Photograph by Georgia Perry

Bloomington native and IU grad Tom Brady will defend his title as "Funniest Person in Bloomington" during the Comedy Attic's 2d Annual Bloomington Comedy Festival this summer. Weekly competitions will be held each Wednesday through July 28.

Television shows are reruns. Most of the college population fled Bloomington for the summer. The Comedy Attic isn't having open mic nights every Wednesday. But Bloomington's downtown comedy club has found a way to provide entertainment, laughter and good popcorn.

Formerly the Funny Bone, located on Fourth and Walnut Streets, the Comedy Attic this summer features the 2nd Annual Bloomington Comedy Festival every Wednesday night from June 2 through July 28.

"There's good popcorn," Tom Brady, the 2009 Comedy Festival winner, says. "It's not much different from the rest of the year, but I think they add a little bit of extra salt. I could be wrong, but it's good popcorn. And they give you a little extra soda. It's a good combo."

Last summer, Comedy Attic owner Jared Thompson decided when school was out for the summer he wouldn't have Wednesday open mic nights. He thought for a minute, and the idea of a comedy festival competition came to him.

"What else is there to do in Bloomington on a Wednesday during the summer?" Thompson asks eagerly. "LOST is over now. This is the most exciting thing you can do."

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The 2010 Bloomington Comedy Festival begins this Wednesday, June 2, at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m. It will span nine Wednesdays throughout June and July. Admission is $5 for each individual show or $25 for a tournament pass, which gives fans access every week and a pair of tickets to a future Comedy Attic show of their choice.

Thompson described the competition like starting in the second round of an NCAA tournament bracket.

"It's one comedian against the other," Thompson says. "They go head to head."

This year, 27 comedians will fight for the title of "The Funniest Person in Bloomington." Brady, a recent IU graduate and Bloomington native, is back this year to defend his win. Thompson says about half the comedy field this year is returning comedians from last summer.

"Tom Brady brought his A-game all summer and really blossomed," Thompson says.


Photograph by Georgia Perry

The Comedy Attic at Fourth and Walnut Streets is the former Funny Bone.

Brady began doing standup regularly when the Comedy Attic first opened, in September 2008. He says he was surprised and ecstatic last year when he heard his name called as winner. According to Brady, Josh Murphy and Jamison Raymond did really well in the last two rounds, so he was on the edge of his seat until he heard his name called.

"I was elated, though, because I felt like the competition was so tough, and that it could've gone to anyone, and the fact that I won meant a lot to me," Brady says. "But with people who truly love to do standup, successes are forgotten quickly, so it definitely didn't go to my head."

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The collection of comedians competing this summer is sure to provide an unpredictable outcome. The hopefuls include a variety of local residents, with professions like Bloomingfoods worker, music booking agent, Cook Pharmica employee, IU professor and IU student.

Brady says he is a little nervous about this year's competition, but whether or not he wins isn't really important.

"All of us have a lot of respect for each other, so I don't really consider myself the favorite," he says. "The only thing that makes me really nervous is the look in Ben Moore's eyes when I'm on stage. ... There's a dartboard in his apartment with my face on it. And he takes Tom Brady pinatas to every one of our mutual friends' birthday parties," Brady jokes.

According to Thompson, the cream of Bloomington's comedy crop -- Brady, Josh Cocks, Jamison Raymond, Ben Moore and Joshua Murphy -- receive first round byes, automatically advancing them to the second round. Most of these comedians have been with the Comedy Attic since Thompson and his wife, Dayna, opened Bloomington's first and only full-time comedy club, in 2008.

"We wanted to sort of reward [the comedians] for being with us since then," Thompson says.

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Thompson equates the secrecy of the judging at the comedy festival to the secrecy of Colonel Sanders' fried chicken recipe for KFC. He jokes that it's locked in a vault like the recipe.

Two full-time judges will be at the Comedy Attic weekly, with one revolving guest judge. The guest judge could be someone from the Herald-Times or another comedian. Audience participation is a heavy influence on judging as well.
"It's one comedian against the other. They go head to head." - Jared Thompson, Comedy Attic
A professional comedian closes the competition every night while the votes are counted. Geoff Tate, Jason West and Jeff Oskay are a few pros on the list to perform.

Thompson hopes for a turnout like last year, with a full house almost every evening. Brady thinks the crowds are the best part of the Comedy Festival.

"They are some of the best crowds that I've ever performed in front of because they are there to see comedy, and they give off an energy that's just fun to be in," Brady explains.

Thompson thinks the winning comedian comes away with good recognition to use in the future.

"A credit is hard to come by," he says, explaning that a credit is good for two reasons. First, it's good for resumes when looking for jobs with other clubs. Second, it sounds impressive when other comedians invite you onstage and becomes something the audience members can recognize you from.

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Thompson says that standup comedy is a difficult art form because it is the only one in the world where audience members think they can become hecklers and talk back.

He prefers not to make predictions on who could make it far in the competition or who could possibly win.

"I watch American Idol, and I thought it was ridiculous when Simon Cowell predicted Lee DeWyze would win," Thompson admits. "I think it influences people. I want to encourage everyone to do the best that they can."

Megan Erbacher can be reached at merbache@umail.iu.edu.