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A Look Inside Brooklyn’s First All-Day Alt-Comedy Fest

Speed dating, free pizza, and something called a Fantasy Grandma all made appearances at alternative comedy queen Jo Firestone's Firestone Fest.

by Lorelei Ramirez
Nov 19 2015, 3:45pm

Firestone Fest 2015. Courtesy of Jo Firestone.

18,000 square feet of a gutted car wash with artists, performers, and comedians lining the room of exposed brick; a stage lined with festive streamers; beers and spiked hot chocolate; speed dating; indoor soccer; a dance off; a middle school talent show. This, and so much more featured during Firestone Fest, an all-day alternative comedy festival in Brooklyn. It's the sole creation of comedian and collaborator extraordinaire, Jo Firestone. Redefining modern comedy with interactive shows such as Friends of Single People, Punderdome (which she hosts with her father), World’s Tiniest Comedy Club and more, she creates inclusive worlds that embrace the strange and wonderful, Firestone Fest being her largest creation to date.

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Joe Pera “Joe Pera and Friends”. Firestone Fest, 2015. Photo by Evytar Gour.

Curating the entirety of the festival and partaking at times, Jo maintains a seamlessly entertaining show from 12:00 PM until 10 PM, gathering friends and collaborators to host various parts of the night. “Joe Pera and Friends” starts off the show with a bang, staging a disruption by a band of misfits that call themselves “The Italian Bad Boys of Comedy” who take over Joe’s stage time by pulling into the space with a car.

Rose Evergreen and John Gentle. Firestone Fest, 2015. Photo by Andrew Bisdale.

Afterwards, an “Art Buffet” features a “Dream Car Traffic Jam” by artist Max Wittert, who paints participants' dream cars in giant traffic jams. An "interactive loneliness table" with gardener Rose Evergreen and adjunct professor John Gentle, played by Ana Fabrega and Brett Davis, appears. “It's like if you sat down across from Marina Abramovic but then she started talking about her divorce and you weren't able to leave,” explains Davis. Nearby the tables is a colorful and festive corner with comedy group Fantasy Grandma, who ropes you in with presents and makes you take pictures with green Jello and someone posing as your Grandma. And a Late-Night Talk Show Open-Mic called Late Mic, hosted by Colin Burgess, allows people to sign up for a 5-minute interview with the host before being abruptly cut off by a kitchen timer, among so much more.

Fantasy Grandma. Firestone Fest, 2015. Photo by Mara Wilson.

This isn’t even the beginning. After the break, Speed Dating's hosted by comedian Gary Richardson and his mother, their onstage chemistry propelling the room into fits of laughter. Following that, storytelling and game show after game show. At some point, a Mime holds us all hostage.

Just as the night starts to creep in, a delivery of about 30 boxes of pizza comes in courtesy of The Skint and producer Marianne Ways, livening the spirit of the show with free pizza all around. Then, a dance party. By this point I question whether I'm dreaming or in a sort of magical realm where every one of my senses is allowed to be completely satisfied.

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Free Pizza Consumers. Firestone Fest 2015. Photo by Evytar Gour.

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Dance Party Captain Mo Fry Pas. Firestone Fest, 2015. Photo by Evytar Gour.

“The show is a testament to Jo's creativity and her ability to maintain control in chaos; she's like a puppet master. She makes everything seem so easy, seamless, and natural,” says comedian and showgoer Ana Fabrega. Jo ropes in some of the most dedicated and talented performers in New York, as well as an enthusiastic and dedicated fanbase of all types of people. Dylan Marron, collaborator and friend of Jo, sums the experience up perfectly: “You come out with a few new friends, more party snacks than you wanted, and a lingering feeling that the world is better and smaller than it was before.”

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Mara Wilson’s “What Are You Afraid Of?”. Firestone Fest, 2015. Photo by Evytar Gour.

Mime Hostage Situation. Firestone Fest, 2015. Photo by Andrew Bisdale.

Speed Dating with Gary Richardson and his mother. Firestone Fest, 2015. Photo by Andrew Bisdale.

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Jo Firestone in “Ridgefield Middle School Talent Show”. Firestone Fest ,2015. Photo by Evytar Gour.

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Henry Koperski presents the Sing-A-Long. Firestone Fest, 2015. Photo by Evytar Gour.

Firestone Fest took place on November 14, 2015. Click here to visit Jo Firestone's website. 

Follow Lorelei Ramirez on Instagram: @PileofTears.

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