James town: Janelle James Comedy Festival returns to the Bell House

JanellJames-Color-Jennifer Walkowiak
She’s running this show: Janelle James is the host and coordinator of the Janelle James Comedy Festival, at the Bell House on Dec. 5-7.
Photo by Jennifer Walkowiak

That name rings a Bell!

A three-day comedy festival celebrating Brooklyn comedian Janelle James will return to the Bell House next month for its second glorious year. The Janelle James Comedy Festival on Dec. 5–7, named for Janelle James, hosted by Janelle James, and featuring a lineup of stand-up comedians hand-selected by Janelle James, will offer audiences 90 minutes of belly laughter on each of its three nights, said Janelle James. 

“This lineup is excellent,” she said. “I chose people that I know will crush. It’s 12-minute sets and I want people to laugh for an hour and a half straight. Then go home.” 

In addition to James, the festival will feature 13 comedians from across the country, performing at shows titled “Comedians Who Don’t Owe Me Money,” “A Black Ass Show with Open Mike Eagle and Baron Vaughn” — featuring comedian and “art rap”  artist Open Mike Eagle, along with Comedy Central’s “The New Negroes” host Baron Vaughn — and “Comedians Who Flewed Out,” in that order. 

The second iteration of the show continues a decade-long tradition set by comedian Eugene Mirman, who launched the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival as a joke in 2007, but which grew to draw the nation’s top comedians to the Gowanus venue. 

James said her comedy festival still captures the zany spirit of her predecessor, but she has added her own flavor to the proceedings. 

Her inaugural show last year earned a thumbs up from Mirman — the voice of Gene in the Fox animated cartoon “Bob’s Burgers” — who told this paper he was happy to pass the torch over to James. 

“She’s so funny and it’s a joy to see the joke of a self-titled comedy festival live on and be reborn,” he said. 

In last year’s lineup of comedians, James also mixed in a burlesque show, a modern dance piece set to a spoken word performance, and a ventriloquist act. She said she has some tricks up her sleeve this year as well, but she declined to spoil the surprise of whatever off-genre acts might appear.  

“There will be things like that this year,” James said. “But I am not going to say what it is.” 

James said the audience can expect a friendly show, but she warned not to expect it to be too warm and fuzzy.

“This isn’t Sesame Street,” the comedian joked. 

Janelle James Comedy Festival at the Bell House (149 Seventh St., between Second and Third avenues in Gowanus, www.janellejamescomedyfestival.com). Dec. 5–7 at 7:30 pm. $25 ($20 in advance).