If you find yourself chuckling more often than usual this week, don’t be surprised: It’s officially Comedy Week in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh City Council made its proclamation to celebrate the second annual Pittsburgh Comedy Festival, which takes over the Henry Heymann Theater, in Oakland, from Thursday through Saturday. The headliners are Todd Glass and improv troupe Bombardo, which includes Parks and Recreation favorite Aubrey Plaza. And with a wide array of local talent spread over a total of 12 shows, the festival looks poised to establish this showcase for funny men and women as a Pittsburgh institution.
The inaugural festival, in 2014, was headlined by 30 Rock cast member Judah Friedlander. This year, the festival has expanded. “We found ways to incorporate more show slots into our short timeline (such as our late night show and #PghIsFunny showcase), we’re doing more marketing, and we’ve changed up passes to give audiences even more bang for their buck,” writes Anna Reilly, marketing director on the fest’s all-volunteer staff, via email.
The festival is a nonprofit venture aimed at “elevating comedy and treating it as the art form that it is,” writes Reilly. The venue is a seated theater, rather than a bar or club, and the nationally known headliners are meant to bring new perspectives to the often straight-white-male dominated genre. Glass came out as gay in 2012 in response to the growing number of suicides amongst gay youths. Bombardo is an improv team comprised entirely of women; both sets are sure to touch on cultural issues beyond standard gripes about married life.
While the headliners are likely to attract big crowds, the festival is committed to showcasing local talent. The weekend’s grand finale, #PghIsFunny: A ’Burgh-Based Comedy Spectacular, includes performances by three local favorites: Lee Terbosic, Jeff Konkle and John Dick Winters. Kristy Nolen is a member of local improv teams including Warp Zone, which performs Saturday night. “[Pittsburgh Comedy Festival] is a great opportunity to reach out to unaware Pittsburghers and let them know, ‘Hey! See this!,’” she writes via email. “We’ve got world-class comedy going on right now in town every weekend, and it’s waiting for you to come and be a part of!’”