Locally grown

The six-year-old New York Underground Comedy Festival searches for its footing.

NOSE RANDY Fest staple Rick Overton headlines again this year.

NOSE RANDY Fest staple Rick Overton headlines again this year. Photograph: La Mott Jackson

In its sixth incarnation, the ever-evolving New York Underground Comedy Festival is scaling back. This year, Friday 3 through October 12, cocreator and producer Jim Mendrinos aims to emphasize quality over quantity. Gone are the regularly occurring club shows incorporated with a mere slap of the NYUCF name. Instead of 300-plus shows spread over five boroughs, China and South Africa, there will be 55 shows in and around midtown, most at the HA! Comedy Club.

New shows include the Headblade Comedy Tour, featuring bald comics John Henton, Charlie Viracola, Robert Kelly and Alonzo Bodden, and the Average White Guy Tour, in which stand-ups revel in their mediocre Caucasian masculinity. These fit into the festival’s larger trend of presenting compartmentalized theme shows: Que Pasa Comedy, the Chick Show, Gay NYC, the Greek Gods of Comedy, Politics as Usual, Harlem on Broadway, etc.

The reason to attend NYUCF shows, however, is to catch rising comics, including those performing in the Next Wave and Under 25 shows. Late Show with David Letterman talent coordinator Eddie Brill remains generous about lifting talent from the Letterman Auditions; the Emerging Comics Contest holds a similarly successful track record for sparking the careers of up-and-comers. Past fresh-faced successes Liz Miele and Josh Homer are now featured in several of NYUCF’s synergistic projects, including NYUCF Radio, New Media Comedy, the October 5 debut of Comic Quickies highlights on SiTV, and an impending college tour, record label and best-of DVD. Says Mendrinos, “The one fall week is the basis for everything else; what we’re trying to do is put real money into the comics’ pockets.”

Visit nycundergroundcomedyfestival.com for a full schedule.