There’s a riot goin’ on, but unless things go drastically awry, the worst thing that will happen is you’ll have to be excused to go laugh yourself silly in the parking lot. At least, that’s what Travis
Cowing, Jeremy White, Adam Hatch, Erik Gundersen, Tuck Tucker and Johnny Brayson hope you’ll do this weekend at the second annual Comedy Riot at 8 p.m. Saturday at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer.
The event builds on the success of last year’s Riot, which surprised organizers White, Hatch and Gundersen when more than 400 people came out to the show.
“We went into it with no idea as to whether or not it would be a success,” said White, who in 2009, with Gundersen and Hatch, formed comedy promotional team Riot Enterprises, which is producing Saturday’s show. “We weren’t using national talent. We were using Mainers, most of who were from around here. We’d only sold 10 percent of tickets five days out from the show. And then, by that Saturday, we had to turn people away. It was really, really cool.”
Five out of the six comedians set for this weekend’s show are from the Bangor area. Hatch, who grew up in Bangor and has been performing throughout Maine for several years, believes there’s a previously untapped market for local comedy in eastern Maine.
“I don’t think any of us really realized at first that there was talent in Maine,” said Hatch. “We know there’s an audience out there, and they’re really hungry for comedy, and local comedy, at that. They want to have it as a part of what they do, just like music or theater or whatever it might be.”
Riot Enterprises set out last year with the goal of offering affordable comedy nights for Maine audiences, with a focus on local talent. The group has offered events monthly from Portland to Lincoln in bars, clubs and other venues, all-ages and 21-plus.
The new spotlight on Maine comedy hasn’t gone unnoticed by newer comedians, who previously had no outlet for their work. Johnny Brayson, who performed at the now-defunct Humpday Hullabaloo comedy nights at Bangor bar Ipanema, is now a regular comedy performer in the area and will be featured at this weekend’s event. Other comedians, such as California transplant Quincy Black and Bangor resident Elliott Scott, have been involved in other Riot shows.
This summer’s KahBang Festival featured a Maine comedy night, and Gundersen was the host for the two-day music festival on Aug. 13 and 14. On Saturday, Nov. 27, the crew from Discovery Channel’s “American Loggers” will host Riot Enterprises at Pelletier’s Family Restaurant in Millinocket.
“It opened my eyes, to see that other people around here wanted to do comedy,” said Hatch. “I think there’s a stigma about being a local artist, but I think that’s changing. You can sit around and wait for things to come to you, or you can just do cool things in Maine and bring everyone else. Word can spread quickly.”
Travis Cowing, one of the headliners for Saturday’s show, has been performing in the area for close to a decade. He has seen a lot in his time while trying to make it as a comedian in eastern Maine.
“Way before Riot ever happened, I remember showing up to gigs in bars that actually had stripper poles onstage. Just try doing comedy in that kind of an environment,” he said. “I’ve done shows where the only light was from the Fryolater in the kitchen. It’s a mess. So when these guys asked me to do the show last year and there were tons of people there, it was kind of like, ‘Finally.’”
The second annual Comedy Riot is set for Saturday, Nov. 19, at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 at the door; cash bar is available. A DVD will be filmed during the show, which will be available later this year. For information, visit “Riot Enterprises” on Facebook.