I try to do these fests justice on this site; I really do. I want nothing more than to be able to sit down after taking a day or two to decompress and pontificate over the experiences I shared with fellow comedians, neat things I saw and ate, and takeaways from the weekend I hope to share back home to contribute to my local scene. Just because I’ve written more extensively about other fests doesn’t mean I love them more, Cola Comedy Con, and don’t you forget that.
Columbia has always been one of my favorite comedy cities here in the South. The way that that scene and the gadabouts who run it make visiting comics feel after they’ve passed through is how every small scene should hope they make visiting comics and artists feel. My first time there in 2014, I got a chance to close out the Red Door Tavern (RIP, living on via Wayne Cousins’ shirt), hung out at a speakeasy with girls with gauge earrings, and passed out on a couch in Joe Coughlin’s garage. This time, I sprung for an AirBnb, but that’s mostly a reflection of my relative success in staying employed outside of comedy. I also rented a car because I wanted to buy records and leave in a timely fashion on Sunday so I wouldn’t risk said livelihood (or life, driving back over the mountains in the inevitable rain at 3AM like Rob Thomas warned us about).
I had the privilege of performing on three shows this weekend, the first of which was an Armando set with TomorrowQuest Theater. For those of you who don’t know what an Armando is, it’s a tribute to the Mets’ closer from the late 1990s, Armando Benitez. Dude was a beast, and I’m so happy that improv troupes around the world have been giving notice. The show was in one of two (TWO!) venue spaces within Art Bar, one of my new favorite bars in the South (and I have a lot of those, only because there are a shitload of great dive bars with actual culture contained within their walls down here). My friend Topher Riddle, one of the fest organizers, invited me to tell a story toward the end of their Friday night show, which was a blast. I didn’t get any pictures of me performing in front of TQ, but I did take a few around the bar. I also had a blast watching some friends feature at New Brookland Tavern (the fest’s flagship venue) later that night.
Anyway, Saturday! I did a bunch of record shopping, and bought some books at Ed’s Editions, a great rare bookshop by New Brookland Tavern I’ve been wanting to check out for four years, but never could because I’ve never been on that block before like 9pm. I also stopped through their gigantic Greek Festival. I opened the 8pm show at Tapp’s Arts Center (one of my favorite buildings anywhere in the South), which was cool (literally) because we were underground and it was about 10 degrees colder than the first level. More comedy shows in caves! Here’s photographic evidence of Day 2:
Sunday! I had to be lame and get up early to eat donuts and meet some work deadlines at a cafe near the USC campus. I did swing by a taco truck that Joe Pettis recommended (he seems like someone who knows street tacos) and catch the live recording of the Boogie Monster Podcast featuring Wayne Cousins, Jenn Snyder, and Derek Sheen that was utterly amazing. Listen to it! DO IT. After that, I opened up the 4pm show on the loft at World of Beer, said my goodbyes, and drove back to Knoxville. It was pleasant. Also, thanks to the producers for not scheduling shows against one another, so every one was filled with comics in addition to the nice audiences.
Alright, I’m just gonna go head and hit “publish” so this thing sees the light of day before 2025. Cola Comedy Con is a swell time and I can’t wait to go back down there. In conclusion, here’s a photo of John Gibson passed out upstairs at Pearlz…
And here’s a photo of a cute dog named Winnie, who lived in my AirBnB.