Comedy is a fair medium. Given nothing but a stage and a microphone, it’s up to the performer to make the audience laugh however he or she can. And when a prize – and pride – are on the line, the stakes are sure to rise.
Starting Wednesday, Aug. 6, the Unforgettable Comedy Challenge will take place at Funny Bone Comedy Club at Destiny USA. The venue, which has been active in the mall since January 2013, regularly brings in national, regional and local acts. For the Comedy Challenge, audiences will see which Central New York comic has the goods.
“They’re strong acts,” says assistant general manager Bert Borth. “They come from all over and I don’t see a clear-cut favorite. It’s gonna be interesting and all about who does well that night.”
Thirty-two comedians spanning Albany, Rochester Buffalo and beyond competed in preliminary rounds, with 12 qualifying for the final competition. The winner receives a $500 prize. The event supports the Central New York chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Corey Smithson, 23, is one of the comics in the final round. The Syracusan has been doing the event for three years; the first two were held at the former Wise Guys club on South Salina Street.
“It’s competitive with so much on the line, but it’s so much fun to do,” he says. “The performers are as good as I’ve seen. To get up with them is an honor.”
Smithson has been mounting stages as a comic for four years and working his way into the circuit. He performs throughout Central New York at various competitions and has opened for names like Comedy Central’s Nick Griffin.
“I’m kind of a sociopath, so I like the power that comes with it,” Smithson says. “It’s something to have your moment and get to express who you are and have people take it in. I’m not super-funny compared to some people I work with, but the drive to succeed in something, put your mind to something and accomplish it. It’s like you’re LeBron James, but you’re not seven feet tall.”
Both Smithson and Borth are sure to note that the event is about more than just laughs: It’s also about supporting the Alzheimer’s Association in spreading awareness of the disease and raising money for research.
“I think a lot of people are touched by Alzheimer’s,” Borth says. “It’s a good cause.”
The comics have also been appearing weekly on WMVN-FM 96.5 and 100.3 (Movin’) with morning-drive hosts Joey Walker and Heather Daley to raise awareness of the cause and the comics.
“You’ve got to mix it up each show,” Smithson says. “We don’t get the privilege of being like a musician and being able to play one hit for the rest of your life. We’ve always got to be thinking. We’re always pitching material. You write what you think is funny, wing it and remember what works. And for these competitions, you go in as strong as you can because you might not get another chance. You throw the best, funniest stuff out there and you hope it works.”
The final comics for the Ultimate Comedy Challenge include:
Aaron David Ward
Just the Facts
Unforgettable Comedy Challenge
Wednesday, Aug. 6, 7:30 p.m.
Funny Bone Comedy Club, Destiny USA
Admission is $10
Visit syracusefunnybone.com, or call 423-8669
Upcoming comics at Funny Bone include:
John Caparulo (Chelsea Lately): Aug. 1 and 2
Paul Reiser (Mad About You): Aug. 8 and 9
Lavell Crawford (Last Comic Standing): Aug. 15 and 16
Dan Grueter (Comedy Central): Aug. 21-24
Christ Porter (Last Comic Standing): Aug. 28-31
Jim Norton (Opie & Anthony): Sept. 4-6
Rob Schneider (Deuce Bigalow, Saturday Night Live): Sept. 12 and 13