Albuquerque Funny Fiesta is giving comedy lovers plenty of chances to laugh – almost too many, so there’s no excuse.
The festival takes place from Sept. 15-25 and features a plethora of performances, including stand-up, sketch, improv and variety shows. Jeff Anderson, who sits on the producing committee, said 81 acts are slated to entertain Albuquerque across multiple venues.
He said, “We wanted to showcase the amazing local talent, and then also bring in national acts to kind of both introduce Albuquerque to them and introduce them to Albuquerque.”
The festival, founded by local nonprofit Albuquerque Arts Hub, has been garnering the attention of national entertainers since its 2018 inception. After a break in 2020 due to the pandemic, this year will be Funny Fiesta’s third installment. Anderson said they received more submissions than ever, and over 30 different zip codes were represented in the applications.
“We’re excited that the word seems to be spreading,” he said.
The festival will be headlined by comedian Myq Kaplan who currently hosts two podcasts and has a one-hour stand-up special, “Small, Dork, and Handsome,” on Amazon. He has been featured on Comedy Central, almost every late-night talk show, and competitions such as “Last Comic Standing” and “America’s Got Talent.”
In addition, Kaplan’s latest comedy album, “A.K.A.,” debuted at No. 1 on iTunes in 2020. Anderson said that Kaplan is the biggest name Funny Fiesta has booked thus far.
“We’re really stoked to have Myq here. One, because he’s just freaking hilarious and his show is going to be amazing, and two … local comics have an opportunity to meet and chat with him,” Anderson said.
Networking is an enormous part of the festival. Anderson said some acts in Albuquerque have met touring comics during the festival and then the next year, they’re performing their own shows around the country. He said the goal is to create “a comedy pipeline.”
One local comedian who has made an impact beyond the city’s borders is Gigi Bella. The author and slam poet is an eccentric talent. With an unmatchable delivery, she has the ability to blend powerful statements with humor into her performance. Even if an audience member doesn’t fully understand poetry, her words entrap and enchant.
Though she was always into theater and songwriting, Bella first experienced slam poetry as a teenager. She said, “I just thought it was amazing that these people were so brave and awesome and cool, and writing and telling their own stories.”
Yet, it took years for her to share her own writing.
“I finally got up the courage to give it a shot, and the community was super encouraging, which led to me competing and representing Albuquerque multiple times on teams and individual national competitions.”
Sharing her stories was the right move for Bella. In 2017, she was ranked as the 10th woman poet in the world at the Women of the World Poetry Slam. Her other accomplishments include being named the Project X Bronx Poetry champion twice, as well as part as the first-ever Latinx Project X Bronx Slam Team, a Pink Door Fellow, and the National Poetry Slam champion and semifinalist.
Additionally, her work has been featured on Button Poetry, Slamfind and various poetry collections, as well as used by singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles. “It’s been a crazy 11 years. … Everybody has their own unique way to tell a story, and when I’m being my most honest self, I’m often telling jokes and being very silly,” she said.
Bella, who enjoys building a closeness between artist and audience, is debuting a musical element to her poetry and humor. She is set to perform on Sunday, Sept. 18, at 6 p.m. at the North Fourth Art Center. This year’s Funny Fiesta will be Bella’s first, though she has performed around town plenty of times and is ingrained in the supportive comedy community.
“I’m really excited to get to know them more and to get to see more work, just kind of delve into this big awesome thing that is the festival because there’s so much to see,” Bella said.
Over the course of the 11-day festival, performances are slated to take place at the North Fourth Art Center, The Box Performance Space, Dry Heat Comedy Club, The Historic Lobo Theater, Inside Out and Kosmos Restaurant. Fans can purchase individual event tickets, weekly passes and full festival passes.