For the past six years, Tim Slagle has challenged comedians from around the country to come to Minneapolis to perform a week of shows with absolutely no stage-tested material.
Acme Comedy Co.
While the concept may seem like a trainwreck waiting to happen, the reality is that the annual Crash & Burn week has become an Acme highlight, both for fans and comics alike. Starting tonight, Crash & Burn VI will take over Acme with four headliners -- Slagle, alongside Bryan Miller, Emily Galati, and Martha Kelly -- performing completely new material.
“Writing is so much more important now than it used to be,” says Slagle. “It used to be that you’d get your 45 minutes of material together and then just perform it forever. I know people who are still doing jokes about pay phones and milk cartons. I think the comics recognize the opportunity that comes from doing these shows.”
Last year, long-time Acme favorites David Crowe and Kevin Bozeman wrote so much material throughout the week that they each essentially had the skeleton for what would be a new act that they could take on the road.
“Crowe came in and asked to close the shows because he had so much he wanted to do,” Slagle says. “He ended up doing a full 40-45 minutes and it was so good.”
The collaborative nature of the week is fun for the comics, but also gives fans a rare look behind the curtain to see just how an act comes together, from inception to performance. In fact, this year the group is taking it one step further, as they will also be live streaming some of the writing sessions during the day over on Acme’s Facebook page.
“It gives you a chance to see how the sausage gets made,” says Slagle. “If you come to the Tuesday show and see the nervousness of us performing our jokes for the first time, and then come back Saturday to see how it’s progressed all week, you really get an idea for how the process works and how the act develops.”
While having four established headliners sharing the stage each night may seem like a recipe for completion, Slagle says that it’s actually the complete opposite, calling the Crash & Burn shows the “anti-comedy festival.”
“At a festival, everyone wants to get noticed and attract the most attention possible,” he says. “At these shows, everyone is helping each other out and taking notes throughout the week. It’s really cool, because sometimes you’ll see someone use a joke they got from one of the other comics, and it hits, and it’s like a team celebration in the back of the room.”
Just because the environment is primed for the performers to get their creative juices going, Slagle says that there is still a real sense of risk that comes with each performance.
“Last year, we came out on Tuesday, the very first show, and we killed,” he recalls. “But then we got cocky. The next day we showed up thinking we had it all together and we could just coast, and it did not go great. We all woke up the next day and realized we needed to get back to writing.”
Crash, burn, laugh, or groan, this week’s insanely talented lineup and the anything-can-happen nature of the shows are likely to provide some very memorable moments.
“I’m afraid the audience is going to think we’re faking it,” Slagle laughs.
Will this be the week their luck runs out? Only one way to find out.
[Editor's note: Patrick Keane was originally reported as part of the lineup. He pulled out of the run this morning due to a family emergency.]
IF YOU GO:
Crash & Burn VI
Acme Comedy Co.
8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
$15-$18; $30-$33 with dinner.
Click here for details
Acme Comedy Co.