Review: "Too Many Comics" at The Mill


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The air outside the Mill on a Sunday night smells like perfectly charred cheeseburgers, and in the front portion of the establishment,couples and groups of friends sit lightly chatting, a timid mumble under the quiet gentle rock dripping from the speakers. But through a single door, there is a different, rumbling energy, back by the long bar and the stage. The crowd is excited — as it should be. Alternative standup comedy, Iowa City’s unsung art-scene hero, is about to punch people’s funny bones with hours of material.

On Sunday, the restaurant, bar, and entertainment venue, 120 E. Burlington St., put on the show “Too Many Comics,” a fundraiser featuring a long list of the city’s local comedic talent. The event was organized to raise money for the upcoming Green Gravel Comedy Festival, arguably one of the most important events of its kind, expected to split sides in the city on Feb. 27-28, 2015. The festival will feature Chris Kelly (Too Many Cooks) as well as a number of comedians from around the area. As the festival’s website explains, it’s the only event of its kind in the region to accept local submissions, and it will also feature a number of workshops on how to be funny. 

As cohost Arash Singh put it while opening the night on stage: “We deserve this comedy festival.”
Why? Well, as local funny guy Daniel Frana (and performer at this week’s show) said in a previous interview, the local comedy scene in Iowa City has grown substantially in the last few years, and with the help of this festival, it will continue to do so. We seem to be at the cusp, the top of the hill on the roller coaster, about to race to a time when big-name comedians hosted by the university aren’t the only ones drawing packed audiences. 

Comedy is open and accessible to everyone and every taste. Sit at a show or open-mike night with a list of performers, and you’ll encounter stories about yelling at squirrels (joke credit Spencer Loucks), imaginations of alternative universes in which fights are settled by games of Connect Four (Ethan Simmons-Patterson), and anything else the human brain is capable of hypothesizing. There are bits about the awkward nature of human sexuality and the obvious-but-stifled issues surrounding gender disparity. There are punch lines that focus on the uncomfortable blunders of race relations and the realities of living in poverty. 

Standup opens the mind while fulfilling the human requirement to laugh, to enjoy ourselves, something we often forget to do. It’s both an art form and a public forum. It’s quite interactive for the audience, and anyone can try it. The upcoming festival will surely be a catalyst for making that known in Iowa City. 

The Green Gravel festival has a gofundme page online that aims to raise $3,000 for transportation and housing, and pitchers were passed around the audience Nov. 30 to collect donations during the show. The event’s website (which is being updated as the date draws nearer and details get hammered out) has information about the lineup and other need-to-know info about where shows will take place. Slots are currently being reserved for performances at Gabe’s, Riverside Theater, High Ground Café, and George’s. 

The festival will mark the end of the metamorphosis of alternative comedy in Iowa City, and out of the cocoon will fly a beautiful butterfly, shouting profanities about something that’s wrong with the world. 

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