In 1990, Skidmore student and Ad-Lib David Miner hit on something really very special: he invited a bunch of other comedy-addicted college kids to jump around on the JKB stage and try to make people laugh. Twenty-five years later, the National College Comedy Festival has outlasted the Soviet Union, the Macarena, two and a half Bush administrations, and the college careers of nearly everyone who helped make it what it is today.
If that’s not an argument for staying power, I don’t know what is.
As we triumphantly break the quarter-century mark, it’s hard not to marvel at all the benchmarks: Comfest is now old enough to rent a car anywhere in America without presenting a valid credit card. Comfest is four years more senior than either of its producers. In its two and a half decades, the festival has seen some serious comedy heavyweights come through in their formative years. Pre-hip-hop career Donald Glover performed on the Skidmore stage several years back, as did Chris Himes, a producer on SNL. Mr. Miner has since gone on to produce 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Despite his success, he keeps in regular contact with the festival’s producers each year. It is, as they say, his baby.
But Comfest is less about the people who’ve moved through its gates and more about the ones still standing underneath them, right now, this time around. Comfest means your A-game, and nothing less. This is hallowed ground, and the performers we bring rarely fail to treat it as such. I’ve seen elaborately choreographed dance numbers, improvised acrobatic tumbling routines, and once, a full-body paper mache Ring-wraith costume. The energy that student groups bring to Comfest is palpable. There’s no greater height of anticipation than standing in the narrow backstage hallway of JKB as the group just before you runs offstage, offering high-fives and congratulations as they slip past you, and all the way you’re revving to go.
This could not happen anywhere but Skidmore. Having been to a number of other schools for visiting shows, and spoken with comedians who come to Skidmore from far-flung locales, I have learned that we are uniquely blessed when it comes to our audience. A comedy show at a given school may struggle to bring in forty people. A comedy show at Skidmore fills an entire auditorium with receptive, savvy comedy fans who seem to love the craft of it as much as we do. In an art form where the audience is the medium, there’s no greater gift a performer could ask for.
So, here we are. The big two-five. XXV. The Twenty-Fifth Annual National College Comedy Festival. Comfest 25. A festival that’s grown over the past two and a half decades into the holy grail of amateur comedy, a feast for the funny-bone. Now, as always, on the stage that made it what it is today. I think I speak for all our fellow comedians when I say we couldn’t be happier, Skidmore, so thanks for everything.
Live. From New York. It’s—
Oh. Sorry. That’s the other guys.
-Luke Conley, Co-Director of ComFest 2014