Passing the mic: Janelle James Comedy Festival takes over from Eugene Mirman

Pass the mic: Eugene Mirman started his self-titled comedy festival more than a decade ago, and it grew into a beloved Brooklyn staple.
Brian Tamborello

Call it by her name!

The inaugural Janelle James Comedy Festival will unleash a smorgasbord of stand-up comedians and extravagant performances at the Bell House on Dec. 4–6.

The fest follows in the footsteps of the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival, which began as a joke and grew to draw some of the biggest names in comedy to the Gowanus area during its decade-long existence, before closing with one last hurrah in 2017.

Now the baton has been passed to comedian Janelle James, who hopes to update the fest but keep the same zany spirit as the original.

“I’m trying to keep the same energy with not just stand-up but bring in all kinds of other stuff as well,” said James.

Each night will feature one show, titled “Comedians Who Live Nearby,” “Comedians Who Said ‘Well, Who All Goin Be There?’ ” and “Comedians Who Said ‘Sure, I’ll Come By,’ ” respectively.

James teamed up with producer Caroline Creaghead, who worked on several iterations of the Eugene Mirman fest. The two have brought in some eccentric acts, including a ventriloquist, a burlesque performer, drummers, and a deejay, according to James.

“It’ll be like a mini carnival atmosphere,” she said.

James is eager to put her own stamp on the festival, making the festival lineup reflect New York’s diversity.

“I just wanted something in New York that is my own and has my name on it and that I can build on,” she said. “It will be blacker. You’ll have all races, all genders, musical comedy, club comics — I have all different styles of comedy in there.”

The comedian also aims for the show to bring her fans together with Mirman’s.

“I hope it’ll be a crossover of people that have been on Eugene’s shows before and don’t know me,” she said. But Mirman’s fans can rest assured that she will draw on his experience, she said.

“I feel like being able to take the torch from Eugene already lets people know what I’m going for,” she said.

Mirman, who emigrated to Massachusetts last year, will return to his old home borough for a set at the festival. He will be joined on the lineup by a host of established and new comedians, including Liza Treyger, David Cross, Mia Jackson, Judah Friedlander, and Nore Davis.

The former Park Sloper, who provides the voice of the pre-teen showbiz enthusiast Gene for the Fox animated show “Bob’s Burgers,” is currently editing a documentary about the ten-year run of his eponymous festival. He said that — like stand-up comedy itself — the success of the festival lies in its spontaneous attitude.

“It’s like trial and error, like stand-up,” Mirman said, adding that he is happy to see the festival live on under James’s name.

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

Janelle James Comedy Festival at the Bell House [149 Seventh St., between Second and Third avenues in Gowanus, www.janellejamescomedyfestival.com]. Dec. 4 at 8 pm; Dec. 5–6 at 7:30 pm. $25 ($20 in advance).

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Taking over: Janelle James wants to make the “Janelle James Comedy Festival,” happening on Dec. 4–6, keeps the same energy as Eugene Mirman’s eponymous festival.
Matthew Salacuse

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