The first Plano Comedy Festival made quite an impression on Dallas' comedy community. Comedian and founder Wes Corwin and his crew put together one of the year's most impressive festivals with a list of local comedians and even some seasoned comics who perform across the country.
The festival organizers set up shows all over Plano and even managed to find new places for events when they fell through. Despite all the challenges, they attracted a massive crowd for a first-year comedy festival, and it's become an eagerly anticipated event for the Dallas comedy community.
This year, the team that organizes the Plano Comedy Festival had their work cut out for them as they sought to expand and build on the foundation they made in 2018
“There’s a constant pressure to go up in scale," Corwin says, "which is why we’ve expanded in so many ways."
The second annual Plano Comedy Festival kicks off on Thursday, Sept. 12, with a much longer schedule that includes stand-up comedians, improvisational comedy troupes and live podcast records The festival also has more centralized locations that take crowds to venues around the downtown Plano area, such as the Cox Playhouse, Hub Streat and McCall Plaza.
“Previously, it was wherever we could book it, and now we're able to focus it in the downtown Plano area, which is going to be more geographically convenient for our attendees," Corwin says. "The Cox Playhouse and Hub Streat accommodate twice as many, I think a little more than double the people than last year’s did and without minimizing last year because we sold out every show. We're banking on even more people coming out to see comedy in Plano.”
This year's festival lineup includes 75 comedians from the Dallas area and beyond, with headliners such as Martin Urbano, Richard Douglas Jones, Paul Varghese, Jasmine Ellis, Barry Whitewater and KeLanna Spiller, whose performance at the Arlington Improv was included in the latest season of Kevin Hart's stand-up showcase Hart of the City on Comedy Central.
"This is actually my first year performing in the Plano Comedy Festival, but what makes them different from other festivals I've been a part of is their communication and how accommodating they've been," Spiller says. "They're doing a great job keeping everyone updated on any changes. They've worked hard to ensure that shows are evenly spread out amongst the comedians. They also got a host hotel with special rates. They understand that being a comedian means ballin' on a budget."
The festival also features new areas of comedy dedicated to improv comedy troupes on the schedule headlined by ComedySportz DFW that's based at The Comedy Arena in McKinney and three additional Dallas improv comedy troupes: Roller Ghoster, Kill Me Please and The Folding Chairs. The festival will also feature a live performance by comic magician Eric Eaton and six live recordings of comedy podcasts including The Brave Boys Podcast, Comedy Pending, Talk Show Incorporated and more.
"We're trying to make more people in Plano aware of comedy and how close comedy is to them," Corwin says. "There are so many shows popping up in Plano and so many different producers. Hopefully, this will turn residents who aren't aware of them not just this weekend but every weekend after this festival weekend in Plano."
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Ellis says it's also an honor for her and other comedians to perform in a festival dedicated to the place where they got their start and still perform in to this day.
"It feels great," says Ellis, who got her start in DFW before moving to Austin and touring on the road. "I'm really honored anytime I'm asked to perform in DFW but to be asked to headline a festival is really great. It feels like I'm really on my way. I'm very proud my peers see me as someone funny and capable enough to do this."
Corwin says he also hopes the constant expanding of the festival will strengthen Plano and DFW's comedy communities by showcasing its more unique and entertaining talent for years to come.
“Last year’s fest was a little bit of a test," Corwin says. "It was two shows a night across three nights and this is going to be six to seven hours a day of comedy content across so many different mediums. So organizationally, there's so much more to manage than last year’s festival but hopefully the end result will be something people of Plano would want in a comedy festival.”