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Second City Hollywood to launch Diversity in Comedy Festival

Second City Hollywood to launch Diversity in Comedy Festival
Second City member Travis Turner, foreground, performs in the touring production of "The Art of Falling" last year at the Ahmanson Theatre. The Hollywood outpost of Second City announced it will launch an event aimed at improving diversity in comedy. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

With the debate over diversity in Hollywood growing louder, the conversation will shift toward the world of comedy with the announcement of the Diversity in Comedy Festival by Hollywood's Second City comedy club.

The goal of the October event is to offer a stage for people of color, LGBT performers and other groups who may feel marginalized in the industry.

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Organizers wanted "to get more voices that weren't being heard prominently in the comedy community," said Dwayne Colbert, artistic director of the festival and a Second City instructor. "Though there is some representation for sure, mostly it's fringe or novelty. We would like our mainstream to be of varying voices."

Second City, the Chicago-based operation whose alumni include Joan Rivers, Stephen Colbert and Jane Lynch, will spearhead the three-day festival starting Oct. 21 from its Hollywood location. The event will include improv, sketch and stand-up comedy shows as well as workshops. One panel discussion will address racial diversity in the industry and the other will focus on LGBT experiences.

A number of acts will headline the event, including the Black Version, a popular all-black improv group, Julian Clark and Chris Redd.

Joshua Funk, artistic director of Second City Hollywood, hopes the festival will encourage the broader entertainment industry to tap the unknown talent in comedy.

"There's more diversity than ever, but I do think that the industry needs to do better," he said. "Television and movies and theatricals all still need to be reminded that we're not where we need to be at for equality and full diversity."

Colbert added: "The talent is there. But it's about them knowing it's there and reaching out."

Second City is accepting applications from comics interested in performing. Online submissions close Sept. 20. www.secondcity.com/los-angeles-diversity-comedy-festival

Get your life! Follow me on Twitter: @TrevellAnderson.

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