The 25th anniversary of Acme Comedy Co.’s famed Funniest Person Contest came to a close this past Tuesday night, with Northfield native Nate Nickel taking home the title and the $1,000 grand prize.
Nickel first entered the contest in 2016, but was eliminated in the early rounds. Since then, he has been performing at open mics throughout the Twin Cities, preparing for his shot at redemption. “I do this every night,” he says. “Just everywhere I can. I’ll do all the clubs, then I’ll go to smaller places like Wild Times in St. Paul or Camp Bar -- really anywhere with an open mic.”
His dark, deadpan delivery and biting one-liners were enough to make him stand out from the other four finalists. The competition, which kicked off back in May, invites amateur comedians (i.e. someone who has never been paid to do comedy) to put on their best three minutes at Acme.
The contest has helped launch the careers of some of the biggest and most notable comedians to come out of the Twin Cities, including Andy Erikson, Bryan Miller, and Nate Abshire, who will be featuring all week at Acme.
“It’s a big deal. It’s impossible to be around the comedy scene and not know about this contest,” Nickel says.
Acme owner Louis Lee believes the crowd of funny and funny-ish comedians that signed up for this year’s contest was as strong as he’s ever seen. “There are a lot more rooms [in the Twin Cities] these days, so comedians are getting paid to do comedy a lot sooner,” he says. “But we still always get a good group and it fills up pretty quickly.”
While the contest can be a solid shot in the arm for aspiring performers, Lee is quick to point out that being named the Funniest Person isn’t an express pass to the big time. “You still have to work at it and get stage time and get better,” he says.
Many regular performers at Acme are past contest runners-up, while others who have won it all have disappeared from the scene entirely. Nickel hopes to join the ranks of those who have used the contest to catapult themselves into the regular rotation at Acme, but he's also open to other venues.
“I’ll perform anywhere. I don’t care. As long as they have a microphone and an audience, that’s all that matters. I’d love to get hired by Acme, but regardless I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.”
And as for newfound wealth? “I’m going to save it,” he laughs. “I’m broke.”
For more of Nate Nickel’s comedy, visit facebook.com/natenickelcomedian.
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