Marv has also been featured in The Cleveland Plain Dealer Laugh Track column. He has written for the late Mike Veneman and owes his comedy insight to Mike as he was Marv’s first teacher in comedy and valuable alibi witness. Marv is unpredictable and has such a great time doing comedy you can bet you will have a fun time too. Marv Conner is one of the good guys in comedy always thinking of others, how he can help, above all else, he is a model of each person in comedy or in life should strive to emulate, a true professional.


Host: Jimmie Graham
Showtime: Doors at 8pm
Night: Wednesday
Address: 5801 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102
Phone: (216) 651-9474
Accidental Comedy Club’s Modern Kicks at The Happy Dog is one of the most exciting regular showcases in the Cleveland comedy scene and for good reason. You wouldn’t expect many people to show up to watch stand-up in the basement of a bar on a Wednesday night when the Cavs are playing the 5th game of a tied Eastern Conference finals series. Instead of having a low-turnout, Modern Kicks packed the room with 50+ audience members for an incredible night of comedy.


The show featured some of Cleveland’s finest comics, such as Yusuf Ali, Jasmyn Carter, Logan Rishaw, Tabitha Jones and John Wellington. There were special drop-in
sets from out-of-town comics Dorian Vasquez (Columbus) and Nick Dlouhy (Chicago). Then, of course, the show featured some fantastic sets from Accidental Comedy Club
’s roster of comedians: Brian Kenny, David Flynt, and the host Jimmie Graham.
Free admission by saying 'MAD MARV'

Free admission by saying ‘MAD MARV’

The show was closed out with an extended set from Ramon Rivas II, his last show
in Cleveland before heading off to New Orleans to tape his Comedy Central special.
Congrats Ramon!
The Happy Dog is a corner bar located in the Gordon Square Arts District of Cleveland. One of the most fun and inviting bars in Cleveland, the venue hosts comedy shows, storytelling shows, and concerts spanning every genre of music. While there, be sure to order a gourmet hot dog or tater tots,
both featuring an almost endless list of toppings.

Wednesday June 1st the Cleveland Comedy Festival presents The Next Level Showcase at The Bop Stop / The Music Settlement featuring Al Park.


The show is $10 and starts at 8pm, The Bop Stop is equipped with a full bar and light appetizers. This is the latest installment of the Next Level series which combines new talent with more established comedians who travel all over the nation. The show is hosted by festival Co-founder John Wellington. This months showcase of comedians are as follows: Ray Hyclak , Christine Kansy, Sean Sullivan, Kali Fencil, Nancy Remley and Milton Wyley.  (SAY “PARK” GET IN 2FOR1)


Al Park has quickly emerged as a rising talent on the national comedy scene. In just the past year, he won both the Boston Comedy Festival and the Cleveland Comedy Festival, and was a finalist in the prestigious Seattle International Comedy Competition. He has also been a featured performer at the Laugh Your Asheville Off Comedy Festival and North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival. He now travels the country captivating audiences with his world-wise attitude and storytelling flair. Blending personal observation and cultural satire into a unique, authentic comic voice, Park delivers a show that will make you think, feel, and laugh the whole time.


The Next Level Showcase is a benefit for Cleveland Comedy Festival 9, a not-for profit organization.



Gig Report: The Kill Room Comedy Show at The Sachsenheim Hall

Hosts: John Wellington & Jeremy Sheer

Showtime: 9pm – 11pm

Night: Thursday

Address: 7001 Denison Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44102

Phone: 216-651-0888

Some comics roast other comics, sometimes it’s a place being roasted. But in the history of roasting no one has ever roasted a mustache. A challenge was thrown down by Dave Flynt to Bob Seeholzer, ‘Hey man, we should roast that shitty mustache of yours.” With that, the first ever roasting of a mustache was on and who better to do the roasting than John Wellington & Jeremy Sheer.

‘You look like your auditioning for the Police Academy reboot.’ ‘Could you do some senior picture posing for us Bob.’ And he totally did. ‘Why Bob why?’ Was one of Dave Flynt’s questions. Secretly we think Chris Edward Paugh liked the mustache, ‘I am sorry, I got nothing,’ he said.

The stache in question-

The stache in question-

The show didn’t get started until after the Cavs victory over the Raptors & after the roast we did a regular show which featured the roaster himself Bob Seeholzer, Yusuf Ali, Chris Edward Paugh, Kristin Galewood, Dave Flynt and Jeremy Sheer with John Wellington hosting. (SAY ‘BOSTON’ FOR FREE ADMISSION AT THE DOOR)

Grumpy even surprised with some new specials lasagna & salad. Who knew to ask for salad, but it looked awesome.  First time anyone ever went to a bar and said hey that’s looks like a good salad over there. Make it a point when going to the Sachsenheim to ask about the specials, Thursday nights features $1.00 burgers and $.75 hot dogs.

The Sachsenheim was erected, one hundred and eleven years ago, on the auspicious ridge of Denison Avenue, overlooking the city of Cleveland, by the Alliance of Transylvanian Saxons.

A massive three-story multi-purpose event facility, complete with hardwood-floored ballroom, dining hall, three commercial kitchens, tavern, and fenced-in Biergarten. The Saxons turned over building operations, Scott Lindell, better known around town by his tongue-in-cheek nickname, ‘Grumpy.” Grumpy had, for years, operated a beloved neighborhood eatery out of Tremont that bore his name and featured his numerous inventive and lovingly-prepared appetizers and entrees. Come by any night for great chef specials or classic German fare.