[Editor's note: The year is coming to an end fast. To celebrate 2014, we'll be revisiting the memorable things that happened with a different topic each week. Stayed tuned for more.]
It seems like the Twin Cities comedy scene tops itself every year in terms of importance, creativity, and fanfare, and 2014 was no exception. Whether it was homegrown festivals, local favorites making the leap to the mainstream, or A-listers with Minnesota ties celebrating their triumphant homecomings, the past 12 months have seen our state continue to stake its claim as the comedy capital of the U.S.
While there were plenty of amazing shows and moments this past year, a handful stood out above the rest. These are the best comedy moments of 2014. Let the debate begin!
Acme Comedy Co. goes international
For years, Acme Comedy Co. has been known as one of the best comedy venues in the country. Now, they're looking to take on the world. This past September, owner Louis Lee made the move to the Far East with a tour of Asia featuring Acme standouts Chad Daniels, Tom Segura, and Pete Lee. The week-long run of shows included appearances in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Macau, and was considered a huge success.
While no immediate plans have been announced for the club's international expansion, it's safe to say that it's only a matter of time before Acme announces its (comedy) world domination.
10,000 Laughs Festival takes over
On pretty much any night of the week, you can find an incredible comedy show happening somewhere in the Twin Cities. For one week this past October, however, essentially every club in town was packed with amazing local and national talent, when the 10,000 Laughs Festival put on its biggest and best installment yet. From incredible headliners to fantastically unique shows like Pundamonium and Think Fast! improv standup, this year's festival was the most ambitious and successful yet.
Cats, booze, and punchlines reigned supreme for a solid week this fall, and based on its success, the sky is the limit for the biggest and best comedy fest in the Midwest.
Mick Foley: Wrestling comedian
While the list of amazing comedians who made stops in the Twin Cities this past year goes on and on and on, there are a few names that made even the most savvy comedy fan stop in his or her tracks.
Former WWE wrestling superstar Mick Foley packed New Hope Cinema Grill for two shows this past February, sharing jokes and tales of his adventures in the ring. While the movie theater has been no stranger to hosting unique acts for its comedy showcase, Foley may be one of the most bizarre -- and also one of the best.
Gus Lynch: Best Comedian Ever
In undoubtedly the saddest comedy news of the year, just this month we lost Gus Lynch, one of the funniest and most loved comedians on the scene. Already an accomplished actor and comedian, Lynch had an incredible year in 2014 comedy-wise, which included winning Joke Joint Comedy Club's Best Comedian Ever contest in October, his very first headlining sets at House of Comedy in November, and starring in a number of hugely popular online sketches alongside The Turkeys comedy group. In addition, he was the co-founder of Stand Up! Records Akumal Comedy Festival, which celebrated its third anniversary this past April, and he was considered a friend and mentor to dozens of comedians all over the Twin Cities. The outpouring of love and support for Gus and his family from his fellow comedians served as a touching tribute to an amazing performer and person.
Minnesota dominates Last Comic Standing
This past summer, NBC revived the long-standing hit reality series Last Comic Standing, pitting 100 of the country's best comedians against one another for the opportunity to win cash, prestige, and an NBC TV deal. While the talent pool was insanely deep, it's hard to argue with the fact that Minnesota offered the very best talent with seven local (or locally affiliated) comedians throwing their names into the hat. Mary Mack, Tim Harmston, Pete Lee, Pat Susmilch, Tommy Ryman, Nate Abshire, and Tracey Ashley were all featured on the series, with Ryman and Ashley managing to move deep into the competition before bowing out.
While none of the Twin Cities talents took home the title, our state clearly made an impact, as producers hosted a talent showcase for the next season of the show this fall at Acme.
Wits celebrates its 50th show
If you've never seen Wits live, you're missing the boat. The funniest, smartest, and most unique public radio show on the air today has featured a who's who of incredible comedians and musicians over the past several years. Last June, the show celebrated its 50th episode, right around the same time host John Moe released his first book, Dear Luke, We Need to Talk. Darth. In addition to dominating the local scene from inside the hallowed walls of the Fitzgerald Theater, Moe and company have taken their show on the road with Wits performances in California and Oregon, as well as shows across the river in Minneapolis.
While the spring season was incredible, the fall shows may have been even better, demonstrating that the future is bright (and still fantastically weird) for Wits.
Nick Swardson comes home
When it comes to stories of Minnesotans who hit the big time, Nick Swardson has to be near the top of the list. After getting his start at Acme Comedy Co.'s open mic night, Swardson became a massive success both as a standup comedian and an actor. For the past several years, Swardson has spent far more time onscreen than onstage, starring in films alongside A-listers like Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. This year, he decided to dust off the mic and re-ignite his standup career, starting back where it all began: Acme. After warming up with three very sold-out shows at Acme this spring (and setting the record for fastest sell-outs in the club's history), Swardson launched into a massive cross-country standup tour, which included a return visit to Minneapolis at the State Theatre. This December, he'll be recording a brand-new comedy special to cap off his triumphant 2014.
Rifftrax rekindles the magic of Mystery Science Theater 3000
Fans of terrible movies and hilariously biting commentary rejoiced this summer, as some of the crew behind Mystery Science Theater 3000 reunited for the first-ever live Rifftrax event at the State Theatre. Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett showed they still have what it takes when it comes to roasting the very worst in cinema, as they took on the sci-fi masterpiece Sharknado! In addition to happening in front of a sold-out crowd in downtown Minneapolis, the event was broadcast in movie theaters throughout the country, giving snark-lovers from all over the opportunity to revel in seeing the very best in riffing take on the very worst in film.