Danzy was performing at Andy's Basement Bar and Grill on Denton's North Locust Street in 2014 when a man named RJ Avery approached him to congratulate him on his set. Then he inquired about putting together a comedy show.
"You get a lot of people who show interest in putting on a show but you can't really take anybody seriously when they want to do their own and they aren't a comic," Danzy says. "But he was serious."
The next time Danzy saw Avery, again at the Twilight Lounge in Deep Ellum, Avery had already set up a venue, volunteers, a website and even wristbands for his comedy festival. All Danzy had to do was help find some headliners and offer some guidance.
"When this opportunity came up, I jumped on it," Avery says. "This one seemed like, above and beyond, it would be a success."
Their partnership produced the first Denton Comedy Festival, a three-day comedy event featuring five showcases over three nights. Thursday's lineup will go on at Killer's Tacos on Bryan Street, with the festival moving over to J&J's Pizza's Old Dirty Basement on West Oak Street for Friday and Saturday.
The festival will feature live performances by 35 local and national comedians,
You might be thinking that Avery, a real estate broker who works in Richardson, is doing all this because he's an aspiring comedian trying to score a bigger venue and bigger crowds for himself. Or perhaps he's some kind of talent agent with skin in the game. It turns out he's neither. He says he's just a fan who wants to give his favorite comics another place to play. "I'm making it something that a true comedy nerd can come to and really give them an idea of the talent that's here in Denton," Avery says.
Avery says he's been wanting to bring a signature comedy event to Denton for a while. "It's a great city," Avery says. "There's so much good energy, whether it's comedy or music or art or political debate. It's just a vibrant town."
Danzy says that a comedy festival in Denton is a natural fit. Towns with a growing music scene often cultivate their own comedy community thanks to the influx of live stages and regular customers who crave live entertainment, and Denton is no exception. It's also quite an accomplishment considering that Denton doesn't have an official club dedicated to showcasing comedic talent.
"There's already a good response to live entertainment and Denton has a small, thriving comedy scene," he says. "Mostly, the Denton guys don't get looked at because the Dallas market for comedy is so flooded and saturated. I think some of the Denton comics are funnier than some of the Dallas guys."
Avery also wanted to organize a festival that would be more accessible for attendees as well as the people onstage. Avery lowered the ticket prices — "so we can pack it out" — and minimized the red tape for comics who wanted to perform.
"From my perspective as a comedian, you pay money to submit only to see the same people booked every year," Danzy says. "I'm giving you money so you can give it to your friends to do your festival. We wanted it to be free and the good side about that is when someone's not picked, they don't feel like it's a financial loss to them."
Avery says he doesn't expect to make any money from this festival even with donations and sponsorships. However, that's not why he jumped at this opportunity. "The goal of this festival is to have a yearly place for comedians to come back to," he says.
The Denton Comedy Festival will take place Thursday through Saturday at Killer's Tacos (424 Bryan St.) and J&J's Pizza (118 W. Oak St.). Tickets are $5 to $13 at odbcomedyfestival.com.