2008 – The First Ever Cleveland Comedy Festival
We started things off with a bang in 2008 and announced our arrival on the cover of The Plain Dealer’s FR!DAY magazine. Highlights of the 2008 Festival included:
- 4 Stand-up Comedy Shows @ The Hermit Club featuring the best 40 comedians in Cleveland.
- Improv & Sketch show @ Powerhouse Pub with Last Call Cleveland, FWB and Point of No Return.
- “Cleveland Laughs” TV Special with WVIZ featuring veteran Cleveland comedians Jimmy Malone, Mike Veneman, John Rathbone, Mike Cheselka, Marc Jaffe, Quinn Patterson, and Basile.
- Comedy Fan Forum at The Plain Dealer hosted by Mike McIntyre and featuring guest panelists Nick Kostis (Hilarities), Lee Herlands (Cleveland Improv), Ann Elder (Laugh In), Dave Schwensen (Comedy Author), Mike Polk, Jim Tews and Mike Baker (Cleveland comedians).
2009 – Ninja Comedy Death Match & Comedy Carnival
The 2009 Cleveland Comedy Festival expanded to include some new shows, a comedy carnival fundraiser event and more comedians from outside of Cleveland. Highlights included:
- Ninja Comedy Death Match Contest Show – 3 rounds, 10 comedians, improv’d topical comedy. 2009 Champion was Cleveland favorite Bill Squire.
- Comedy Video Show – Best of YouTube comedic videos by Cleveland comedians and directors.
- Comedy Carnival Fundraiser @ The Halle Building, for Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center.
- 4 Stand-up Comedy Shows @ The Hermit Club featuring the best 40 comedians in Cleveland
- Improv & Sketch show @ The Powerhouse Pub in the Flats
- Regional comedians invited from Columbus, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Chicago for Midnight Madness Shows @ Wilbert’s
2010 – Time Warner Cable TV Contest & National Headliners
- The 2010 Festival introduced a new type of comedy contest – the Time Warner Cable “Funny On Demand” contest which featured 24 of the best regional comedians performing in 4 taped comedy shows which aired on TWC. The winner – Justin Cash — received $1,000 and headlined a comedy special in February 2011 with Rob Snow (2nd place) and Darrell Dawson (3rd place) which aired on Time Warner Cable.
- The 2010 Festival also featured national stand-up headliners Al Jackson and Brad Trackman and Chicago improv comedian Susan Messing.
- Lastly, we were proud and excited to have partnership shows with two fantastic local comedy clubs The Funny Stop (Akron Showcase) and Cleveland Improv Comedy Club & Restaurant (CCF Finale Show) that featured numerous local comedians and headliners John Rathbone, Jeff Blanchard and Mike Polk.
- See Our Past Comedy Contest Winners
2011 – The Move To PlayhouseSquare and Ryan Stout Headlines
- In 2011 the Cleveland Comedy Festival found our new home by forming a partnership with PlayhouseSquare – the premiere theater arts and entertainment organization in Cleveland.
- Eight different shows were held at PlayhouseSquare Kennedy’s Cabaret and 14th Street Theatre including some amazing contest prelim shows, a Cleveland Favorites show featuring Bill Boronkay, Mike Cheselka, Mark Reedy and Courtney Gee, and two headlining performances by Ryan Stout (Boston Comedy Festival, Chelsea Lately, MTV).
- The 2011 Cleveland Comedy Festival was won by Cleveland’s own Mike Head. Mike delivered a fantastic set that won over judges and the audience alike. Mike has since gone on to win other comedy contests all over the U.S. and continues to build his resume in clubs and theaters everywhere.
- See Our Past Comedy Contest Winners
2012 – More Shows, Tom Simmons & Tammy Pescatelli
- The 2012 Cleveland Comedy Festival featured 22 shows in 8 days and over 60 comedians from all the U.S. participating.
- The contest field was stronger than ever with more prize money and additional showcase shows attracting some of the best comedians from the Midwest, NY, FL, and Canada.
- Our 2012 CCF champion was Eric Andrews from Toronto. Brent Terhune from Indianapolis was 2nd and Curtis Cook was 3rd. Eric took home $1,500 and had to get across the Canadian border with his giant check.
- One of the highlights of the festival was the “Roast of Cleveland” show featuring Ryan Dalton, Chris Hegedus, Michael Heaton (PD’s Minister of Culture), Marc Jaffe, Tim Cornett, Ray DeVito, Jennifer Downey (Ambiance) and hosted by The Plain Dealer and WCPN’s Michael McIntyre. A special appearance by Moses Cleaveland (Joe Hannum) closed out the show.
