By Gwen Schanker, news staff
Laughter brings people together, but a comedy festival brings the laugh makers together.
Last week, ImprovBoston brought more than 300 comedians to the city as part of the Boston Comedy Arts Festival (BCAF), an annual showcase that features sketch comics, standup artists and improvisational groups. The festival included more than 30 action-packed shows from Wednesday to Sunday, and the impressive variety meant there was something funny for everyone.
“Boston is a place for people to see comedy and do comedy on a weekly and daily basis,” Kevin Quigley, associate producer of the BCAF, said.
“[The festival] is a way to showcase all that and to showcase ImprovBoston as one of the centers for comedy in Boston.”
This is the seventh year that ImprovBoston, a nonprofit theater in Cambridge, has hosted the BCAF. The theater’s coordinators now have the tenure to bring in artists from around the country.
That includes everyone from big name celebrities – this year’s festival featured Tim Meadows from “Saturday Night Live” and Greg Proops from “Whose Line is it Anyway?” – to up-and-comers with the potential to become future stars. These range from college improv groups like Emerson College’s Swollen Monkey Showcase and Boston University’s Liquid Fun to more seasoned acts like the Ladies of the People’s Improv Theater in New York City.
The innate creativity of the performers means that every act brings something different to the table, creating a dynamic experience for the performers and audience alike.
“Going to the BCAF really cements how important exposure to other genres of comedy is,” Dana Jay Bein, head of the standup department at ImprovBoston, said. “It’s a great opportunity to see what’s out there nationally but also locally.”
For Will Luera, ImprovBoston’s former artistic director who relocated to Florida last year, performing at this year’s festival was a laughter-filled homecoming. Luera was part of the team that built ImprovBoston from a small group in Inman Square to the large, creative community it is today. He also worked closely with Bein to plan the first BCAF six years ago.
“I really wanted to do a festival that brought together the community and was also able to bring some of the best artists from around the world into the city,” Luera said.
On Friday night, Luera and his group, Big Bang Improv, took the stage at the Cambridge Public Library Auditorium to perform a free-form montage that they call “follow the funny.”
“We put together such a diverse mix of performers, which improves the art because we’re all learning from one another,” Luera said. “We’re not only trying to make a good impression to our peers but also to colleagues from all over.”
Like those of many great comedy troupes, every Big Bang show is random, and no performance is ever the same. On Friday, the audience was treated to a show about sweaters, countdowns and steak-filled watermelon.
For Quigley, the festival is the perfect manifestation of how the comedy scene in Boston has developed over the years.
“One of my goals is to promote stuff like sketch, which has traditionally not been a huge part of the comedy community,” he said. “The sketch community is so robust, and it’s getting even more interesting.”
Besides being able to spread the word about great Boston comedians, Quigley enjoys his job because it satisfies a basic human need: laughter.
“The reason I do this is because I love to laugh,” he said. “Because there’s such a variety, it never stops being funny.”
Photo by Joseph Thomas