Championship Laughs

Audiences help decide future stars at the World Series of Comedy

One hundred and one comics walk into a bar. Are you ready for the many punch lines that follow? If the answer is yes, you should be at the World Series of Comedy. For the second year, some of the best unknown comedians in the country will be slinging jokes and vying to win the top prize of 50 weeks of work at clubs across the U.S.

Comedians are divided into brackets where they compete in groups of eight. Each comic has eight minutes to show their stuff, and are then judged by a panel of bookers and industry pros, as well as an audience vote. The highest-scoring comic from each show moves on to the semi-finals on Sept. 24, and the top three then compete for the championship by performing 25-minute sets. In addition to the shows, there are seminars, a poker tournament, a golf outing and a meet-and-greet session with bookers and club owners.

Local Matt Markman, who placed third in 2010, says the exposure helped him overcome a common barrier to breaking into the biz: “Getting work in clubs is hard. Someone either has to vouch for you, or the booker has to see you. Well, here’s an opportunity to get seen by bookers and comics that work in clubs all over the U.S.”

Festival organizer Joe Lowers, who built the showroom at the Alexis Park and headlines his own comedy show there, has found a natural fit in Las Vegas. “Las Vegas is the perfect place to hold the World Series of Comedy,” he says. “I’m not sure I could make it as big as it has gotten or get as big as I plan on making it in any other city in the U.S.”

Chatting Up Last Year’s Winner

Since his win, Andrew Norelli has been busy. He has recorded an album for Uproar Records, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and is a regular presence at the Las Vegas Hilton. Now he dishes on the ins and outs of the World Series of Comedy.

What were the best and worst parts?

The best part was meeting industry professionals and comics I had never met before. The worst part was knowing that the first one-to-two minutes of your set could blow your chances of making it to the next round.

Tell me about your album, Cut Above Stupid, which was part of your prize.

I’m very happy with it. It is being played on XM/Sirius, Pandora and being sold on iTunes [and at]. It was great to have a product where I just had to focus on the comedy, not the distribution, production or promotion.

How has the win helped your career?

A lot of comics and industry have spoken to me about the World Series of Comedy—asked for my thoughts, opinions and experience with it—and it has allowed me to form some new and closer relationships with them because of it.

Do you have advice for new comics?

Stay relaxed. Nerves are amplified in a contest. Being nervous never makes anyone seem funnier.

With playing Las Vegas so much, what are your thoughts on doing comedy here?

It’s tough if the crowd is too tired, too sunburned and/or too drunk. If you can avoid that, it’s golden.

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