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The 2023 Blue Heaven Comedy Festival expands to a four-day-long event celebrating the country’s best and most exciting alternative comedy acts. “I get to talk to some of the people who make me laugh the hardest” while curating Blue Heaven, said FringeArts associate artistic producer Zoë McNichols. McNichols looked to New York to bring new voices to Philly. “The scene I’m interested in there is very communal, supportive, and collaborative,” they said.
Laughing for good
Blue Heaven begins earlier this year, too. “Having an April comedy festival that didn’t fall on 4/20 felt like a missed opportunity,” said McNichols. The festival kicks off on Thursday with a screening of the cult stoner movie Smiley Face (2007). Friday brings a series of acts hosted by Spike Einbinder of Los Espookys. Einbinder made an appearance in Blue Heaven 2019, and more recently he developed the character Red Guy, a devilish-looking yet slightly goofy fallen angel. “Asking a fallen angel to host Blue Heaven just seemed like a divine idea,” McNichols added.
Friday’s lineup includes Benny Feldman, Tim Platt, Fareeha Khan, Francesca D’Uva, and SNL writer Asha Ward. “The show is called Red Guy Hosts: Angels Only because everybody has a good heart,” Einbinder explained. They will host and perform as Red Guy, incorporating everything from burlesque to PowerPoint. Einbinder’s style of comedic performance “subvert[s] the bodily form and bring[s] the ancient into the modern day through the lens of my experience as a transgender person.” His influences include ancient parts of Judaism and Biblical lore, as well as Greek mythology and symbolism.
Ben Wasserman, who performs Saturday, described his show Live After Death as based on his experience of losing seven people in three years. It “has all the dualities that speak to the Fringe spirit,” FringeArts’s McNichols observed, from “a slapstick approach to a somber subject” to a DIY aesthetic to audience participation. Wasserman “manages to make you feel cared for through it all.” As Wasserman pointed out, the show is more about the audience’s experience than his own. “It’s important that we talk about death and acknowledge it,” he said. “We don’t have to embrace it, but it’s part of life.” Despite the subject matter, “I’m having fun, and I hope [the audience] is having fun.”
Saturday also features Brittany Carney, Brian Bahe, and the 2022 Fringies Award winner STRESS EXORCIST. Bushwick-based Club Video closes out the festival on Sunday with a showcase of experimental comedy films created especially for Blue Heaven. “I’ve been thinking about this year as the festival’s puberty,” McNichols stated. Since its beginnings, Blue Heaven has aimed “to expand the ‘container’ that is comedy,” and “I think we’re well on our way this year.”
Above: Spike Einbinder in character as Red Guy. (Photo by Noah Eberhart.)
What, When, Where
Blue Heaven Comedy Festival. $5-$30. April 20-23, 2023, at FringeArts, 140 N Columbus Boulevard, Philadelphia. (215) 413-1318 or fringearts.com.
View accessibility information on FringeArts's accessibility page.
Attendees should be prepared to show proof of vaccination to attend FringeArts performances.
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