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Lady Laughs Comedy Festival (multiple venues)

  • Plan B 924 Williamson Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

Madison's been in need of a decent comedy festival for a while now, but comedy festivals are a massive pain to put on and all but guaranteed to lose money. The Comedy Club on State attempted it back in 2014 with the first and so far only Madison Comedy Festival, but that ended up being more a collection of thoroughly established headliners than the usual fest format, which highlights financially riskier up-and-coming talents. I hesitate to say that The Lady Laughs Comedy Festival, returning for its second year, is the best that Madison has to offer, since it seems a bit ramshackle in its execution, but for now it's certainly a step in the right direction. Over the course of four days you'll be able to catch almost 100 performers at various locations around town including Plan B, Art In, Brocach, and the Comedy Club. One-day tickets are $12 and a three day pass (Thursday through Saturday) is $30, but those don't include admission to events featuring headliners Lizz Winstead (co-creator of the The Daily Show) and Mary Kennedy (of Showtime's Shameless), which can be purchased as either standalone tickets, add-ons to day-passes, or part of a $55 VIP deal. This year organizer/performer Dina Nina Martinez added a panel discussion about navigating the industry, which will feature guests Melissa Hahn (booker for Asheville, North Carolina-based Modelface Comedy), Eve Paras (co-owner of the Comedy Club on State), and the aforementioned Winstead. Thursday's lineup opens, interestingly, with an all-male show called, aptly enough, "He's Not A Lady." Once the guys are outta the way, though, you're locked in for hour after hour of pun-tastic (dare I say... punderful?) show titles including "HER-Larity," "You Joke Like A Girl," and "Hoo-HA HA's" featuring standup, improv, and sketch comedy performers from all over America. The rating system on the festival's site ranks them as either "clean," "dirty," or "raunchy," to help the audience members from going in expecting dirty when they may actually be getting a comic who is... [leans in and whispers] ...raunchy. Representing Madison are Clare Dickerson (who started here but lives in LA now), Christine Hect, Vanessa Tortolano, Margaret Leaf, Shawna Lutzow, and "Yes Ma'am" (the ladies of Monkey Business Improv). With 80-plus performers listed, more than a third of whom are commuting in from Chicago, it would have been nice to see a bit more of a local focus, or at least a Madison-centric stage to give the hometown crew more shine. But other than that it's hard to hate on the far-reaching cast of comics the festival is offering. —Chris Lay