This week, just across the river from the Gateway Arch, The World Series of Comedy brings 101 Comedians to stages at The Casino Queen as part of its annual competition. We asked Jason Rowland, vice president of the organization that runs the event, a few questions about the competition and what attendees can expect.
What is the World Series of Comedy? How long has it been running?
The World Series of Comedy is a week-long fun event that is basically a comedy conference that concentrates like-minded people in a small confined area, shooting the shit about comedy for 6 days. This our tenth year for the event. It was located in Las Vegas for the first 8 years, just outside of Cincinnati last year, and this is our first in Greater St. Louis.
We try and do a combination of formal showcasing (the festival performances), scheduled networking (a meet & greet with industry, as well as some panels), and low key networking events – bowling, post-show meals at SEVENS at Casino Queen, and other off-the-cuff social events (in the past we have done poker nights, karaoke, or even gone to the driving range).
The entire purpose of the festival – and the reason it was created – was as an avenue to expose comedians to industry insiders, with the intention of helping them get more paid work. Every thing we do is with the end goal of getting paid work for comedians.
Lots of work opportunities come outside of the formally structured networking events; I have seen people in the festival book a weekend of work over drinks at the bar.
It’s a competition too though?
The Main Event is the finals of a year long touring festival that has already visited 12 cities. Over 700 professional comedians registered this year, and the Top 101 qualify for The Main Event through a combination of their video submission scores and live performances at our preliminary events.
Why did you choose St. Louis for this year’s location?
I personally visited St. Louis for the first time last summer for a Cards game in the middle of our national tour, and really enjoyed my time in the city. I saw how warm and welcoming the people were, and how active the comedy scene appeared to be.
I touched base with our CEO Joe Lowers to let him know that the city really checked off all the boxes for a host city. We visited a number of other cities, but every time we did a site visit in St. Louis it felt more and more like home for us. We are very proud to bring the finals of a national competition to this great city.
What was your expeience with the local comedy scene?
We have been welcomed by the people and the comedy community.
There have been numerous champions for us in the scene like Rafe Williams at The Improv Shop, Chad Wallace at the Heavy Anchor’s Comedy Shipwreck, Tom Brown at Apotheosis Comics’ South Side Comedy Series, Max Price’s monthly show at Funny Bone (as well as the crew that run the weekly open mic there), JC Sibala’s show, Wild Card Comedy at the Crow’s Nest, the guys at Laugh Lounge, Helium’s open mic, and Brendan Olson even ran a One Night Event for us at The Night Owl.
Sam Lyons, Pat Ryan, Ronaldo Mercado and Cori Stewart all pitched in to help us distribute promotional materials, and Larry Greene, Max Price, and Nathan Orton also really pushed hard to generate crowds for the festival. I think the number is now over 40 local comedians that have contributed in some fashion to the promotion of the event.
All l apologies to anyone I didn’t mention above. We have made some great friends in the scene – too many to list, and I don’t want to forget anyone.
What are the dates, and we’re can people buy tickets? What does a ticket get them?
The festival runs from Monday Sept 23 to Saturday Sept 28. There are 3 shows a night (6 pm , 8 pm, 10 pm) as we narrow down our 101 performers during the week to declare a champion for the year. Tickets are available at the box office of the comedy showroom we created in the ballroom of the hotel at Casino Queen. Tickets can also be found at www.wsoctickets.com.
If any readers want to support a local comedian, you can buy tickets using them as a reference – choose BUY TICKETS TODAY, then select YES for DO YOU HAVE A CODE, and select COMEDIAN DISCOUNT CODE and use code WSOC19. There will be a drop down box of registered comedians, and we provide $5 back to the comedy community, directly to the comedian you choose.
Are there any headline performances attendees can look for outside of the competition?
We have three scheduled guest headliners closing out our late-night shows on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We also invite comedy industry insiders from around the country – many of whom are performers. If someone drops in, we find stage time for them.
Tuesday’s 10 pm show will be closed by The Joke Doctor Jerry Corley, Wednesday’s show will be closed by David Kaye from Pittsburgh and Thursdays show will be closed by Joel Byars from Hot Breath Podcast. Les McCurdy, Mark Britton are other national touring headliners that will be industry guests, so I imagine they will end up with some stage time at some point as well – you know how comedians are… if there is a stage, they will eventually end up on it 🙂
What about activities/workshops during the day?
There are daytime professional development seminars and panel for comedians during the day. There is a booker’s Q & A, a seminar on crafting your best showcase set, a podcasting seminar, a voice-over seminar, a career management seminar, and three separate comedy writing seminars. These seminars aren’t open to the public, and are restricted to registered comedians and volunteers – if anyone reading this is a local comic but not registered in the festival, if you volunteer with the festival (help with seating, or the ticket booth etc) we will provide you with a full access badge for the seminars.
The daytime professional development aspect of the festival is really just an aide to comedians to provide avenues of extra revenue, increasing your effectiveness in showcasing your material, or teaching you the aspects of being a road comic that sometimes take years of trial and error to figure out on your own.
Is there anything in particular you’re excited about this year’s event?
The cool thing is that there are so many locals featured in The Main Event, and that there has been so much interest and support from the local scene that we had to add THREE EXTRA SHOWS to help showcase those comedians to the industry we have invited.
At last count, we were up to nearly a dozen of the Top 101 being associated with STL (either live here now or grew up here and cut their teeth in the local scene), as well as another dozen or so on the extra shows we added.
It is also amazing to think that we are now in our 10th year. We have had over 5000 comedian register over the years, and take great pride in whatever tiny push we may have given them in the right direction along the way. Former performers have gone on to do Letterman, Leno, Conan, Kimmel, Fallon, America’s Got Talent (Ryan Niemiller was registered a few years ago), Comedy Central and Neflix Specials (Mia Jackson drops hers on in November), written on tons of TV shows (Beth Stelling and Matt Kirshen are among our alum), there are so many other credits it would take too much time to list them.
Check out the World Series of Comedy this week at the Casino Queen and support the great local comics in their line up. And visit us tomorrow as we continue our profile of the St. Louis Comedy scene.