Reggie Watts

Behind the Scenes at the Brooklyn Comedy Festival

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BKCF Founders (Julian Kiani, Chris Nester and Ashleigh Walker) headliner, Reggie Watts. Photo by: Rafe Baron

Last week the Brooklyn Comedy Festival filled Greenpoint and Williamsburg’s bars and music venues with top names in both local and big-time comedy. It was the festival’s third year to take over our hilarious borough, and we caught up with one of the founders, Chris Nester, to see how things went and what goes into making the fest a success.

Greenpointers: So, the festival is over! How’d it go? 

Chris Nester: Oh my god it’s over? Really?! How did it go? JUST KIDDING…We’re really happy with how this year’s festival went. We were trying to pull off a lot, and I think we did it without letting anyone know how tired we were.

GP: I don’t know about that. You look pretty awful. 

CN: They sent a comic to do the interview. Perfect.

GP: (Sorry). What made you decide to start the Brooklyn Comedy Festival in the first place?

CN: Julian [Kiani] and I were performing and going to shows in Brooklyn every night. We saw that something special was happening in NYC comedy, and that it was happening in Brooklyn. One night after a show, we had a candid conversation that basically went, “Is there a Brooklyn comedy festival?” “No, I don’t think there is…” “That’s crazy. We should start that.” Then we pitched it to Ashleigh [Walker], our producer, and less than a year later we had the first Brooklyn Comedy Festival.

GP: How long have you been in Brooklyn?

CN: I’ve lived in Brooklyn for six years. Moved here Sept. 10, 2010.

GP: Have you seen a change in the Brooklyn comedy scene since you moved here?

CN: Mostly, I’ve just seen it grow – not only in the amount of performers getting up every night in BK, but also in the number of shows happening and the number of people coming to watch those shows. In many ways, the festival has grown with the scene and the borough, and I think that has helped us a lot.

GP: Your team works out of the Pencil Factory in Greenpoint. What made you choose that space as a home base?

CN: Free coffee.

GP: Sounds about right. What’s your favorite place to watch comedy in Greenpoint? 

CN: I am a huge fan of the show Broken Comedy that happens at Bar Matchless every Monday night. They’ve tapped into something there – there’s always a good crowd and a full room, and the line-ups are always killer. It’s FREE. It’s become a great Monday night spot for comics to hit before they run off to Whiplash or wherever, and also for comics to hang if they’re done for the night.

GP: What’s Whiplash?

CN: It’s a great showcase at UCB’s mainstage every Monday night. Also free.

GP: Back to the festival: What venues were added this year that weren’t a part last year?

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Crowd at Music Hall of Williamsburg on the last night of the fest. Photo by: Rafe Baron

CN: We had a few this year… Bell House, Threes Brewing, Dizzy’s Backroom, Music Hall of Williamsburg… As the scene continues evolving, with certain weekly [and] monthly shows ending and new shows always popping up, I think we’ll have new venues every year. A lot of our new venues are for shows that already exist and we attach to the festival.

GP: Did you notice a difference in the turnout this year?

CN: Every year we add more shows and bigger venues…it’s amazing that every year people continue to pack out almost every single show. It blows my mind, every single year.

GP: There were some big names on the roster like Reggie Watts and Vanessa Bayer, to name a couple. How do you get the larger acts on the lineup?

CN: I’ll just say that we have a lot of friends doing amazing things in comedy, and sometimes the stars align and we get to work together.

GP: Can we be friends? 

CN: I sent you a friend request like five min before this interview even started, soooooo ball’s in your court. 

GP: Score. What would you say is the biggest factor in the success of the festival?

CN: One huge factor in our festival’s success is the growth of its namesake borough. There are so many more people in Brooklyn now, and that mixed with the comedy boom we’re currently living in… I think people wanted this type of festival and they’re responding to it. We also work our asses off year-in and year-out to put on a good festival.

GP: Did you have a favorite show from this year?

CN: Reggie Watts, Reggie Watts, Reggie Watts. And with Jena [Friedman] and Michelle [Buteau] both doing feature sets….it was a really fun night.

GP: Reggie is magic. So, what are your plans for the future of the festival?

CN: 1.) To make sure Trump doesn’t get elected….not sure how but we’re really working hard on that.  

2.) That’s a tough question, and we try to make changes every year based on what we’ve seen and learned from the year before so we’re kind of just starting to look at next year. Our main goal has always been to lift up our scene, its fans and performers however we can, so we’re going to try and continue to do that as best we can.


Check out the Brooklyn Comedy Festival on places like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for highlights from this year and info on the next!

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Thanksgiving Film plus Reggie Watts Rooftop Films Tonight 7/3 and Bad Brains Film at Nighthawk 7/8

It’s been a little while since I’ve had a chance to post, but I’m coming back to you with some music & film events taking place over the next few days. And as a bonus, I have a live performance video shot on location in North Brooklyn.

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