Comedy Central is entering the festival space, setting up a joint venture with Superfly, the company behind Bonnaroo and Outside Lands, to launch its first festival. The three-day weekend event will be held next summer in San Francisco, where Outside Lands takes place. In addition to showcasing the full spectrum of the comedy genre — standup, sketch, podcast, digital — as well as popular Comedy Central properties and stars, it also will feature music and food.
There has been no major comedy festival in the US over the past couple of years. For more than two decades, HBO ran the US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, which folded in 2007 when the premium cable network left the festival business because of rising costs. Its sibling TBS, which had been involved in the Aspen festival, took over the satellite event in Las Vegas in 2008 and then teamed with the Montreal Just For Laughs festival for an US offshoot that took place in Chicago. After five editions, the festival folded in 2013, also over high costs.
Comedy Central president Kent Alterman said they are taking a different approach. “The other festivals were more industry driven, this is a totally fan-driven event for the comedy super fans,” he told Deadline.
Also, it will not be just about comedy. While the focus will be on laughs, it will be a ticketed hybrid event in the mold of Bonnaroo and Outside Lands. “The festival will bring together top comedy, amazing music and culinary lineup for a dynamic cultural experience,” said Chad Issaq, Superfly’s EVP, Business Development & Partnerships.
Why was San Francisco chosen as a location over comedy hotbeds like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles? “It has an incredible comedy legacy and a very active community of fans; there are a lot of comedians who come out of San Francisco,” Alterman said.
Additionally, Superfly already has a built infrastructure in the city from its experience co-producing Outside Lands there. And “for people who have to travel, it’s a great destination to travel to,” Issaq said, noting San Francisco’s proximity to Napa Valley, which creates extra opportunities in the food and entertainment area.