5th Annual Accidental Comedy Fest

Interview w/Cody Cooper and Jimmie Graham

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Lisa Sanchez

​Cleveland is famous for lots of things; toxic waste, cursed sports teams, grilled cheese sandwiches, and professional malaise. But, Accidental Comedy Fest is here to add some laughter to the list of Cleveland exports.

The Accidental Comedy crew is currently in its fifth year of hosting the three day festival and this year’s event, starting August 26 to 28 at Mahall’s, will host more than 50 comedians, three musicians, and a sampling of live podcasts.

In the middle of planning the 5th annual Accidental Comedy Festival, I got a chance to speak with comedian Cody Cooper who’s helped coordinate the event for months.

Cooper commented on the appeal of ACF by highlighting it’s accessibility. The comedian stated, “It affords people a unique venue to get out and meet new people, build friendships, while forgetting about the daily grind and getting a laugh in.”

This year, Accidental Comedy was named the best comedy show in the city by Scene Magazine. Considering the group hosts shows all over the city, including venues such as Barrio, Happy Dog, Great Lakes Brewing, and The Nash that distinction is well deserved.

According to Cooper, the plans for ACF begin as soon as the previous year’s festival ends. Plus, planning the logistics for ACF become even more challenging while balancing numerous shows at different venues each month.

In order to guarantee fresh talent and pull comics from all over the country, Accidental Comedy accepted between 200 and 300 video submissions from artists who wanted to be on the fest. Cooper explained, “People are eager to be a part of this. We do it a little different than other festivals. We provide food and lodging, free beer for everybody. We really take care of the comics because we really care about the scene and want to give them a good representation of Cleveland and what we really have to offer. We want people to practice their craft.”

While excited, Cooper made it clear that he and the rest of the crew were diligent, but didn’t want to overanalyze everything until it wasn’t fun anymore. “We’re all excited about it because we get to see a lot of friends that are doing the same thing that we’re doing in their city.” It's a great chance to infuse some fresh comedy into the Cleveland scene and give national comics a little Ohio welcoming.
The paramount principal of Accidental Comedy Festival is to give the casual observer and the community a chance to fully immerse themselves into the Cleveland comedy scene. Cooper mentioned, “I believe it’s [Accidental Comedy Festival] is just different because we truly cater to the people that are coming. All the funds that we generate throughout the year goes back into the festival. It’s not about money or us or anything like that. It’s just about the performance. That’s really what separates us.”

This year, Accidental Comedy Fest will be hosting headliners such as Kurt Braunohler (Bob’s Burgers, New Girl, John Oliver Standup), Beth Stelling, Maria Arguello, and many more. But, Cooper informed me that Accidental Comedy Fest has hosted Trevor Noah, Bill Squire, Ryan Dalton, and Mike Polk in the past demonstrating that the festival is not only an excellent vehicle for comedians, but a great chance to see fantastic comedians without the price tag attached.

“If you just want to see the best up and comers from around the country and have a very intimate show with those people. There are a lot of big names that people didn’t know when they were here that have done accidental and gone on to do really cool things.” Cooper said.
Jimmie Graham, who hosts the Modern Kicks comedy show at Happy Dog on Wednesdays, also stopped by and contributed, "I think what makes at least what we’re doing unique is that we’re able to put on affordable shows that are accessible to anybody. A lot of the clubs are 21+, two drink minimum. We’re able to actually pick up and produce our shows anywhere. We work anywhere. Accidental Comedy as an entity, we pop up in these already cool establishments. We can put on the same caliber of show Wednesday nights at Happy Dog. When people come out they can come to something that’s personal, unique, and real and see some great artists. We’ve made great friends who make it a point to stop through and catch our shows.”

In addition to celebrating its five year anniversary, this year’s Accidental Comedy Fest also coincides with founder Ramon Rivas’ Comedy Central special debut. The Accidental Comedy crew is celebrating the Friday, August 26 premiere with a special party at Plum Café on Detroit Avenue where VIP ticket holders can mingle with comedians and witness Cleveland comedy history with the special airing.
General admission tickets and VIP passes are still available through Accidental Comedy Fest's website. All of the stages are hosted by Mahall's in Lakewood. Enjoy the festival for the laughs, the chance to see new talent, the inviting environment, and a chance to watch Cody Cooper's grandma flirt with Bill Squire.