When he wasn’t at his day job producing commercials for WVEC, the local ABC affiliate, Sean Devereux was onstage somewhere around Hampton Roads, usually at the Generic Theater in Norfolk, making fun of himself and morphing into an array of characters.
He’s an original member of The Pushers, an improv and sketch comedy group with a well-established, decadelong reputation in and around the area.
Devereux and other members of The Pushers have organized the third annual Norfolk Comedy Festival, hoping to expand an already burgeoning comedy scene in Hampton Roads.
“Any night of the week, you can find a stand-up show going on somewhere,” said Devereux, one of the event’s main organizers. “As far as sketch and improv, for the longest time we were the only game in town. Then about three years ago, we started teaching improv classes to the point where we have over 100 students, and some have their own shows.”
Some of that talent will be showcased at the Norfolk Comedy Festival.
Kicking off Thursday evening and ending Sunday with a comedy workshop, the festival will include some of the area’s most promising funny folks along with several up-and-coming improv groups and stand-up comedians from New York City, Chicago and Canada. The Generic Theater and FM Restaurant, formerly The Jewish Mother, in Norfolk, will host the festival with two shows per night.
This year offers more stand-up comedians than in the previous two. They include F. Alex Scott, one of the more established comedians in the lineup, who has appeared on Russell Simmons’ HBO “Def Comedy Jam” and has written for “The Steve Harvey Show” and the recently canceled “Arsenio Hall Show.” Seasoned improv vets We’re From Here, a trio of women from Toronto and Chicago tackling issues centering mostly on age and gender, will also perform.
The idea for the festival formed about three years ago, inspired by The Pushers’ frequent visits to the Charleston Comedy Festival in South Carolina.
“They have a reputation for bringing in some of the best talents, usually before they make it big,” Devereux said. “We thought this could happen in Hampton Roads.”
Devereux and the other three core members of The Pushers started scouting talent, mostly at the Charleston Comedy Festival, but also during frequent trips to New York City. The group has relied heavily on a close network of comedic performers to fill the lineup for the Norfolk Comedy Festival. They did most of the scouting during the festival in Charleston back in January. The Pushers hoped to host this year’s festival in the new theater on Granby Street in Norfolk that they’re renovating, but the building still needs work, Devereux said.
Also, the scouting process likely will change as the Norfolk Comedy Festival grows.
“As we get bigger, we’ll institute an admission process,” Devereux said. “And it looks like we’ll get bigger. That’s the hope.”
The Norfolk Comedy Festival begins Thursday evening and runs through Sunday at a variety of venues. Here’s a highlight for each day, in case you have only so much time to laugh. Check out the full schedule at www.norfolkcomedyfestival.com.
OK, so The Locals-Only sketch and improv show is the only comedy festival event going on Thursday night. But it’s still going to be funny, with Hampton Roads-grown guffaws and gags coming via nerd-centric humor and cat jokes. The most intriguing might be The Made Up Movie, which features a group of improv artists sketching out a 25-minute movie scene after a crowd suggestion.
7 p.m. Thursday, Generic Theater (under Chrysler Hall), 215 St. Paul’s Blvd., Norfolk. $10
The Stand Up Blast is a rapid-fire rotation of stand-up comics sending their bits your way. Among the featured comedians is
F. Alex Scott, who’s performed on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam.” Maybe he’ll revive a routine about cute girls who snore.
7 and 9:30 p.m. Friday, FM Restaurant, 320 Granby St., Norfolk. $15
Sketch and Improv Spectacular
This is for the people who like spontaneity with their humor as a collection of improv groups, including hometown faves The Pushers, employs whimsy to get the crowd rolling.
7 p.m. Saturday, Generic Theater (under Chrysler Hall), 215 St. Paul’s Blvd., Norfolk. $15
The festival ends with a workshop on doubleminting, which, basically, means two people play the same character at the same time. The lesson comes courtesy of Erin Goldsmith and Adrianne Gagnon of We’re From Here. By the way, you don’t have to be a semipro comic to attend.
11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Push Comedy Theater, 763 Granby St., Norfolk. $35
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