While Manhattan may be lacking a comedy club, it will not be lacking in comedians tonight and tomorrow night.
Jeremy Ricci, sophomore in engineering, created and will host the two-day comedy festival, called Laugh-A-Palooza. The event will take place at the Wareham Opera House.
“I’m really passionate about (comedy), and this town doesn’t have a really huge comedy scene,” Ricci said.
From local Manhattan comedians, such as Aaron Messerla, junior in mathematics and music, to professional comedians from Los Angeles, like Brett Riley, Ricci has pulled a variety of people together to create this festival.
“Comedy is not entertainment that people find here, so it’s really important to me to bring something here that’s not music or that’s not alcohol to this town so people can enjoy it,” Ricci said.
Ricci said one of the more difficult parts of planning the event was the promotion.
“I’ve self-promoted pretty heavily because I do a lot of comedy, so naturally I invite a lot of people to my shows,” Ricci said. “People get burnt out on that. After a while, your notifications become synonymous with Candy Crush.”
Riley, who is from Hutchison, Kansas, is a headliner for the event. He said he respects Ricci and the effort he is putting in to make comedy a more prominent part of Manhattan.
“It has to start somewhere, and I always have much respect for people like Jeremy that are trying to create a scene and trying to bring opportunity,” Riley said. “There’s talent, locally, everywhere. It’s just a matter of nurturing it.”
Messerla said there are many different types of comedy, and even in Manhattan people can experience that variety and find a type of comedy they enjoy.
“I think we’ve got enough variety (of comedy) even just in Manhattan to start giving people a little bit different perspective of ‘I wonder if there are other people who tell jokes like this,’” Messerla said.
Riley said he hopes to see a large audience and is looking forward to sharing his comedy with the citizens of Manhattan.
“I hope the word gets out, and I hope there’s a great crowd because a lot of really, really good things are coming in the future, and I would love to build a fan base in Manhattan because it’s a great town,” Riley said.
The Wareham Opera House as a venue is another part of the event that is bringing some excitement to those planning and performing.
“I’ve wanted to work at the Wareham for a long time,” Ricci said. “It seats 550 people. It’s an opera house — it’s perfect for comedy. It’s got lower-level seating and upper-level seating. It’s got a bar and a great stage.”
With such a large venue, the comedians, especially ones not as familiar with performing in front of a large crowd, must prepare with practice.
Messerla said he performed at open-mic nights in cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C., and those open-mic nights are part of how he prepares for an event like Laugh-A-Palooza.
“I had good shows both times, so it’s just a matter of experimenting on stage in an open-mic setting, figuring out what little nuances of delivery work better than others,” Messerla said.
In addition to the venue, the date of the festival gives it an opportunity to be a Valentine’s Day date, Ricci said.
“For people going on Valentine’s Day weekend, it’s a unique date that you should absolutely seize the opportunity to have,” Ricci said. “Everybody takes a girl or guy out to dinner and a movie. Be something different. Show them something that they are going to see once and once only, and they will never see again.”
The festival also falls on the three-year anniversary from when Ricci said he first started doing stand-up comedy. While Ricci said he did not originally intend for the dates to coincide, it made the festival that much more meaningful to him.
“It’s kind of special now to me, a little more than it was,” Ricci said.
Ricci said he will be hosting throughout the festival and also doing a lot of behind the scenes work. He said he has high hopes for the event.
“I hope that it sets a precedent for more comedy in Manhattan,” Ricci said.
The first show starts at 7:30 p.m. tonight. The event is for guests 18 and older only and tickets are available on the Wareham Opera House website.