Abbey Londer on planning RIOT, an alternative comedy festival for Los Angeles

If you live and/or work in Hollywood, then you know — or at least have heard the joke — that everyone there is in show business, wants to be in show business, or used to be in show business but now just sits on the beach and stares out at the Pacific Ocean, wondering about what once was and what could have been.

But maybe that’s just me. Spoiler alert: That’s not me.

What about you, though? Yes, you there. You like comedy. Perhaps you do comedy. And you’re in Los Angeles, where comedy is just another part of the fabric. Every night, everybody is going Hollywood. How do you stand out and apart from that nonstop madness and celebrate the art form of comedy? Do you need to start a riot? Well, maybe not an actual riot, which Los Angelenos have been known to do before (see: Rodney King verdict of 1992, Watts in 1965). More like RIOT, billed as “LA’s Alternative Comedy Festival.” Its first-ever fest will run from Sept. 21-23, 2012.

The inaugural RIOT festival includes more than 30 shows over that weekend, plus podcasts and panels with all of the comedians that “comedy nerds” nerd out about from Los Angeles, and even some comedians flown in from New York City and parts unknown.

Here is a video that hit the YouTubes back in January to promote the festival and RIOT’s Kickstarter fund-raising campaign, which brought in $22,380 from 363 donors. The video features — hold your applause, please — Dave Koechner, Pete Holmes, Chelsea Peretti, Todd Glass, Dana Gould, Kyle Kinane, Jon Dore, Kumail Nanjiani, Megan Mullally, Patton Oswalt, Tig Notaro, Jimmy Pardo, Bob Odenkirk, Matt Braunger, Marc Maron, Oscar Nunez, Liz Feldman, Rory Scovel, Steve Little, Erik Griffin, Kate Micucci, Eddie Pepitone, Thomas Lennon, Ron Lynch, Michelle Buteau, Martin Starr, Jackie Kashian, Emily Maya Mill, Susan Burke, Lizzy Cooperman, Retta, Craig Anton, Eric Andre, Brent Weinbach, Bil Dwyer, Jimmy Dore, Artemis Pebdani, Myq Kaplan, Nick Thune, Fortune Feimster, Dave Ross, Chris Register, Jeff Wattenhofer and Abbey Londer. Roll it!

Abbey Londer, who moved to Los Angeles after starting out in the Chicago comedy scene via Second City, iO and Annoyance, came up with the idea for LA’s RIOT and has put it together. With a week to go before kickoff, Londer shared her thoughts with The Comic’s Comic about producing a comedy “RIOT” for Los Angeles, and how things are shaping up.

I’m very happy with the way the festival is turning out this year. It’s definitely bigger than anything I imagined. In the beginning I knew it would be big but it’s grown to be some quite larger—not only with the list of sponsors we have which for a first year festival is pretty outstanding, but also with the amount of comedy we have. We have just over 130 performers in the festival, and 31 shows plus an open mic on Saturday and Sunday in another little neighboring venue called The Jalisco.

I did want to reach out and try to bring in comics from NYC and elsewhere. It’s tricky with a first-year fest — your funds are limited and I try to make sure that everyone’s trip out here is made worthwhile. I will say that I’m thrilled to have the crew that’s coming out here from NYC. Hopefully as the festival grows with each year we’ll be able to spread our wings a little more and showcase talent from Chicago, Seattle, Boston and more.

When I first started this my initial concern, and also concerns from friends of mine was that LA is like a festival every day—you can see most of these people here at any given night at UCB, or Largo, etc…but to me I thought that was a poor excuse not to have a FESTIVAL in a city is not only saturated with but the home of all of these talented people. In LA, it’s very hard for us to pull away from the industry grind and everything here is go, go, go. I wanted to give comedians and comedy lovers a chance to actually celebrate themselves and the comedy they love. It’s also about exposing this exposing this amazing underground alternative scene of comedy that some people might not know about but should know about. It just seemed completely absurd that LA didn’t have anything like this, and it was pretty clear that it was something people wanted. The feedback we got from the Kickstarter alone was phenomenal.

Festival passes for RIOT will run you $60-$80.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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