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Limestone Comedy Festival brings fresh comedy, fresh perspectives



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Comedian Doug Benson introduces a taping of the "Doug Benson Movie Interruption" during the Limestone Comedy Festival on June 8, 2013, at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. This year's festival will run May 31 - June 2. IDS file photo Buy Photos

Returning for its sixth year, Limestone Comedy Festival brings 30 sets and more than 60 comedians at six venues around Bloomington. The festival will run May 31 - June 2.

Headliners include Margaret Cho and Judah Friedlander. Previously, the festival has had headliners such as Patton Oswalt and W. Kamau Bell.

“It’s a multi-venue festival designed to be seen as an entire piece of art,” said Jared Thompson, Comedy Attic owner and co-founder and co-director of Limestone Comedy Festival. “What we are wanting is to feel the different ebbs and flows of different styles of comedy.”

Thompson and Mat Alano-Martin, co-director of Limestone, receive more than 500 submissions every year from comics interested in performing, and said they choose performers meticulously.

“We are extremely careful we have a great mix of everything, whether it be style, whether it be race, whether it be gender, sexual orientation,” Thompson said. “That ensures you don’t go to a show and see the same boring shit five times.”

In addition to acting and doing stand-up comedy, Cho was nominated for an Emmy Award for her role as former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on the television show “30 Rock.” In her comedy, she critiques social and political structures that suppress women, Asian Americans and the LGBT community.

“Margaret, for years now, has been at the forefront of the hot button issues that are happening in America,” Thompson said. “She’s been very outspoken about a lot of things we also find very important.”

One of the stand-up comedians performing at the festival is Marcella Arguello, who is writing for Netflix’s “Bill Nye Saves The World.” She was also picked for Vulture Magazine’s “Comedians You Should and Will Know.” 

Also performing is Ahmed Bharoocha, co-creator of YouTube channel "Dead Kevin" and winner of the Magner's International Comedy Festival. Bharoocha has made appearances on TBS’s “Conan" and Adult Swim’s “Dream Corp."

“The comedy business is finally taking notice of more than straight white male comics,” Thompson said.

Alongside stand-up sets, Limestone will feature other events, such as a brunch with the comics on Saturday, midnight performances with karaoke and a live recording of the podcast “Stand By Your Band.”

“People defend their guilty pleasures,” Alano-Martin said. “Someone will come on and defend the song ‘Barbie Girl’ by Aqua.”

In previous years, Limestone has featured live podcasts, such as W. Kamau Bell’s “Politically Re-Active” and Jimmy Pardo’s “Never Not Funny.”

Limestone arose from experiences Alano-Martin had at comedy festivals in the past.

“If you were an unknown comic and you got into a festival, often you were an afterthought,” Alano-Martin said. “They didn’t take care of the non-famous comedians very well.”

Other times, he said, the festivals where he performed didn’t have audiences due to a lack of production and advertisement. 

“There were things I liked about them and things I didn’t like about them,” Alano-Martin said. 

He married his experience as a tour manager for musicians with his love for comedy, reached out to Thompson and created Limestone. The duo have been producing the event every year since.

“We’ve been very slow in our growth,” Alano-Martin said. “We wanted it to be more full and more robust, better for the audience and better for the comedians.”

The festival is designed for people to go to a couple shows or all weekend long, Alano-Martin said.

“It’s a celebration of stand-up comedy, and in a lot of ways it's a celebration of what the Comedy Attic has built here in Bloomington,” Alano-Martin said. 

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