The Queen City Comedy Experience will take over Uptown Charlotte with comedy events this week

By Beth Mack

September 3, 2023

Charlotte’s largest comedy event, Queen City Comedy Experience (QCCE), returns to Uptown Charlotte this week, September 6-10. This year’s experience will feature over 50 events spread across multiple venues. Headliners for the event include stand-up comedians Chris Tucker and Shawn Wayans, political-musical parody Capitol Fools, a true crime comedy podcast Small Town Murder, and Hyprov: Impov Under Hypnosis with Colin Mochrie (Whose Line Is It Anyway?) and Asad Mecci. QCCE also provides a platform for the budding Charlotte comedy scene, with dozens of shows featuring regional talents like Tara Brown, Karla Dingle, improv group Now Are The Foxes, and many more. 

QCCE was set into motion one January evening in 2017 when Blumenthal’s special projects event manager Joe Hunsaker, an improv comedian, went to check out Queen City Comedy’s comedy festival at Acting Out Studio in Ballantyne. Inspired and challenged by the number of talented local comedians and the lack of venues for them to perform, Hunsaker collaborated with Cale Evans and Karla Dingle of Queen City Comedy on a monthly improv show at Stage Door Theater. The improv show started in May 2017 and was well received, with most shows selling out. It proved Charlotte had an untapped appetite for comedy. 

Wanting to further develop the local comedy scene, Hunsaker, Evans, and Dingle brainstormed a larger event in Uptown, and brought Brian Heffron, owner of The Comedy Zone, into the conversation. Together they envisioned something different: “Everyone does a million festivals. What can we do differently? Let’s create a buzz,” said Heffron. Thus the Queen City Comedy Experience was born.

This year’s event kicks off with a variety show on Wednesday, September 6 at Stage Door Theater featuring regional talents from Never Decaf Improv, Bummerland Sketch Comedy, and stand-up comedian Paul Snyder.  

On Thursday, September 7, the festival ramps up with headliner Capitol Fools (a satirical political-musical parody) and rising stand-up comedian Paris Sashay. The evening will also feature QCCE’s Fight Night Championship Finale, where 12 comedians compete for bragging rights and a $500 cash prize.

The fun continues on Friday, September 8, with 16 events featuring shows from headliners Shawn Wayans and Hyprov: Improv Under Hypnosis, an improv show where 20 audience members will take the stage and be hypnotized as part of the show. 

Bingo aficionados will enjoy Comedy Bingo hosted by Charlotte-based Beerly Funny. The interactive event blends stand-up comedy by Lauren Ansley as she calls rounds of bingo. Returning to the lineup this year is Funny on the Fly, where the area’s best improv comedians are given five topics and 30 minutes to prepare a set on the fly.

While you roam between events in Uptown, be sure to stop by the Funny Street Outdoor Stage located on Levine Avenue next to Knight Theater. DJ Shaynanigans kicks off the festivities on Friday night at 4 p.m. with trivingo (comedy, music, and trivia bingo) complete with challenges and contests such as lip-syncing and dance. Comedy juggling duo Harry and Harrison take the stage at 6:30 p.m. with local indie alternative rockers, Swim in the Wild, kicking off the music at 8 p.m. 

If you’re looking for a night cap on Friday night, QCCE will host a free after-party at Gilde Brewing starting at 11 p.m. with karaoke and guest comedian appearances. 

On Saturday, September 9, the schedule is packed with 27 great shows and experiences including Chris Tucker’s first tour in over a decade, hit podcasts Therapy Gecko, Small Town Murder, and a live taping of The Black Guy Who Tips, a comedic podcast hosted by husband-and-wife duo Rod and Karen Morrow, who discuss everything from pop culture to politics. Charlotte comedian Tara Brown will be hosting her own stand-up Clean Comedy Show with special guests Improv Charlotte, Craig Collin, Blayr Nias, William Spann, and Brandon Young. We’re Here, We’re Queer, We’re Funny is a showcase of some of the region’s best LGBTQ+ stand-up comedians hosted by Shaine O. Laine of Charlotte’s Aqronym Entertainment. 

