A Jester’s Dozen: This Summer’s Top 12 Comedy Festivals

Update: The Megaphone Marathon has released their lineup; this piece reflects the changes.

While music festivals rule the fest roost during the summertime, comedy fests aren’t nothing to laugh at, err, wait, or actually they are, but, you know what I mean. Be you humor neophyte or comedy nerd, these twelve diverse festivals have something for everyone.

12. Just For Laughs (Montréal, Québec) — Kicking off our list is the biggest comedy gathering in the world. JFL is like SXSW but for “the funny.” Headliners will include Dave Chappelle, Natasha Leggero and Eddie Pepitone, Trevor Noah, Patton Oswalt and Margaret Cho. The always spot-on “New Faces of Comedy” showcase will announce its lineup two days before showtime on July 20th.

Blog patton

11. Del Close Marathon (New York, New York) — Named after long-form improvisational comedy architect Del Close, DCM is a brouhaha of improv troupes from around the country performing various unique, fast-paced and traditional formats. Those doing the “Yes and”-ing include Chicago comical scene-architects Baby Teeth, Britain’s The Rebranding, music magis Hot Again, upstart nontet Passionate Mom Society and dozens more.


10. Bonnaroo (Manchester, Tennessee) — If you’re burnt out on buzz bands and cash-grabbing reunion acts, this famed music festival’s comedy theater has got you covered. Headliners include media empresario Chris Hardwick, melodic joke-maker Reggie Watts and Roastmaster general Jeff Ross, but be sure to catch must-see acts “Same Sex Symbol” Cameron Esposito, funnyman Matt McCarthy and TV mainstay April Richardson.


9. Pittsburgh Comedy Festival (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) — After successfully debuting last year, this hilarity expo boasts star-studded top-billers including improv troupe Bombardo featuring Parks & Rec’s Aubrey Plaza and the uber-popular Todd Glass as well as emerging area groups and comics. (Full lineup TBA)bombabs 8. Pemberton Music Festival (Pemberton, British Columbia) — One of Canada’s biggest music festivals also plays host to a grandiose knee-slapping, alternative comedy-friendly stage. Adult Swim’s Tim & Eric, silver screen vets Cheech & Chong and Silicon Valley’s T.J. Miller are among the big names on the marquee, but don’t miss sets from stand-up/performance art amalgamist Chris Trew, Fresh Off the Boat writer Ali Wong and provocative pantomime spectacle the Air Sex Championships.


7. The Big-Little Comedy Fest (Cleveland, Ohio) — Spotlighting some of the best joke smiths and comedy-doers in the Midwest (and a select few from across the country), this yuk-yuk fest features buzz worthy acts across all comedic media. (Lineup TBA)

big little

6. The 2nd Annual 26th Annual Comedy Festival (Chicago, Illinois) — Put on by pop-culture and satire media kingpins The A.V. Club and The Onion, this hilariously titled festival features a screening of UHF with special guest Weird Al himself, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star Ellie Kemper and The Windy City’s hardest-working stardom-bound comics Martin Morrow, Rebecca O’Neal and Mike Lebovitz.


5. Brooklyn Comedy Festival (New York, New York) — No, this isn’t a festival where hipsters criticize things and laugh at their own jokes, but rather it’s a standup, sketch and improv cavalcade showcasing noise-making comedy personas on the cusp of breaking through to the mainstream comedy scene. (Lineup TBA)


4. Austin Sketch Fest (Austin, Texas) — Keep Comedy Weird at the annual Austin Sketch Fest. The Live Music Capital of the World is also earning a reputation as the next great comedy pipeline. The week-long engagement features noise-making local and national sketch acts and performers. Be sure to catch beast-mode sketch faction Bad Example, talented solo songbird Megan Simon, LOL-inciters 2girls1pup and star-in-the-making Vanessa Gonzalez.


3. Megaphone Marathons (Austin, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana) — Billed as “104.8 miles of comedy,” the Megaphone Marathons are hosted by alt-humor factory The New Movement Theater and serves as an annual birthday party for the Austin and New Orleans theaters. Make a point to see killshot comedy snipers Chris Kyle: American Improvisers, absurdity architects Taken Seriously and innovative humor wrecking ball Rob Gagnon in Sandbox.


2. Duofest (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) — Showcasing the U.S., Canada and the U.K.’s top dyads, Duofest is four days of out-there characters, dynamic relationships and layered scenes. Highlights include local improv heros Gaper Delay, Tampa Bay’s performance cyclones Equanimity, Montréal’s improv storytellers Easy Action, prolific U.K. scene-partners Breaking & Entering, Raleigh-Durham’s crafty Diabolical Fishbank and musical improv powerhouse Cat & Vegas and the Temple of Boom.


1. Chicago Women’s Funny Festival (Chicago, Illinois) — Boasting 500 performers and 77 shows across 4 stages in just 4 days, CWFF is rife with unique and crowd-pleasing comedy voices. The sketch and standup-heavy lineup showcases Chicago’s top homegrown talent as well as a few traveling jesters. Highlights include bombastic sketch outfit Just The Tip, comic wordsmith Kris Simmons, comedy Renaissance woman Amy Sumpter, the irreverent women of GayCo and a unique two-piece show from SNL scribe Katie Rich and Onion News Network contributor Holly Laurent.