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This article was published 31/8/2015 (664 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
By pretty much any measure you might care to apply, the inaugural Oddblock Comedy Festival would have to be considered a success.
For four lovely, loopy, laugh-filled late-summer days this past weekend, a two-block stretch on the east side of south Osborne Street was transformed into a very, very funny place, as a half-dozen venues played host to 50 comedians in more than 30 shows, in front of crowds that consistently packed the smaller rooms and ranged from comfortably populated to near capacity in the larger ones.
"It’s been a great weekend," Texas-based comic Chris Cubas said late Sunday afternoon, before taking part in the event’s closing gala at the Park Theatre. "For a first-time event, it’s been run super smooth — everything has gone like it’s supposed to go, all the shows have been well attended, and the audiences have been super game and fun. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience."
The festival, launched by Park Theatre owner Erick Casselman, talent booker Kevin Mozdzen and local comedian John B. Duff, kicked off with a pair of shows on Thursday night and wrapped up with a four-pack of performances on Sunday night. Inbetween, the south Osborne stretch between Vera Pizzeria and Luxalune Gastropub (which also includes fellow fest participants Monticchio Ristorante, Deseo Bistro, the Park Theatre and Park Alleys) was a hub of activity as comedians and comedy fans moved from venue to venue in search of the next great comedy moment.
And there were many — including attention-grabbing opening-night sets from Cubas and New Yorker Michelle Buteau, a collection of weirdly brilliant efforts by Toronto actor/comic Pat Thornton, a wild Saturday gala topped by a magnificent headline performance by L.A.-based comedian James Adomian, some inventive and comedically complex song mashups by Drennon Davis and Karen Kilgariff, some full-volume comedy bombast from Eddie (The Bitter Buddha) Pepitone, and a few flat-out bizarre but inspiredly hilarious appearances by L.A.-based comedy veteran Ron Lynch.
Great standup was easy to find in the tightly clustered festival stretch and the tightly packed Oddblock schedule, and from Duff’s perspective, the new event started feeling like a success about halfway through Friday night’s lineup of shows.
"My heart rate was incredibly high (on Thursday), and it stayed that way until about mid-Friday, when I started to cool off because all the venues were up and running," he said. "Once that was done and the first few shows were in the bag on Friday, that’s when I felt like I could finally exhale."
Duff said he was thrilled by the atmosphere created along south Osborne Street during Oddblock’s initial four-day run.
"There was an excitement, a buzz, and that’s exactly what we were aiming for," he offered. "And I’ve said it before many times — it was the high density, with everything so close together, that made it work. If there was a show you wanted to see at Deseo, and another one you were interested in at Luxalune, if you were a pass-holder you could whip down to one venue to see that one performer you really wanted to see, then run back to the other venue to see the rest of that show. There was a lot of moving back and forth between shows, which we encouraged, but there were also a lot of people who took in those shows in their entirety and were really into it. It was really fun."
Duff said his personal highlight came during Saturday night’s Tomorrow! Show, hosted by Lynch at the Park Theatre at midnight. The comic’s offbeat opening was interrupted by a shouted exchange with an audience member, who turned out to be Pepitone, which was then interrupted by shouts from another audience member, who turned out to be Adomian; eventually, the whole pre-arranged verbal punch-up turned into a heated philosophical debate between "the estranged Pepitone brothers" with a nonplussed Lynch watching from the stage.
"One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen," said Duff.
The festival’s organizers and affiliated venue owners will meet to debrief the event on Monday, and Duff said they’ll be looking for ways to make Oddblock an even bigger success next year.
"There’s quite a lengthy list of things to address," he said. "There are ways we know we can improve, and we’ll also look at the possibility of adding new venues in the future."