Graduating from comedy classes may not have the cachet of higher education. But local comedy audiences who caught James Hamilton opening for Nick Swardson (Reno 911!) at The Joy Theater last year, or on YouTube, may have enjoyed his erudition.
"The Harper Lee," he declared, is the name for "an erudite fart" so magnificent, one needn't produce another for decades. The bit about a thinking person's approach to flatulence went on, as do Hamilton's scatological inspirations. He thinks hepatitis A has a hard time living down its origins (feces) while hepatitis B, related to sexual activity, and hepatitis C, related to drug use, sound more fun.
Hamilton is a graduate of The New Movement's comedy classes. He moved to New York to pursue standup and sketch comedy, and his work was featured at live NBC Scene Showcases in New York and Los Angeles last year. He returns to New Orleans to perform at Hell Yes Fest (Nov. 15-19), which this year focuses on up-and-coming comics from around the country.
"Hell Yes Fest has never been the same thing twice," says Chris Trew co-founder of the festival and The New Movement. "(This year) we're trying to build the comedy festival equivalent of a genre film festival. Most festivals are about headliners — to draw in noncomedy festival fans. We're going in the opposite direction."
There are more than 100 comics performing at venues including The New Movement, One Eyed Jacks, Hi-Ho Lounge and Cafe Istanbul. None of them are as well known as recent festival headliners Sarah Silverman or Doug Benson, but many write for TV and online comedy platforms. New York comedian Patrick Monahan (www.pattymo.com) performs regularly in New York and has appeared on Showtime and written for Esquire, GQ, Funny or Die, Bleacher Report and other outlets. He performs at Comedy Underground Presents at 9:30 p.m. Thursday at Hi-Ho Lounge. Janine Brito is based in San Francisco and has appeared as a commentator on Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, where she described her self-conflict as a lesbian feminist — outraged by the publication of topless photos of British royal Kate Middleton, while also pleased by the photos. Brito appears in a festival edition of the New Movement's monthly LGBT comedy and storytelling show Greetings ... From Queer Mountain (7:30 p.m. Friday at Hi-Ho Lounge). Harris Mayersohn of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert hosts Just a Show (11:30 p.m. Friday at New Movement), a version of his Brooklyn show with an edgier mix of standup, sketch comedy and more.
The Hell Yes schedule includes a series of "Headliners" shows Thursday through Saturday. New Orleanian Matt Owens, Canadian Julia Hladkowicz, who released her album LAD-KO-WITS early this year, Staten Islander Pete Revello and Texan Gabriela Tijerina perform at 8:30 p.m. Friday at Cafe Istanbul. Hamilton, Brito, New Orleanian Dane Faucheux and others perform in the third installment at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Cafe Istanbul.
Many improv comedy troupes from around the country will perform at the festival. My Momma's Biscuits is an 11-member multicultural comedy group from New York, and other groups include Philadelphia's Roomies.
The festival also has sketch comedy shows and events with competitive premises. A version of The New Movement's Stoned vs. Drunk vs. Sober (9 p.m. Saturday at Hi-Ho Lounge) invites local and visiting comics to imbibe and compete to see which state of intoxication is funniest. In Sudden Death (6 p.m. Sunday at New Movement), 30 comics will participate in one-minute rounds of sudden death elimination to get to a single champion. There also is a Heck Yes Fest event (5 p.m. Saturday at New Movement) for kid comics. Visit the festival website for a full schedule.