Introducing the Derby City Comedy Festival

Contributing Writer

For the first time in our city’s young age of 236, Louisville is getting its own stand-up comedy festival courtesy of The Laughing Derby.

The Derby City Comedy Festival will take place Sept. 17-27 at six different venues, with portions of the festival being taped for FOX’s new hit standup comedy show “Laughs” (Saturday nights on WDRB at 11 p.m.)

It all begins on Sept. 17 at The Bards Town, continues on at The Laughing Derby, Zanzabar, Mulligans, and ends back at The Laughing Derby with a closing party after their late show on Sept. 20 at 10 p.m., with the party starting at midnight.

But the festival doesn’t end there. On the following Thursday, Sept. 25 you can catch Nick Swardson (“Reno 911”) performing at The Louisville Palace.

It all leads up to “the biggest all-star comedy lineup Louisville has ever seen!” On Sept. 27 at The Iroquois Amphitheater, The Laughing Derby presents Pete Holmes (“The Pete Holmes Show”  and the “You Made It Weird” podcast) and Maria Bamford (Comedy Central) with featured acts Tommy Johnagin (The Bob & Tom All-Stars) and Chris Thayer (“The Pete Holmes Show”). Hosted by The Laughing Derby’s own Steve Hofstetter.

I recently spoke with Hofstetter about the festival and what comedy enthusiasts can expect during the 10-day-long celebration.

Steve Hofstetter, co-owner of The Laughing Derby and host of “Laughs.”

Steve Hofstetter, co-owner of The Laughing Derby and host of “Laughs.”

CHRIS HUMPHREYS: How did the Derby City Comedy Festival come together?

STEVE HOFSTETTER: It was one of the first things we wanted to do when we bought the club. We talked about it right away. I’ve produced 19 other comedy festivals, and we didn’t understand why there wasn’t one in Louisville. So we figured “why not make it happen as quickly as possible?” From there we talked to venue owners, to comedians, to the mayor, and put the whole thing together.

HUMPHREYS: You have shows at both The Box at the Laughing Derby and The Laughing Derby. What makes those shows different?

HOFSTETTER: The Box is basically that little room at the bar. So we’ll do more (alternative) shows there. It’s a more informal environment, so we’ll be running shows in the main showroom and in The Box, which we’ve done before, but not at this magnitude. So it’s going to be exciting. Some of the comedians are going to go back and forth between the two. Some comedians will be completely different for the shows. If you want a more intimate experience, get tickets to The Box. If you want a more traditional comedy club experience, get tickets to the main showroom.

HUMPHREYS: Will there be an afterparty for each night of the festival?

HOFSTETTER: Sometimes we tell people to stick around the bar and hang out with the comedians. It kind of all depends on what mood we’re in.

HUMPHREYS: Will the comedians change their comedy routines for their different performances?

HOFSTETTER: I assume so. Some of them will probably say “this is my tried-and-true material and I’m going to stick with it,” but there’s going to be pretty hefty industry there so they would be wise to show their range. Each comic gets four shows, and that’s the fun part: to see what they do, see who shines, see who seems really polished, see who can be off-the-cuff. It’s going to be exciting for us.

HUMPHREYS: Who are some of the local acts that will be performing?

HOFSTETTER: Mark Klein, Keith McGill, Matt Dryden and David Bizianes, and on the newer side, Holly Lynnea and Patrick Passafiume.

HUMPHREYS: How will “Laughs” tie in?

HOFSTETTER: Not only are we doing one of the live tapings the first night, we’re also going to leave the cameras running. The idea is to tape every show that’s going to be in the main showroom.

HUMPHREYS: How did the Iroquois Ampitheater show come together?

HOFSTETTER: That’s one where we have a great relationship with Headliners, and the people who run that also book various shows around town, including Iroquois Ampitheater. So they had this idea to do this giant comedy show where the city would get involved. They contacted us and said “Hey, is this something you’d like to get involved in?” So we put it together as part of the comedy festival and we’re the ones that booked Maria, Pete, Tommy, Chris and myself.

HUMPHREYS: How did you get such big names for the first annual festival?

HOFSTETTER: It comes with owning a couple clubs, having relationships with the agents and reaching out to them and saying “We want to do a really cool show. Who can you get us?” We were given a lot of names, but the reason we went with them is that they’re interesting. They’re current. Their styles are different, but they compliment each other. Seeing Maria Bamford in a big theater is a hell of an experience. Seeing Pete Holmes in a big theater is a hell of an experience. Same thing for Johnagin. And to put all that on one stage is great. All of us have our own fan bases, but I think everyone else’s fan base will enjoy the other acts as well. Oh man, I can’t wait!

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call The Laughing Derby box office at 502.459.0022.

Click here to read more about the Iroquois Amphitheater show with co-headliner Maria Bamford.