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D.C. hipsters Brightest Young Things become event planners

The Brightest Young Things, a Washington-based nightlife and culture Webzine for 20- to 30-somethings, celebrates its most ambitious social event to date: the Bentzen Ball comedy festival.

Opening night is slow at most venues.

"An empty balcony at the Lincoln Theatre," Oswalt grumbles during his set, which is otherwise applauded by the near-capacity orchestra section.

In their next-day Web report, BrightestYoungThings.com calls it "a packed house" anyway. The photos give it a Hollywood sheen.

Saturday night, lines form outside mostly full houses. At the Black Cat, comedians scurry up and down a staircase behind the stages to catch snippets of one another's shows. Charney, who's running the venue for BYT, times each set on both floors. Pratt pops in from time to time, thumbing his BlackBerry, checking sales at the door. He thinks they're definitely going to lose money on this.

Over at Studio Theatre, Legetic also juggles simultaneous shows, racing from green room to green room. "I'm missing my three headliners," she says, before tearing up a flight of stairs. On one stage, comedian Steve Agee, from "The Sarah Silverman Program," talks about weighing his testicles on a kitchen scale.

In the dark hallway by the other stage, Mary Lynn Rajskub paces before her set. Since she plays an intelligence analyst on the TV series "24," perhaps she can profile the Brightest Young Things on the spot.

"They're still very mysterious to me," she says, seeming a little surprised to even be here. "I hear they're good people."

At the festival's open-mike program in the crowded backroom of Ben's Chili Bowl after midnight, Nick Offerman (Amy Poehler's boss on "Parks and Recreation") strums his guitar as he sings a lewd, endearing song he wrote for his wife, Megan Mullally. The performance stuns the drunk chili hounds.

Then, finally, the wrap party. The Brightest Young Things lay out a catered spread in the industrial space of Gold Leaf Studios at Fifth and I streets NW. DJs send Prince, the Clash and Michael Jackson off the white brick walls as comedians trickle in. Just before 4 a.m., Justin Cousson, a 20-year-old student and stand-up comic troupe member at the University of Maryland, plops down on a white sofa. He's pretty much the luckiest guy in the world, he says. BYT invited him to be at the festival, which put him side by side with his favorite comics.

"I got lucky," Cousson says. "The whole city got lucky. The audiences left knowing they live in a city where anything can happen."

* * *

The next morning, the Brightest Young Things go to the airport to pick up Sarah Silverman, who's headlining the weekend that they and Tig Notaro created out of nothing. About an hour before showtime Sunday evening, the 9:30 club officially sells out. At 8:15 Cale Charney welcomes the crowd and introduces Legetic, Jetton, Pratt and Ellsworth-Kasch as his "best friends in the whole world." The crowd "awwws" and dutifully applauds.

Then Silverman takes the stage, and the capacity crowd is captive for the next 2 1/2 hours. The Brightest Young Things watch from the wings, smiling and leaning on each other, groupies once again, as a concert hall full of people enjoy the fruits of their work. They mingle with Silverman, Notaro and other comedians in the green room, exult in the success of this final show and the audacity of the whole weekend.

Before they leave, they collect a $29,560 check from the 9:30 club made out to BYT Media Inc. Ellsworth-Kasch suggests they frame it, but turns out they'll definitely need to cash it. The Bentzen Ball shows didn't sell as well as they hoped, and then there's that maxed-out credit card. The festival will leave them in the red, and Pratt will have to crunch the numbers to see how much of a setback they're facing.

Nevertheless, Legetic's blog post the next day glows with trademark BYT optimism: The Bentzen Ball finale "was awesome," she writes. "I am not saying this because we threw it, I am saying this because it is true."


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