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Hell Yes Fest 2013: Weekend comedy picks

photo-mainBy James Hamilton

At this point, Hell Yes Fest, the biggest comedy festival in the South, has been going on for four days and you likely fall into one of three categories: you've either already gone to see some of the great comedy happening right here in our very city and you, thus, know what all the fuss is about. Or you haven't but are planning to because, hey, “It’s the freaking weekend and I’m about to have me some fun.”  Or, finally, three sentences ago, you said, “Comedy?  In New Orleans?”

This is the second part of a two-piece guide to help you decide which shows you should catch -- wherever you fall on that spectrum -- because, yes, there is a massive world-class comedy festival going on right in our own city and, yes, you are most certainly missing out if you aren’t out catching it.  No matter what you're into (improv, stand-up, sketch, podcasts, musical comedy, panel discussion, films, late night parodies), there is something here for you.  This year’s Hell Yes Fest features some of the nation’s top comedic talents partnered with outstanding contributing members of New Orleans’ growing and increasingly vibrant local comedy scene.

The other guide is here; this has the choice shows for Friday (tonight). Here's the deal: every day has a “Can’t Miss” pick in addition to a “Hell yes!  I want more!” pick. No matter what category you fall under (see above), you will be pleasantly surprised by the comedy happening in your own city.

SATURDAY, 11/16/13 

Can’t miss -- You Don’t Know the Half of it (Half sketch, half improv), Cafe Istanbul, 7:15 PM

If you love New Orleans, this is the show for you. Producer Cecile Monteyne gets some of New Orleans best writers to write scenes, gives half of it to New Orleans’ best actors, and then asks New Orleans best improvisers to make the rest up.  Meanwhile, scenes are being accompanied by some of New Orleans’ best up and coming musicians. The product is an incredible production unlike any other in the city. It’s hilarious, thrilling, and absolutely worth your time. Check out this promo made for a show back in January to give you an idea of what happens:

Hell yes!  I want more! -- The Megaphone Show / Sara Schaefer, The Shadowbox Theater, 9:30 PM

The Megaphone Show is the New Movement comedy theater’s flagship show.  It features some of their best improvisers from both New Orleans and Austin improvising scenes based off the real-life stories of a monologist. The show is always extremely quick-paced, entertaining, and very, very funny.  If that’s not reason enough, this show’s monologist will be Emmy-winning writer and comedian Sara Schaefer. Check out some of Schaefer’s stand-up below:

SUNDAY, 11/17/13 

Can’t miss -- Chris + Tami, Machine a, and the French Navy (improv), The Shadowbox Theater, 8:00 PM

These are three of the funniest and most unique improv duos in New Orleans are the feature on Sunday.  This night will feature some of the best improv you will see anywhere. The French Navy (comprised of CJ Hunt and James Hamilton) has a show grounded in the absurd, the surprising, and the physical, all of which happens at a thrillingly break-neck speed. Machine a (comprised of Chris Kaminstein and Cecile Monteyne), on the other hand, is a slower, artful mix of acting and improvising that is hilarious and poignant (I only had so many picks and I’ve picked them twice, so they must be doing something right). Finally, there is Chris + Tami, featuring Hell Yes Fest creator Chris Trew and comedian Tami Nelson. They have toured the country as a powerhouse duo, founded the New Movement theater, and, most recently, written a book about improv. Check out one of Chris and Tami’s shorts below:

Hell yes!  I want more! -- NOLA Comedy Hour w/ special guest (stand-up), The Hi-Ho Lounge, 9:00 PM

NOLA Comedy Hour is hosted by local comedian, Andrew Polk, and generally runs every Sunday at the Hi-Ho. This show regularly features some of New Orleans’ finest stand-ups, as well as all kinds of special guests -- something that is particularly exciting for this show, considering all the outstanding talent in town for the festival. Past guests on the show have included Sean Patton, Craig Robinson, and Aparna Nancherla. Check out Polk’s stand-up in the video below:

MONDAY, 11/18/13 (CLOSING NIGHT)

Can’t miss/the only option -- The Eric Andre Show Live! (variety show), One Eyed Jacks, Doors at 9:00 PM

It speaks to the caliber and power of Hell Yes Fest that its closing act is the Eric Andre Show. The alt-variety show is outrageous, brilliant, and, by all measures, weird. It had an incredibly successful first season on Adult Swim and has just recently been upped for a second season. The show, with a mix of real and fake celebrity guests and bizarre late-night parody segments, is a show unlike any other and is much, much better experienced than explained. This is the show to see. Check out these clips to get an idea:

And if that wasn’t enough for you:

James Hamilton is a writer, comedian, performer, and producer based in New Orleans.  Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @oldjoytree