- Another highlight was the “Out Loud Laughs” LGBT comedy show fundraiser that raised over $800 for the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. Big thanks to Carey Callahan, Tamale Sepp, Bill Cruz and Adam Guerino.
- National headliner Tom Simmons came to Cleveland for two fantastic shows in 2012 and the festival finale featured Cleveland’s own favorite funny lady Tammy Pescatelli along with Mike Cheselka, Jeff Blanchard and Dave Arena.
- See Our Past Comedy Contest Winners
2013 – Huge Growth, Todd Barry, Second City, More Prize Money!
- The 2013 Cleveland Comedy Festival experienced record numbers of comedians, shows, ticket sales, and fun! Over 100 comedians participated in the 2013 and more than 4,000 people saw 50 shows in 7 days.
- Our Festival headliner was one of the funniest veteran comedians working today — Todd Barry. Todd had a packed crowd in the Allen Theatre in the palm of his hand as he deftly maneuvered between crowd work and his tightly written set. Michael Ivy, Tim Cornett and Darrell Dawson joined Todd as featured comedians.
- The Best of Cleveland Show featuring co-headliners Bill Squire and Mike Polk Jr. sold out the Allen Theatre and just killed with laughs. Audiences enjoyed the all-Cleveland lineup of Chris Clem, Mike Head, Dave Arena and Bill & Mike.
- Brad Wenzel from Michigan took home 1st place in the 2013 CCF contest winning a CCF record payday of $2,000. Brad garnered audience and judges votes with his dry deadpan style.
- In addition to our main shows at PlayhouseSquare, satellite venues were added in 2013 all over Northeast Ohio allowing us to provide more stage time to all the comedians and reach even more fans. Notable satellite venues included Hilarities 4th Street Theatre (CLE’s premier comedy club) and The Funny Stop (Akron’s premier comedy club).
- Second City brought the most famous brand name in improv comedy to the 2013 CCF with a fantastic show at the Ohio Theatre and also helped educated two classes of comedians with a few workshops while they were in town.
2014 – New Logo, More Headliners, TV Writers, Cleveland Tonight with Mike Polk Jr. Rocks The House!
- In addition to launching our new logo, the 2014 Cleveland Comedy Festival saw huge expansion in satellite venues and shows. We had a total of 18 satellite venues including Club Velvet at the Hard Rock Rocksino, The Alex Theater at the 9, Nighttown, Vosh, Brothers Lounge and many others with shows all over Northeast Ohio.
- Marina Franklin from NYC (Trainwreck, Comedy Central, Late Late Show) started things off and rocked the Hanna Theatre. We kept the laughs rolling with a Cleveland Favorites Show with a powerhouse lineup of Chad Zumock, Ryan Dalton, Joe Howard and Mike Polk Jr. Al Jackson (Comedy Central, Last Comic Standing, TruTV) joined up with fellow Clevelanders Steve Skrovan (Everybody Loves Raymond, Hot In Cleveland) and Bill Squire (WMMS Alan Cox Show) for a fantastic Cleveland Homecoming Show.
- A new unique show in 2014 was Cleveland Writes! – An Evening with TV Writers from Northeast Ohio featuring three amazing, accomplished television writers Steve Skrovan (Everybody Loves Raymond, Hot In Cleveland), Lisa DeBenedictis (Mad About You) and Marc Jaffe (Seinfeld). The panel discussion was a great celebration of Cleveland writing talent and was hosted by Mike McIntyre (WCPN, The Plain Dealer).
- The highlight of the 2014 festival was Cleveland Tonight! with Mike Polk Jr. A live comedy variety show featuring Cleveland’s favorite comedic provocateur Mike Polk Jr. The show featured funny interviews with WKYC anchor Kris Pickel, Jennifer Downey (Ambiance, the Store for Lovers), Matt Fish (Melt Bar and Grilled), Dan O’ Shannon (Executive producer ABC’s Modern Family), music by Erika Lauren and her band Hawkeye, and comedy performances by Al Jackson, Aaron McBride and Matt Zitelli.
- In the 2014 comedy contest, Al Park from Boston completed an amazing double win streak by winning the 2014 Cleveland Comedy Festival only a week after winning the 2014 Boston Comedy Festival. Taking 2nd place was Chris Nakis from Boston (originally from Ohio) and taking 3rd was one of Cleveland’s funniest comedians Brian Kenny.
2015 – Big Chuck and Lil John Tribute Show, Mike Veneman ALS Fundraiser, and Locals Dominate the Contest!
