This past weekend marked the tenth annual Savage Henry Comedy Festival, drawing in over 100 comedians from in and out of the area for a three-day festival with almost 40 shows in ten different venues.
The Savage Henry comedy club opened its doors for the first show of the festival on Thursday, October 7. The entire venue was filled with a pink spotlight-tinted haze, courtesy of several fog machines provided by the event’s sponsor, Terplandia. The fog itself was infused with Blue Dream terpenes.
The comedy club was not packed, owing to COVID-19 regulations, but having a physical show at multiple venues was a huge step up from last year, which was held mostly over Zoom. The pandemic definitely took its toll on the comedy scene, but for Chris Durant, owner and founder of the club, the support from the community was indispensable.
“It really gave us a reason to keep this place open,” Durant said. “Every time we felt like giving up, we’d get some support from the community and be like alright, let’s see what we can do.”
Unlike many comedy festivals, Savage Henry doesn’t have a submission process, but instead books its talent on an invitation basis.
“It’s fun, I call it my fantasy football,” Durant said. “These are all friends of mine. I’m meeting some of them for the first time in person, but they’re all friends of mine. Friends of friends of friends kind of thing.”
The shows themselves were a show of many diverse styles of stand-up, with various comedians taking turns hosting. LA-based comedian and HSU graduate Alec Cole lent his dry, understated style to the second show of the evening, introducing each comedian with a (hopefully) joking list of their crimes against humanity.
“I know it’s been pretty hard out here, as would be imagined given everything in the past year, but it feels like everyone who’s come out so far is just out for a good time,” Cole said.
Cole got his start performing comedy locally, and was glad to be back. He had moved to LA to pursue comedy, only to have his plans set back by the global pandemic, a case of COVID-19, and a bout of mercury poisoning.
“After I had COVID, I tried to take better care of myself so I went pescatarian, but I didn’t do any research, and I just ate too much of the wrong fish,” Cole said. “So yeah, last year was a doozy, but now I’m back out doing stand-up.”
San Francisco-based comedian Rachel Pinson has been performing comedy for four years, gathering much of her material from her own life.
“It’s almost like the job of the comedian to take stuff, especially traumatic things or really harsh things, and make them in a way that’s palatable and funny,” Pinson said. “A lot of my comedy is about being a woman and the stuff we face every day, like harassment, and turning around. It’s like growing up and being made fun of, and just being able to make fun of myself before the other people do.”
Pinson has definitely experienced something of the “boy’s club” mentality in comedy.
“There’s definitely times when I’ll hear stuff when I get off like, ‘that was a great set, and I’m talking about her jokes, hahaha!'” Pinson said.
However, she has found that the sexism of the business can be worked to her advantage, being able to be brought on as a “diversity hire.”
“People are like, ‘we need a female!’ and I’m like ‘you haven’t even seen my set,'” Pinson said.
HSU graduate and headlining comedian David Eubanks got his start at The Jam in Arcata after seeing an open mic flyer.
“From the first time I did it, I was just hooked,” Eubanks said.
Eubanks encouraged any student considering trying stand-up to come to a local open mic night and try something out. The local comedy scene is always looking for more talent, and the festival has been welcoming to newer comics.
“Humboldt State University, hire me for a private gig,” Eubanks added.