Each year it seems like our comedy scene can’t possibly get any better. Last year felt like it was unbeatable in terms of Twin Cities comedy. Then 2017 showed up like, “Yo, hold my Grain Belt. I need to flex on these fools.”
This year, clubs like Acme, House of Comedy, and Joke Joint brought A-list comics to town. New standup shows like FBI, PhD, and Red Menace Open Mic popped up, creating stage time for emerging voices. And quite a few local faces made national waves in 2017.
While there were plenty of highlights over the past 12 months, we put together our list of the top five comedy stories in an around Minnesota.
New faces explode onto the national scene
There were plenty of local names that made a big impact this past year, reminding the global comedy scene why Minnesota continues to be the epicenter of incredible talent.
-- In June, local boy Turner Barrowman was selected as one of the “New Faces” to perform at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal. For more than 30 years, JFL has been the biggest comedy festival in the world, launching the careers of names like Amy Schumer, Hannibal Buress, and Kevin Hart. As one-fourth of the Boy Kisses collective, Barrowman made the move from Minneapolis to Los Angeles in 2017, but continues to rep his home state and comes back to perform fairly regularly.
-- Over on the East Coast, comedian Chloe Radcliffe was selected to perform at Conan O’Brien’s Team Coco “Comics to Watch” standup showcase during the annual New York Comedy Festival. Radcliffe joined the ranks of comics like Michael Che and Ali Wong, both of whom launched their careers as part of the showcase. She was also been a regular fixture as an emcee at Acme Comedy Co. in 2017, and launched her own funny/sad storytelling show, Real Shit, at Comedy Corner Underground.
Established names level-up
-- Pete Lee -- also known as the nicest comedian in Minnesota’s history -- made his Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon debut in the spring. He was one of the co-stars of the long-awaited documentary I Need You to Kill, that was released earlier this month about the first-ever Acme Comedy tour of Asia.
-- Meanwhile Chad Daniels, one of Lee’s co-stars, released a new album, Footprints on the Moon, in the spring. It skyrocketed to number one on the iTunes charts, and is one of the most streamed comedy albums on Pandora this year. He played a massive homecoming show at the Women’s Club last month, and is poised for an even bigger 2018.
-- Cy Amundson had a monster year, recording his latest album, Monday Night, at Acme, which was released back in the fall. The biggest highlight of Amundson’s year, however, is that he is one of the hosts of the recently launched ESPN Sportscenter Snapchat show.
The best new comedy festival of the year is in…Hopkins?
When you think of Hopkins, you probably don’t think “comedy hotspot.” Royal Comedy Theatre owner Michael Edlavitch has made great strides to change that perception, including the launch of the Hopkins Comedy Festival this past May.
Edlavitch brought together a mix of national headliners such as Mo Alexander and Todd Glass, along with local standouts like Maggie Faris and Shannan Paul. The festival was a major success, and showed how the suburbs can be just as much of a comedy destination as the cities. Early plans are swirling for the second-annual Hopkins Comedy Fest, and in the meantime Edlavitch continues to bring a steady stream of talent to his intimate 50-person club all year long.
Baddies become the Hart of the City
When comedians Bruce Leroy Williams, Pierre Douglas, and Brandon Riddley opened the doors of Baddies Comedy Co. in St. Paul back in February, they had a vision of making the club a must-visit destination for comedy fans looking for the best black and urban comedians in Minnesota. Not only did they accomplish that goal, but they managed to get the attention of the biggest superstar in comedy in the process.
This summer, Kevin Hart filmed an episode of his Comedy Central show, Hart of the City, at Baddies, featuring Williams, alongside local comedians Greg Coleman, Ali Sultan, and Earl Elliot. The episode aired earlier this month, giving the Baddies brand and all four comedians a national spotlight to showcase the depth of our local comedy scene. In addition, Williams, Douglas, and Riddley have promoted other Baddies-branded events all over town, from strip clubs to churches, growing their fan base and providing a new platform for new and established voices.
Chappelle’s back. Again.
He did it again. And again. And then again. Dave Chappelle made another week-long visit to the Twin Cities, this time setting up shop at Icehouse. The $100 tickets sold out within seconds, and the comedian was able to parlay the good-will and glowing reviews from his two new Netflix specials into another legend-making week locally. While he hasn’t been known to announce shows more than a few days in advance, his love affair with Minneapolis over the past several years makes it fairly safe to assume that he’ll be popping on stage somewhere in town (and in hookah bars, basketball courts, and nightclubs) in 2018.