A Crown for the Town Clown: Boise’s Funniest Person Will Give Birth to a Star 

click to enlarge From left to right: Nema Niroomand, Eric Larson, Andrea Trammell, David Kociol, Reilly Hoy

Bree Jones

From left to right: Nema Niroomand, Eric Larson, Andrea Trammell, David Kociol, Reilly Hoy

A marine biologist, a hairdresser and a travel agent walk into a Boise comedy club.

That’s not the start of a joke: That’s exactly what happened on July 7 at the kickoff for Boise’s Funniest Person, the search for the town’s next great comedian who, right now, isn’t a comedian at all.

The annual contest, hosted by the Liquid Laughs, features Shakespearean actors, firefighters and archaeologists, among others, all battling for glory and a $1,000 cash prize.

In the competition’s first phases, contestants audition for a handful of spots. On July 7, 20 would-be performers were given three minutes each to wring laughs from a panel of three judges and a sold-out club. Ten of them advanced to the next round and will perform on Saturday, July 21, after which their ranks will be reduced to five. On Saturday, July 28, a single comedian will take home the top prize.

The competition has become a feeder for Boise’s comedy scene, according to Jeremy Aevermann, who owns Liquid Laughs comedy club.

“We always get a few new comics out of Boise’s Funniest Person. People that would maybe never have tried stand-up comedy,” he said.

Winners will join a tight-knit and budding comedy community.

click to enlarge Andrea Trammell - BREE JONES
  • Bree Jones
  • Andrea Trammell
“We’re just one big muppety family,” said comedian Alisha Donahue, who organizes BFP with her comedy partner Jynx Jenkins. “It’s not as big a scene as Seattle or Portland, but there’s a lot of strong comedy happening here in the valley.”

Donahue and Jenkins were comedy rookies when they competed in the very first BFP contest in 2012. During the competition they discovered they shared a strong comedic chemistry, and afterward founded the comedy duo Lady Bizness. They now perform across the country and were voted Best Local Comedian, as a duo, in Boise Weekly's Best of Boise earlier this year.

BFP wasn’t just started to find new talent: It was also a business decision. While comedy shows thrive for most of the year, summer is notoriously slow.

“In Boise, you’re fighting against the sun gods,” said Aevermann. “It’s beautiful here at eight o'clock at night all summer long. It’s hard to get people in a movie theater. That’s why we invented Boise’s Funniest Person, because we need something people want to come out to.”

click to enlarge David Kociol - BREE JONES
  • Bree Jones
  • David Kociol
BFP is one of the brightest lights in the city’s comedy calendar, but far from the only one. A handful of startups, including the 208 Comedy Festival, are also helping to put Boise on the map for traveling comedians. That event, founded last year by Dylan Haas and Emma Arnold, will run from Thursday-Sunday, Sept. 6-9. It will feature more than 50 comics performing in venues across downtown Boise, including the voice of Comedy Central Kyle Kinane, Saturday Night Live writer and Jimmy Kimmel performer Sam Jay, and rising star Rhea Butcher.

Haas said the 208 Comedy Festival provides an opportunity to familiarize well-known comedians with Boise, and he’s confident that familiarity will breed affection and then tour dates.

“We know [that] as soon as they get to Boise they’re going to fall in love with it, and it’s happened without fail. Because Boise’s amazing,” he said.

Even as Boise attracts more nationally recognized comedians, it is the homegrown comics—many of whom owe their start to BFP—who make people laugh week in and week out.

“It’s easy to just come out and see the big names,” said Jenkins. “But you can come down to the comedy club on a Thursday and pay a fraction of what you pay at a big show, and you are going to laugh. These people are professionals.”

Even this year’s amateur contestants, one three-minute set into their comedy careers, will deliver the goods this weekend.

“People are always surprised by how good the show is,” said Jenkins. “And it's because these people have been working their butts off.”
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