The Bentzen Ball Comedy Festival, a D.C.-born festival that last occurred in 2009, is making an entirely unexpected return with a slate of comedy shows across the city Oct. 10-13.
As a joke, the second installment of the festival is billing itself as "The Fifth Annual Bentzen Ball." After its first year, which saw Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman and others perform in venues such as the 9:30 Club and the Black Cat, the festival, curated by comedian Tig Notaro and produced by Brightest Young Things, seemed to disappear into the ether. "Literally every year, there was a conversation about doing it again," says Svetlana Legetic, BYT's co-founder. "Last year, we pinky-promised ourselves that we were going to do it."
Several factors brought on the delay, Legetic says, including the Web site's growth and Notaro's well-publicized health scare. Notaro's star had been rising when the perfectly deadpan comic began an August 2012 set in Los Angeles with the shocking, "Good evening, hello. I have cancer. How are you?" What followed was a heart-wrenching reminder of comedy's power. The recording of the now-legendary set sold more than 100,000 copies.
Her breast cancer is in remission, and Notaro will return to Washington, both to line up this year's acts and to perform an opening night set at the 9:30 Club on Oct. 10.
Legetic says she expects to announce the full lineup on Sept. 10. For now, she has confirmed opening- and closing-night lineups, which include Doug Benson and "This American Life" personality Ira Glass. Legetic also confirmed that Nick Kroll ("The League," "Kroll Show"), Rachel Dratch ("Saturday Night Live," "30 Rock"), Megan Mullaly ("Will and Grace," "Parks and Recreation") and Brooke Van Poppelen will perform. Legetic says festival-goers can expect a more concise schedule, with 10 bigger shows at venues such as U Street Music Hall, the Lincoln Theatre, the Sphinx Club and 9:30 Club, rather than the slew of small club shows that weren't always well-attended in 2009.
Fans will be able to pick and choose which shows to attend, but this time, no festival pass will be available. Shows will be priced between $10 and $35 each, Legetic says. For more details about the festival, visit Brightest Young Things.