For many aspiring comedians, Acme’s Funniest Person Contest is a rite of passage. The list of past participants and winners reads like a who’s-who for Twin Cities comedy, with names like Nick Swardson, Andy Erikson, and Pete Lee etched in the club’s history. In fact, the contest has been something that many comedians have credited as the very thing that lit the spark in their careers.
Acme Comedy Co.
But for Alex Avery, it was just a way to make friends.
Tuesday night, Avery won the title and the $1,000 cash prize in front of a packed house that included past contestants like Tim Harmston (who is headlining at Acme all this week), Mary Mack, and Bryan Miller. While Avery was incredibly gracious and excited about his victory, the 20-year-old comedian admits that his motivation for entering the contest was less about launching his career, and more about finding his footing in a brand-new city.
“I moved here from Portland like a month ago,” says Avery. “I was doing comedy there for a little over a year and a half. Since I was moving here I was like, ‘What contests do they have in Minneapolis where I can establish myself and make friends quickly?’ Then I saw that Acme had an amateur contest and I was like, 'That’s perfect.'”
The contest, which has been running strong for 24 years, kicked off back in May, and featured more than 200 funny and funny-ish people doing their best to impress crowds and judges throughout the summer with the hope of reaching the finale. The final five were arguable the most stylistically eclectic group of finalists in recent memory with no one contestant clearly running away with the title.
“There really isn’t a front runner this year, which is really cool,” said Acme manager Sarah Drew prior to the start of the event. “It’s been interesting, because we’ve had a ton of new people participate in the contest who we had never seen before.”
After being announced as the victor, Avery soaked in his newfound fame, posing for photos with friends and fans in the club’s lobby. In true “new-money star” fashion, he soon found himself surrounded by an entourage, including his own private photographer, signaling that his goal of making friends and becoming established in his new home had been met.
As for the future, Avery says he has no plans to let off the gas anytime soon.
“I’ll be hitting more open mics, but I also need to write more. I might have won a contest, but I need to write some new stuff that kills. It’ll be nice now that I can show up and feel like I have the respect of more peers or whatever.”
Though he is staying humble and focusing on growing as a comedian, the 2016 FPC champion’s plans for his major cash prize were slightly more ambitious.
“I’m going to buy all of the politicians, and I’m going to start up my multi-million dollar corporation, and I’m also going to become a midnight crime fighter. I’ll be the Bruce Wayne of comedy.”