No Country’s Guide to the Nashville Comedy Festival 2018 | April 16-22

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Founded in 2013, annual week-long, city-wide, multi-venue comedy fest the Wild West Comedy Festival, co-produced by Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Productions, quickly became the premiere yearly event for Music City residents who love to laugh, returning each subsequent spring with performers like Hannibal Buress, Tig Notaro, Lewis Black, The Lonely Island, Aziz Ansari, Chelsea Handler, Marc Maron, Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, Kevin Smith, Maria Bamford, Judd Apatow, Pete Holmes, Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, Doug Benson, Adam Sandler, and tons more.

In a bit of shakeup, it was announced last fall that the WWCF has been replaced by a spiritual successor, the near-identical Nashville Comedy Festival, for what would be a fifth season, and inaugural year under a new name, still helmed by local co-producer Outback Concerts, and returning in the identical timeframe, running this week from Monday to Sunday, April 16-22.

For all intents and purposes, this year’s event looks to be business as usual, with separately ticketed shows (we still wish there was an “even pass” type option), spread across town at conventional and unconventional spaces for comedy. Concentrated this year at ZaniesThe RymanExit/InBridgestone Arena, and TPAC/War Memorial Auditorium, this 2018 lineup is a bit smaller and more consolidated, but you still have lots to choose from throughout the week, offering everything from mainstream, blue collar comedy to more subversive and alternative talent.

Of this year’s solid schedule, some of the highlights include “Weird Al” YankovicCameron EspositoMamrie HartNeil HamburgerBill BurrJonah RayNate Bargatze, Andrew Dice ClayThomas Middleditch & Ben SchwartzChris D’Elia, and more, and most shows still have tickets available as of writing, at a variety of price points.

Below, we’ve put together a guide with the full week’s schedule, laid out with details, ticket links, and previews of every performer, loosely ranked in order of recommendation for each day. Check out the schedule below, and find out more about the Nashville Comedy Festival right here.

MONDAY – APRIL 16

CHAD DANIELS
@ Zanies | 7:30pm (6:30pm doors) | 18+ | $20

Minnesota bred standup Chad Daniels has the distinction of kicking off this year’s festival- and, as the only artist slated to perform Monday, he’s your go-to if you want to see someone every night. Daniels’ observational style has landed him on numerous late night programs over the years, and he’s received awards and praise within the comedy since first rising through the ranks more than a decade ago.

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TUESDAY – APRIL 17

“WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC w/ EMO PHILIPS
@ War Memorial Auditorium | 7:30pm | All Ages | $49.75-79.75

[NO COUNTRY’S TUESDAY PICK] As we announced last fall, acclaimed parody artist “Weird Al” Yankovic is, for the first time, embarking on a tour of original, obscure, and deep cut material- a stripped-down, super-fan focused affair that differs dramatically from the parody-driven, elaborate, finely-produced tours he’s become known for over the last 35 years. Comedy fest aside, we’d recommend this show for any “Weird Al” diehard, and it’s merely a happy coincidence that his Nashville was able to line up with the rest of this event.

MICK FOLEY
@ Zanies | 7pm (6:15pm doors) | 18+ | $25-75

After rising to wrestling stardom in the ’90s, then mounting an unlikely return in the ’00s, WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley managed, as many of his peers have done, to leverage his wrestling success into a broader entreatment career. The fact that he went into comedy shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with his comedic sensibilities in character, and though wrestling certainly remains a major component of his story-drive standup, those not versed in WWE backstory will still find plenty of laughs.

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WEDNESDAY – APRIL 18

CAMERON ESPOSITO
@ Exit/In | 8pm (7pm doors) | 18+ | $10-30

[NO COUNTRY’S WEDNESDAY PICK] Standup and podcaster Cameron Esposito has been a rising force in the comedy world over the past few years, appearing on a variety of late night programs, hosting and regularly guesting on several high-profile podcasts, and transitioning into acting and voice work. Also an occasional editorial writer and columnist, Esposito, a proud lesbian, addresses a variety of LGBTQ+ issues both in her comedy and in traditional media forums.

