First round of primaries advances six candidates to next round of Bloomington Comedy Festival

About 20 candidates are vying for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party this year.

Ballot for June 19, 2019 preliminary round of the Bloomington Comedy Festival competition. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

It’s a paltry number compared to the field of 40 who are campaigning to be named the Funniest Person in Bloomington. The 11th edition of the Comedy Attic’s Bloomington Comedy Festival (BCF) will culminate in the finals held on Aug. 28.

The comedy caucuses kicked off Wednesday with five-minute sets from each of 10 performers. The tally of ballots from audience members put six candidates into the next round of competition. Advancing to the second round are: Jonas Schrodt, Steve Volan, Neal Meyer, Jan Gudaitis, Dan Paswell and Bob Nugent.

They’ll join the six top vote getters from more phases of first-round BCF competition, which take place over the next three Wednesdays (June 26, July 3 and July 10). Shows start at 8 p.m. (doors at 7 p.m.) at the Comedy Attic, downtown on Walnut, a block south of the square.

Comedy Attic owner Jared Thompson advised the capacity crowd about tickets at the start of the evening. If folks are planning to buy individual tickets for upcoming BCF shows—as opposed to a festival pass—they should purchase them in advance, not the day of the show.

Holders of passes also need to let Thompson know they’re planning to attend each show, on Monday before the event, so he knows how many other tickets he can release: “It’s complicated, I’m sorry, it sucks, you hate it, you don’t want to have to do it, I understand, I hate everything about it, also. Just make sure you email me Mondays only, if you have a pass.”

Thompson also offered some advice on voting. Say you’ve heard a performer tell the same joke before: “Comedy does not work when you’re like, ‘Oh, it’s new, so maybe they’re better.’ No, if you’ve heard a joke before, that means they’ve been working on it and they’re good at comedy, that’s how that works.”

The comedy festival’s balloting format—which means audience members choose six of 10 candidates—is a little different from a municipal election. For example, in races for at-large city council seats, voters can select up to three candidates from the number who are running. For an at-large seat, it’s possible to “undervote” by choosing only two, or even just one—and those votes will still be counted. But BCF ballots state: “CHOOSE EXACTLY SIX.”

BCF emcee Brad Wilhelm orally hammered home the wording on the paper ballots. “What happens if you vote for five?” he asked the audience. A chorus of “Thrown out!” came from the crowd, who had been tutored on the subject at previous festivals.

Many ticket holders were there to support a specific performer. Before the show, friends of Steve Volan were figuring he might tell some jokes based on his height. Volan, who’s known outside comedy circles as a member of the Bloomington city council, stands 6 feet 8 inches tall.

On that score, Volan did not disappoint, delivering a complete set of tall jokes, beginning with the first, based on his nickname “Tall Steve.”

The set-up: “People get more familiar with me and they go, Hey, Tall!” The punchline: “Don’t ever do that. Don’t call me Tall for short.”

Volan and the other performers who advanced on Wednesday will start the second round of competition on July 17 and July 24. A complete BCF schedule appears on the Comedy Attic website.