- The theme of the 2015 Cleveland Comedy Festival was “Go Ahead and Laugh” which captured the vibe of a thriving Cleveland comedy scene that basically doesn’t care anymore what anyone thinks of our city and our comedians. We know we’re hilarious.
- We continued our celebration of the past, present and future of Cleveland comedy with a tribute show to two local comedy TV legends — “Big” Chuck Schodowski and “Lil” John Rinaldi. Their careers in local TV spanned over 40 years and entertained generations of Clevelanders. The show was hosted by the always funny and BCLJ super-fan Mike Polk Jr. and included hilarious clips, photos, homage sketches by Chad Zumock, Zachariah Durr, Hot Carl Ferrara and Chris Clem and fantastic stories of their time with Ernie “Ghoulardi” Andersen and their crazy exploits over the years in local TV.
- We also paid tribute to our comedy teacher and mentor Mike Veneman with a fundraiser show in his honor for the ALS Foundation. Honoring Mike with their comedy was Bill Squire, Marv Conner, Todd McCune, Christian Hegedus, Mike Scanlon and Marc Jaffe.
- Almost all of the 60+ comedians that performed in the 2015 Cleveland Comedy Festival had a great time at the Comedian Happy Hour at Parnell’s in Playhouse Square. Comedians enjoyed free drinks, food and great conversation with each other and industry representatives from the Funny Business Agency, Bonkerz Entertainment and Hilarities 4th Street Theatre.
- Things got a little crazy with the Comedy Family Feud Show on Saturday night with a live comedic version of the popular game show. Team Cleveland featuring Dave Arena, Tim Cornett, Bill Squire and Mary Santora took on Team Akron featuring Marv Conner, Devin Conner, Jeremy Sheer and Chris Clem. Proceeds benefited the American Cancer Society and Wounded Warriors Project. Team Akron took the honors with the victory, although Team Cleveland scored numerous punch lines, which may have been just as important to the crowd and the comedians.
- In the 2015 contest, the story was the performance of Cleveland’s local comedians. Despite being out-numbered in the overall field of 48, Clevelanders placed 5 out of the 10 finalists. Taking 1st place was Clevelander Mike Paramore, who won over the audience and the panel of judges with his sweet smile and sharp wit. Finishing 2nd was another Clevelander Mary Santora, making her the first female comedian to ever place in the Cleveland Comedy Festival. Taking 3rd was Geoffrey Asmus from Wisconsin.
2016 – Jason Lawhead & Chris Porter, We Can Be Heroes with Mike Polk Jr. & Diamond Dogs, Jasmyn Carter 1st Female CCF Champion
- The 2016 Cleveland Comedy Festival featured numerous great shows including a homecoming of sorts for Jason Lawhead. Jason started his comedy career in Cleveland and helped spur the growth of the local scene with his Grimey Ninety show in Lakewood during the mid-2000s. Now he’s a big-time LA comedian touring with Bill Burr. Jason was paired with the always hilarious Chris Porter, best known from Last Comic Standing. They rocked the Sachsenheim Hall in a great show in 2016.
- One of the most unique and hilarious shows we’ve ever done was We Can Be Heroes with Mike Polk Jr. and Diamond Dogs. It was a David Bowie tribute amalgam of comedy, music, sketches and love interviews. The show featured the incomparable Mike Polk Jr. as host and ringmaster and several musical performances from the amazing Diamond Dogs, a local band that embodies the sound and vision of David Bowie. Radio legend John Gorman from oWOW Radio was interviewed, Jennifer Downey from Ambiance also appeared and taught us about Modern Love and the whole show helped raise money for The Greater Cleveland Food Bank.
- Cleveland All-Stars of Comedy Jeff Blanchard, Juanda Mayfield, Bill Squire, Bill Boronkay and Dave Arena shared the stage at the Hanna Theatre and brought some serious comedy credentials and laughs to a great show.
- In addition to the laughs, the comedians also has a chance to learn and ask questions of headliners Jason Lawhead and Chris Porter in a fantastic Q&A session. They also had the opportunity to listen and interact with comedy industry legend Chris DiPetta (Atlanta Punchline owner) at his industry Q&A session as well.
- We were very proud to have our first ever female Cleveland Comedy Festival female champion in 2016 with Cleveland comedian Jasmyn Carter taking the top honors. Jasmyn owned the crowd during the prelims and the finals and earned the admiration of the industry judges as well. Kansas City comedian Aaron Naylor took 2nd place with his dry wit and clever joke mastery and Chicago comedian Sonal Aggarwal took 3rd place getting laughs and bringing some attitude.