IMOMSOHARD
@ The Ryman Auditorium | 7:30pm | All Ages | $39.75-49.75

Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley are a pair of Minnesota turned Los Angeles moms who rose to internet fame with popular YouTube channel IMOMSOHARD. They derive their humor from their relatable banter and unbeatable chemistry, which has turned them into a legitimate comedy brand with fans eager to see them do their thing in person.

FRIED! PODCAST w/ JON REEP & SARAH TIANA
@ Zanies | 8pm (7:30pm doors) | 18+ | $20

Podcasts are more popular than ever, and the comedy community has been on the bandwagon for years, with live podcast tapings becoming an increasing staple for events like this. Fried! pairs actor/comedian Jon Reep with standup Sarah Tiana for a conversational podcast which seems well-suited for Nashville, even if it’s not the buzziest or most unique podcast around.

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THURSDAY – APRIL 19

MAMRIE HART
@ Zanies | 8:30pm (8pm doors) | 18+ | $25

[NO COUNTRY’S THURSDAY PICK] While she’s accomplished in sketch and standup comedy, and has acted in film and television, comedian Mamrie Hart is perhaps best-known for her YouTube show, You Deserve a Drink, which the resourceful performer used to find viral success, collaborate with other influencers, and even fuel a best-selling book. Her self-deprecating, topical humor is sure to delight.

A NIGHT OF COMEDY HOSTED BY BRAD PAISLEY
@ Zanies | 6:30pm (5pm doors) | 18+ | SOLD OUT

Though country superstar Brad Paisley might be described as an amateur comedian at best, the singer’s love for all things funny is readily apparent, and his curated comedy nights, though not anything too alternative or subversive, have featured some pretty great talent in the past, with last year’s show even filmed and turned into a Netflix special.

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FRIDAY – APRIL 20

NEIL HAMBURGER w/ CARLA RHODES
@ Exit/In | 8pm (7pm doors) | 18+ | $10-25

[NO COUNTRY’S FRIDAY PICK] Portrayed by comedian and musician Gregg Turkington, Neil Hamburger is a character who’s been around since the early ’90s, with enough acclaim and a cult following to feel like an actual person of his own. While his numerous albums frequently build on Turkington’s actual musical background (and Hamburger has regularly appeared at music-geared events in addition to the alt-comedy circuit), his live show is much more crowd-geared, fast-paced, confrontational, and off the cuff. Exit/In is an especially fitting spot to soak up Neil’s unique brand of humor.

BILL BURR
@ The Ryman Auditorium | 7pm | All Ages | $45

Though in recent years, he’s had an uptick in acting roles, a popular Monday Morning Podcast, and even a Netflix cartoon based on his own life, F Is For Family, Bill Burr’s bread and butter has always been standup, and he continues to excel at sharp, no-bs, observational delivery in his brash Boston style. It’s unfortunate that the “anti-PC” internet-dwellers have latched onto him lately, as Bill’s perspective is much smarter and more complex than that of most salt of the earth “blue collar” comedians (which he really isn’t).

ANDREW DICE CLAY
@ Zanies | 7pm (5:30pm doors) | 18+ | $42.50

Larger than life comic Andrew Dice Clay and his brash, macho live pseudo alter-ego “The Diceman” was a certifiable superstar in the ’80s, noted as the first comic to sell out Madison Square Garden for two consecutive nights. Also a long-time and prolific actor, his 2013 turn in Blue Jasmine showed off Clay’s dramatic chops, while fictionalized Showtime autobiographical show Dice recently kept him in the public eye. Zanies is an intimate spot to see one of the biggest comics of his era, and while some of his material an attitude might not mesh well with the MeToo era, Andrew has shown a surprisingly poignant ability to update and adapt.

