New Mexico may lag behind a few other states in terms of education, crime control and economics. Health care, too, really. But—hey—at least we have a sense of humor about ourselves. Proof of our state’s humorous outlook can be found in Albuquerque’s recent explosion in live, standup comedy events. Head to shows at the newly opened Dry Heat Comedy Club or to open mics at Lizard Tail Brewing and JUNO Brewery. Or check out regular showcases at Lobo Theatre, Guild Cinema, The Hall ABQ, Beer Lab 101 and The Box Performance Space.
Since 2019 our city has also been home to Albuquerque Funny Fiesta. The two-week showcase returns this Sept 15 through 25, welcoming local legends as well as out-of-town guests to a variety of venues across the city to show off their skills at standup, improv, sketch comedy and more. This year’s venues include Box Performance Space, Dry Heat Comedy Club, North Fourth Arts Center, the Historic Lobo Theater, InsideOut and the Kosmos Restaurant.
Leonard Madrid helped found Albuquerque’s legendary late-night sketch comedy group Blackout Theatre Company at UNM back in 2007. He now serves as its artistic director and recalls Funny Fiesta as “the brain child of Jeff Andersen and Josh Bien, who wanted to celebrate all the great standup, improv and sketch comedy of Albuquerque and bring folks from outside of the city who feel the same about comedy.” Anderson and Bien are board members of Arts Hub ABQ, which organizes the annual Funny Fiesta. Blackout has been a part of the Fiesta since that first year. “We are a group of people who love and appreciate comedy,” says Madrid. “We also individually love each of the organizers of the Fiesta.”
For this year’s Funny Fiesta, Blackout promises some “New Mexican-inspired hilariousness” on Sept. 16, 17 and 18 at North Fourth. “This time around,” Madrid says, Blackout’s work “will be more off-the-cuff and up-to-the-moment sketch comedy that was created and rehearsed within the week.” He promises that, with this timely twist, the shows “should be a little wilder and more exciting for all involved.”
Sarah Kennedy is a well-known local comic and the co-owner of Downtown Albuquerque’s Dry Heat Comedy Club, which is serving as a primary venue of this year’s Funny Fiesta. “I first got involved with the Funny Fiesta in 2019 as a headliner/performer,” says Kennedy. “I was living in NYC at the time, and they asked me to be part of the festival, and I was so thrilled. It was such a great experience that it heavily influenced my wife, Kelli’s, and my decision to move back to N.M. After that I joined the planning committee and we got to work on the 2020 festival which, for some reason I just simply can’t recall, had to be postponed.”
Despite a humor-free pandemic delay, Funny Fiesta quickly returned to the Duke City. “It was so exciting to hop back into planning for last year’s return of the fest, which featured some awesome performers,” says Kennedy. Among the shows hitting Dry Heat this year are The Super Stacked Show on Sept. 22 (featuring 15 comics in 90 minutes), a local “Green Chile” comedy showcase on Sept. 24 and a Queerly Funny night of LBTQA+ comedy on Sept. 24. On Sept. 25 the club hosts a special version of Zach Abeyta & Friends, a popular monthly standup show which normally happens at the larger Lobo Theatre in Nob Hill. “We’re very excited to offer audiences a more intimate version for the Fiesta,” says Kennedy.
“Kelli and I are so excited to get to have Dry Heat Comedy Club as a venue for the fest this year,” says the comedian and club owner. “It, combined with North Fourth Theater and The Box, really allows each aspect of comedy that we’re showcasing their own spaces to shine!”
Among the events happening at other venues are an MST3K-style movie dub of the 1936 propaganda film Reefer Madness at North Fourth on Sept. 16. On Sept. 18 at North Fourth, tenth-ranked woman poet in the world Gigi Bella offers up Big Feelings with Gigi Bella. Inspired by her best-selling book of poetry, Bella gives her thoughts on “love, Olive Garden and the comings and goings of Pete Davidson.” On Friday, Sept. 23, The Box hosts The Blue Show, which allows comedians to serve up “their dirtiest, adultiest jokes.” This year’s Funny Fiesta headliner is Myq Kaplan, a comedian who was a finalist on “Last Comic Standing” and has been seen on “The Tonight Show,” “Conan,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and in his own half-hour Comedy Central Presents special. His show gets underway at the Lobo Theatre on Sept. 23 at 8pm. Things start to wind to a close on Sept. 25 with a comedy-filled “Brunch Off” at Kosmos Restaurant.
“Maybe I’m biased,” says Kennedy, who’s performing both Queerly Funny at Dry Heat and the Riff-a-Palooza show at InsideOut. “But I think 2022’s Funny Fiesta is set to be the best one yet! Such wonderful in-state and visiting talent. It’s gonna be a good time.”
Albuquerque Funny Fiesta runs Sept. 16, 17, 18 and Sept. 22, 23, 24, 25. For a complete schedule of Funny Fiesta events, go to abqfunnyfiesta.com. Individual tickets are $14. Myq Kaplan’s headlining show is $25. Full festival passes are $200, first week passes are $70, second week passes are $115 to $135.