Live music on the outdoor stage continues on Saturday with Charlotte-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Val Merza at 4 p.m., R&B artist Arsena at 5:30 p.m., alternative jazz duo Cosmic Collective at 7 p.m., Triangle-area R&B/soul group NiiTo at 8:15 p.m., and Charlotte country-fusion band Southside Watt at 9:30 p.m. 

QCCE concludes Sunday, September 10, with a final improv workshop and short-form “Whose Line is it Anyway?”-style Sunday Improv Jam hosted by local comedians Tony Galardi and Karla Dingle. 

Local/Regional Spotlight 

Staying true to its mission of helping local comedians, the Queen City Comedy Experience will incorporate workshops for aspiring comedians. This year, the festival will host nine workshops led by a variety of industry talents such as the Baltimore-based improv troupe CakeWalk Comedy, Diana Brown, and locals like Karla Dingle.  

Expanding its reach further by welcoming regional acts with shows like Charlotte-Columbia-Raleigh (CCR) Comedy Show on September 7, the Raleigh-based improv troupe, Capital City Culture Club, is just one of the many groups joining in on the festivities. Capital City Culture Club’s April Kirby is a case study in how events such as QCCE can help grow local talent through exposure and workshops. Kirby dipped her toe into the comedy world back in 2008 during her college days. Over the years her passion persisted and she attended multiple improv sessions and comedy festivals to hone her craft. Kirby credits much of her success to her supportive network in the North Carolina comedy scene and visibility offered by events such as QCCE. 

“The most important part of any comedy scene is the people who participate in it as audience members, performers, or part of the support network that makes it all happen,” said Kirby. You can catch Kirby performing in the CCR Comedy Show (Thursday, September 7) and at The Comedy Underground Show with Charlotte-based improv group Now Are The Foxes on Friday, September 8.

In addition to providing workshops, QCCE ensures that talented comedians in Charlotte’s comedy scene are given the opportunity to perform and get the visibility they deserve. PJ Barnes, a local sketch comedian who is part of this year’s QCCE is proud to be a part of the festival lineup.

 “QCCE has done so much to not only bring the comedy communities together, but they have done a great job in spotlighting the comedy out here as a whole. I don’t see too many other communities where the sketch, improv, and stand-up are so intertwined,” Barnes said. 

Barnes is half of the sketch comedy team, ScrewUp TV, a comedy production company that has produced a feature film, All We Got (2021), and a six-episode miniseries, Ogden, on Tubi. The Best of Sketch Comedy Show on Friday, September 8 at Booth Playhouse will feature comedians from ScrewUp TV, D.C. group Rails Comedy and Richmond’s Anarchy Barn, all hosted by Barnes.

Another must-see local event is Music + Comedy with Mona Lisa Musiq on Saturday, September 9 at Stage Door Theater. The North Carolina native will be hosting the interactive show featuring improv groups Musical Improv Cincinnati and Crescendo Musical Improv, as they make up songs on the fly. A fourth-generation piano player, Mona Lisa has been surrounded by music her whole life but it wasn’t until she met comedian Sterling Thrill (the host of virtual comedy show Nite Brite TV) through Beerly Funny’s Lauren Ansley, that she entered the comedy scene. Shortly after, Thrill reached out to have her play the piano in the show. 

“I watched a lot of late-night comedy as a kid, so I immediately accepted. What makes our show unique is that our music is completely done on the spot in real-time. I never know the jokes in advance and create music based on what I’ve heard,” said Lisa. Her QCCE event Music + Comedy will follow this same premise and will be sure to provide enjoyable sounds and laughter. 

For a complete list of events and to purchase tickets, visit Blumenthal Performing Arts’ official Queen City Comedy Experience website.

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