A TRIBUTE TO RALPHIE MAY ft. THE SMASH BROTHERS, SARAH TIANA, & SPECIAL GUESTS
@ Zanies | 11:30pm (11pm doors) | 18+ | $20

Born in Chattanooga and long a resident of Nashville (one of just a handful of working professional comics to call Music City home), Ralphie May tragically passed away last fall at the age of 45. A veteran and fervent supporter of this comedy fest, it seems fitting that there will be a tribute this year. Twin comedy duo The Smash Brothers have unbelievable timing and synchronicity, and Sarah Tiana, also in town for Fried! podcast, is a witty observational standup. Expect plenty of special guests to pay their respects as well.

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SATURDAY – APRIL 21

JONAH RAY
@ Zanies | 9:15pm (8:45pm doors) | 18+ | $20

[NO COUNTRY’S SATURDAY PICKThough he first found widespread attention as a co-host of The Nerdist podcast several years back, comedian Jonah Ray’s standup career predates the pod, and has continued to flourish since. The sometimes actor also serves as the host of the rebooted Mystery Science Theater 3000, hosted a comedy travel show, Hidden America with Jonah Ray, on Seeso, and most notably carved a niche in the LA alt-comedy scene by co-hosting long-running live series The Meltdown with fellow rising talent Kumail Nanjiani, which became a televised program on Comedy Central. With deep ties to the music scene as well, Ray’s pop culture-infused, sarcastic, and observational style makes him an especially cool addition to this fest.

SAL VULCANO & NATE BARGATZE
@ TPAC’s James K. Polk Theater | 8pm | All Ages | $35

One of just a few performances at TPAC this year, the pairing of Sal Vulcano and Nate Bargatze makes for a weird, but kind of great mix of comedic styles that feels like a solid point of entry for someone just looking for a sure-to-hilarious show. Sal is best-known for hidden camera show Impractical Jokers, but the Staten Island native is a sharp standup as well, with a personal, quick, observational style. Nate Bargatze, meanwhile, a resident of Nashville, has mastered a laid back, southern, story-driven style that is both subtle and supremely hilarious, making him perhaps our best local comic on the national scene.

BILL BURR
@ The Ryman Auditorium | 9:30pm | All Ages | $45

If you’re hoping to catch Bill Burr and Friday doesn’t work out or sells out first, there’s also a later show Saturday night at The Ryman. This one might be an especially good pick for casual comedy fans and newcomers looking for something broadly funny, not too high or low brow, and not particularly niche- Bill’s a refined, everyman standup.

ANDREW DICE CLAY
@ Zanies | 7pm (5:30pm doors) | 18+ | $42.50

The second of two nights of Andrew Dice Clay at Zanies, even with the slightly pricier cover, we suspect these will sell out. Watch a vintage clip of Dice below (which definitely doesn’t age so well, unlike the more updated version of the character above), to see if his sense of humor is up you alley.

THE COMEDY GET DOWN ft. CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER, EDDIE GRIFFIN, D.L. HUGHLEY, GEORGE LOPEZ
@ Bridgestone Arena | 8pm | All Ages | $21.50-85.25

Easily the most star-studded event of the fest, The Comedy Get Down tour has been running for a couple years now, and currently features big name talents Cedric the Entertainer, Eddie Griffin, D.L. Hughley, and George Lopez. These four standups likely need no introduction, but as long as you’re not looking for anything avant-garde or alternative, their classic, populist comedic sensibilities will make for a fun and funny show. There appears to be some deep discounts going on with tickets too as of writing, making this a lot of bang for your buck, if you’re trying to streamline your picks.

A TRIBUTE TO RALPHIE MAY ft. THE SMASH BROTHERS, SARAH TIANA, & SPECIAL GUESTS
@ Zanies | 11:30pm (11pm doors) | 18+ | $20

Night two of Zanies’ Ralphie May tribute appears to feature the same lineup of The Smash Brothers, Sarah Tiana, and special guests. It’s unclear exactly how these late night sets will feature/honor May, but we’d assume you’ll get some personal anecdotes and more.

