It's the 13th year for the N.C. Comedy Arts Festival, and you can guess how festival executive producer Zach Ward feels about having his pride and joy alive and kicking for so long. "I know it has become the theme this year—'lucky 13'—but I feel extremely lucky to be able to welcome so many old friends, former teachers and comedy students, and so much incredible new comedy talent to North Carolina every year," he says.
The standup side of the festival starts Jan. 30, as many Triangle comedians will perform at Motorco Music Hall in Durham. The cavalcade of comics continues through Sunday, as local and national comedians do sets mainly in Carrboro's DSI Comedy Theater or Chapel Hill's Local 506. The big-star comic doesn't show up until next weekend, when Steven Wright comes to Durham and performs at the Carolina Theatre on Feb. 10.
Ward says he's happy that the festival keeps attracting many standups from both inside and outside the Triangle. "Standup at the festival keeps growing, and this year showcases that growth," he says. "We are really looking forward to giving our audiences a chance to see April Richardson and Ted Morris."
Sketch and improv comedy will be properly represented at the festival in the final two weeks. Beginning Feb. 7, sketch and improv groups will flock to DSI and the ArtsCenter, including such names as Unstoppable Failure, Dr. Champagne, Hot & Sweaty, Oh Theodora and Carrboro's own Bat Fancy.
The Second City Touring Company will show up Feb. 8 at Carolina Theatre to do their latest revue, Laughing Matters, while Second City alumna (and one of Ward's former instructors) Susan Messing will do her show, Messing with a Friend, at the ArtsCenter on Feb. 15.
"The popular demand for Second City now, after a decade of shows, has truly validated both our festival mission and the effort DSI has put into programming professional acts from Chicago to educate local North Carolina audiences, to show comedy fans what improv and sketch comedy could be," says Ward.
He's also psyched that Kevin Allison, formerly of the MTV sketch troupe The State, will be coming to the ArtsCenter Feb. 9 to do a live episode of his storytelling podcast RISK! with Kevin Allison (think The Moth, but less NPR-y). "I am humbled that the growth of NCCAF has allowed us to attract shows like RISK!" Ward says. "The State was truly groundbreaking sketch comedy, and work performed by that cast was an important part of my own comedy education."