Like many comics, Christopher Titus has a handful of favorite jokes that he brings out only for certain kinds of audiences. On a typical night on the road, those jokes might work only 60 percent of the time. But at a comedy festival, he says, "Those jokes work every single night."
He says festivals bring out the best audiences for comedy. "They're a little more appreciative because they consider themselves comedy aficionados," says Titus, the comic-actor who is among the headliners of the Burbank Comedy Festival. "They're not the drunk Toledo [guy] trying to hit you with a beer bottle. Those people take their comedy very seriously, weirdly enough."
Titus, who starred in the biting, acclaimed self-titled "Titus" for three seasons on Fox, will bring his podcast to the stage on Monday. Other established performers at the fest will include Jeff Garlin, Tom Green, Andy Dick, Tom Segura, Jimmy Pardo and Kate Flannery — joining 250 emerging comics Aug. 14 through 20 at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank.
Some comics travel across the country to participate, some visiting Southern California for the first time, and twice as many tried out than last year. Aside from performances, the festival hosts comedy panels and classes during the day. After last year, one woman from Long Beach wrote a letter thanking the club: "I braved the 405 to do this!"
Joshua Snyder, co-executive producer and "director of anxiety," says the festival was conceived by Flappers owners Barbara Holliday and Dave Reinitz in part to spice up the otherwise quiet month of August, once one of the club's slowest months of the year. It's now the busiest. "Last year, the week of the festival, was our biggest week in the history of the club," says Snyder. "It was really an awesome way to turn what was a disadvantage into an advantage."
Now in its sixth year, Flappers has become an increasingly active comedy hub in the area, freeway-close to the nationally known clubs of Hollywood, while cultivating a very different atmosphere.
"Unlike the Improv or the Comedy Store or the Laugh Factory, it has a definitely not-in-L.A./Hollywood vibe," says Jimmy Pardo, a regular on the Flappers stage who is also performing at the Comedy Festival. "You're able to try things out and you don't have to worry about industry looking at you for casting or late-night television. You just go there to be a comedian. ... It's a neat little oasis that comics have."
Another source of inspiration is the annual Montreal Comedy Festival, which is spread across several venues. "We're really impressed with they have created up there, and we'd like to create something here in Burbank that's similar," says Snyder, who notes several after-parties taking place in nearby restaurants after the shows.
"Where we really want to go with it is to having shows at multiple venues — in restaurants and hotels and basements and pizza parlors — and turn the entire city of Burbank into a comedy club," Snyder says.
As it is, a festival means both daytime and nighttime hours are filled with live comedy. Pardo will bring his podcast "Never Not Funny" to the festival for an afternoon show.
"I like these offbeat time slots because you never know what's going to happen," Pardo says. "At 8 o'clock on a weeknight, 'OK, it's showtime.' But 11 in the morning or 5 in the afternoon, it almost feels like everyone is playing hooky."
What: Burbank Comedy Festival (various comics, classes and panels)
When: Sunday, Aug. 14 through Aug. 20.
Where: Flappers Comedy Club, 102 Magnolia Blvd., Burbank.
Tickets: VIP festival passes, $350; general admission passes, $250. Individual show tickets also available.
More info: www.burbankcomedyfestival.com
Steve Appleford, email@example.com