BRUNCH OF LAUGHS ft. LAURA PEEK & BRAD SATIVA
@ Zanies | 2pm (1pm doors) | 18+ | $10

Hosted by local standups Laura Peek and Brad Sativa, if you want to get your Saturday going early, Zanies is serving food, drinks, and plenty of laughs for all of your pre-gaming needs. This is one of the cheaper options of the weekend too, so you can catch another show or two later in the day.

TIM ALLEN
@ The Ryman Auditorium | 7pm | 18+ | SOLD OUT

While most of us remember Tim Allen for his ’90s heyday and Home Improvement fame, and while his decades-long standup career as a honed, vulgar, observational comic certainly deserves praise, the actor and standup’s recent doubling down on his Republican ideals and apparent war on “PC culture” has made him a bit of an odd duck in the typically more progressive comedy field (and a hero to some of the worst internet trolls today). This hasn’t seem to hurt his draw though, especially here in the south, as Allen’s Ryman outing is sold out.

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SUNDAY – APRIL 22

MIDDLEDITCH & SCHWARTZ
@ The Ryman Auditorium | 7pm | All Ages | $35

[NO COUNTRY’S SUNDAY PICK] Thomas Middleditch, best known for his current starring role as Richard Hendricks on HBO’s Silicon Valley (and for the past year or so of Verizon TV spots) and Ben Schwartz, perhaps best known as Parks & Recreation Jean-Ralphio and House of Lies‘ Clyde Oberholt, are just not accomplished actors, but also comedians trained at the prestigious Second City and UCB improv theaters, respectively. For “Middleditch & Schwartz,” the long-time collaborators return to those improv roots, performing long-form bits live. Given their relevant star power and the comedy essence of this show’s setup, which is smart, timely, and unrehearsed, it has the potential to be the highlight of the whole week.

CHRIS D’ELIA
@ War Memorial Auditorium | 7pm | All Ages | $34.50

Funnyman Chris D’Elia has graduated to the bigger space of War Memorial Auditorium for his “Follow the Leader” tour and Nashville Comedy Fest return. A fast rising star in the standup scene thanks to his brash and witty style, D’Elia has released some well-received specials in recent years, and has also carved out a successful career as a sitcom actor, starring in WhitneyUndateable, and a current more dramatic turn in The Good Doctor.

JAKE AND AMIR: LIVE PODCAST RECORDING
@ Zanies | 8:45pm (8pm doors) | 18+ | $25-55

The comedy duo of  Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld rose to fame with their titular CollegeHumor series a decade ago, playing off of one another to tackle a variety of topics in pre-recorded, scewball bits. They spun off and started a podcast, If I Were You, in 2013, and left CH in 2015 to shop a TV show, landing, ultimately, on a Vimeo web series, Lonely and Horny. They’ve worked with a variety of comedic talents, including the aforementioned Thomas Middleditch and Ben Schwartz, and their podcast banter is top-notch.

BILLY GARDELL
@ Zanies | 6pm (5pm doors) | 18+ | $25

Best known for starring in hit CBS sitcom Mike & Molly, Billy Gardell is also an accomplished, seasoned standup performer. While his material these days is a bit more blue collar-skewing, middle age and family life themed, his classic delivery and cool likability makes him a great bet for the right demographic.

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WEDNESDAY – APRIL 25

JEFF DUNHAM
@ Bridgestone Arena | 7pm | All Ages | $54.50-140

When Jeff Dunham’s “Passively Aggressive” tour runs through Bridgestone Arena on April 25, the Nashville Comedy Festival will technically have already concluded, but since organizers still included this on the slate (Jeff’s top billed, even), it seems like they were hoping to make it line up, and went with it anyway. The ventriloquist is a comedy juggernaut (currently the top-grossing comic in North America), and though his reliance on overblown stereotypes to land his material is not our cup of tea, he clearly has the star power to play an arena alone.

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