Sketch groups, stand-up comedians, and improv troupes will share jokes when the Bird City Comedy Festival returns to downtown Phoenix from March 29 to 31.
The event is in its third year, and producer Genevieve Rice has been working since August to ensure that the 2018 festival is the biggest and funniest yet.
This year's lineup features comedians from across North America. Headliners will include experimental comedian Ian Abramson, frequent late-night guest Maggie Maye, The Dork Forest host Jackie Kashian, Amy Miller from Last Comic Standing, Saturday Night Live writer Sam Jay, and many others including television writers, Conan guests, and festival favorites.
"All of the headliners are people I handpick," Rice says.
And she chose a blend of acts, including Kyle Ayers, who has written for Comedy Central Roasts and Friar's Club Roasts. For Bird City, he is bringing material that's a complete 180 from the sick burns he's famous for.
"We have Kyle Ayers and his show Boast Rattle, which is a compliment contest," Rice says. "I'm really excited about it because it turns roast battles on its ear — instead of people saying mean things to each other, they're complimenting each other."
Preparation for the festival began last August. Rice works with a team of judges to sift through submissions, but her role in the administrative and creative sides of the festival is hands-on.
"Basically I do everything," Rice says. "I pick out the venues, I pick out the performers, make sure the show run appropriately, put together the schedule, order banners."
The task of seeing dozens of comedians may seem daunting, but Rice has organized the festival so that even first-time attendees can navigate things easily.
"It's like a comedy camp," Rice says. "We have 40 shows all over the weekend with a little something for everybody. There are like three or four shows at a time so there is a lot to choose from."
Venues include popular spots throughout downtown like Crescent Ballroom, Valley Bar, Trunk Space, and Phoenix Center for the Arts.
Rice, a comedian herself, thought Bird City would give downtown Phoenix a bit more color during the spring festival season. Though she hadn't undertaken an event of this magnitude before founding the festival, she felt the Phoenix comedy scene was ready for a centerpiece
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"I had been to a couple of festivals on my own and I had always wanted to do something like this for Phoenix," Rice says. "We have a really big comedy scene, and we have all of these cool venues, and I wanted to put together the festival I wanted to see in my city. I hope other people want to see it, too."
To promote and preview the main event, Bird City is going on a three-stop road show.
The Early Bird Tour will make stops in Phoenix, Tucson, and Mesa during the first weekend of March. Amy Miller is headlining each night and will be joined by Los Angeles comedian Anthony Desamito. Local acts like Rice, Jason Hill, and Michael Paul Kohn will fill out the three nights of performances.
Three-day passes for Bird City Comedy Festival start at $60 for students and military, and $75 for everyone else. VIP passes are available for $72 to $90 and include priority seating and a T-shirt. The schedule and more information on the comedians performing are available on the Bird City website. Tickets for the Early Bird shows are $10. More information for the Phoenix, Tucson, and Mesa dates are available on their respective Eventbrite pages.