Guess what made its way back to town? The LOL Comedy Festival, which made its S.B. premiere last year. Once again, the organizers have booked renowned comedians to complete the purpose of this comedy festival and have you laughing — no, roaring — out loud. The roster includes reputable big names such as Cheech Marin, Andy Daly, Chris Hardwick, and many others. The Santa Barbara Independent staff had a chance to talk to some of the headlining comedians coming to town: Kira Soltanovich, Brad Williams, and Eric Schwartz.
The voice of the photo booth on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, a regular on Girls Behaving Badly, and a cast member of truTV’s How to Become a Grown Up, Kira Soltanovich answered my first interview question—“What’s up?”—with a deadpanned, “I just had a baby six weeks ago, so I have no life. Interview’s over!” Raised by Russian parents, who are “still scary when smiling,” Soltanovich finds humor in every aspect of life. At 15, she would sneak into comedy clubs with some friends and her mom, who would claim to security, “Yes! They’re all 18 and all my children,” Soltanovich said, “and it would be me, my Asian friend, and my Mexican friend.” She slipped in jokes to every part of our conversation, making it easy to see why she got into comedy, which comes to her so naturally. “It was court ordered,” she said.
After her first Showtime comedy special, Here Comes Trouble, Soltanovich decided to self-produce her next one to preserve creativity and originality. (Unfortunately, it won’t be available before the festival, as it is currently being finished.) Making a TV special is expensive, so how did she raise money to do this? A couple of months ago, she used her pregnancy to crowd fund, an idea collaborated on with comedian and podcaster Adam Carolla. Basically, anyone willing to pay a certain amount could make a permanent imprint on her life and that of her child’s. “For $20,000, they can choose the middle name,” explained Soltanovich. “Middle name, because you know… Let’s not be complete lunatics. And for $25,000, they can cut the umbilical cord.” (The people who paid for the first option graciously gave Kira rights to her daughter’s middle name. The second choice did not happen.) Clearly, Soltanovich treasures creative control beyond normal standards, a recipe for a good show.
You may have caught her at the Set List shows at Telegraph Brewing Co. or at Comedy Hideaway, but she will be bringing something totally different to S.B. this time around: “Head lice from my 4-year-old, 30 extra pounds, and hormones,” she warned. —Ginny Chung
Returning from last year’s festival and named “Most Likely to Become Famous” in his high school yearbook, Brad Williams recorded his first television special, Fun Size, at the Lobero Theatre during last year’s LOL. “Since then, my whole life changed. Now I’m really excited to come back to S.B., where it all began,” he said. And according to Williams, Santa Barbarans really know how to rally. So maybe this year’s show will end with another lap dance with an audience member. Who knows?
Williams has done shows for junior high school kids and for the rowdiest drunks at a midnight show in Baltimore. He’s experienced a girl throwing her head back from laughter and accidentally lighting her hair on fire, someone having a heart attack, and a man proposing to his girlfriend during his show, so he knows exactly how to adapt to audiences and situations. “I’m always ready. I’m ready for anything to be thrown at me, sometimes literally,” he explained. And for those who saw Williams’s show last year, don’t worry about hearing the same jokes for this time out; Williams challenges himself to constantly write new material — for his own sanity, as well as that of the audience — thanks to the esteemed Louis C.K., who set the bar high by vowing to do a new hour of comedy every year. Since the moment Williams was brought up onstage as an innocent bystander at a comedy show for being a dwarf, he knew comedy was it. “The laughter I caused was a shot of adrenaline … or heroin, depending on what you prefer.”
With hopes that the audience trusts him to choose the right comics, he will be presenting some “who haven’t gotten their share yet” at this year’s Next-Up Stand-Up. When he’s not on the road 15 weeks a year, Williams performs at improv and comedy venues to stay sharp — it’s no wonder he’s constantly meeting a lot of talented people. And, in case the show is boring, he has the answer: “If a bad thing happens, ask someone for a dwarf. It just makes everything better.” —Ginny Chung
Eric Schwartz always brings a madman’s bag of comedic skills to LOL Fest. His stand-up features music, brainy nerdiness, and multimedia displays, in a form he calls “multi-comedia.” “I spent all my bar mitzvah money on deejay equipment. I was a deejay in college, and I just started mixing my music into comedy from there,” he said.
Schwartz produces an original and exciting experience with a winning mix of charisma, lanky physicality, and innovation. While the Thousand Oaks–born Schwartz’s show is multifaceted, with a background in journalism, he keeps his joke-writing classically funny. His quick wit and journalism skills came in handy when he reported on the scene for LOL Fest last year. “I was the man on the street for LOL Fest last year and handled all of the post-show interviews. That was really fun, to interview my friends, who I know well and have good rapport with,” Schwartz said humbly.
Schwartz is often featured at the Laugh Factory and has a solid YouTube following. Videos such as “Crank That Kosha Boy” have garnered millions of views, and several of his parody videos have been acclaimed by media networks like E!, BET, and Forbes.com. Schwartz will be performing on Chris Hardwick’s The Nerdy Show this year at LOL Fest. “I know I’m a nerd because I’ll be out in public, and I’ll see a font and say, ‘Oh, oh, oh, I know that font. That’s Futura, that’s Rockwell, that’s Veranda,’ because I’m a font savant.” —Ryan Mandell
LOL Comedy Festival takes place Thursday, October 8-Saturday, October 17, at various downtown locations. For more information, see lolcomedyfestival.com.