No comedy festival in New York better celebrates individuality than the Peoples Improv Theater’s annual SOLOCOM. Every year dozens of performers from near and far descend on the comedy hub with new, original solo shows where the only limit to a creator’s originality is the number of performers (that would be one).
“The festival started as an opportunity to allow performers to take a chance on themselves,” PIT’s Allen McRae explained. “It gives them a chance to do something brand-new that they’ve been thinking about and try something new creatively.”
Nearly all of the 130-plus shows are world debuts, with each participating artist agreeing to use at least 80 percent original material for their performance. Many of the returning performers challenge themselves to create new shows from scratch each year, oftentimes in a matter of several weeks or months, while others might choose to bring an idea they’ve had for a while to the stage.
Though some performers are old hats, who have successful careers as stand-up comics, sketch comedians, playwrights and storytellers, others are fledgling funny people still waiting to make their mark. The genres they bring to the festival vary, including storytelling, character sketches, mime, cabaret and even magic.
“It may work, it may not,” McRae said. “It could go on to become a solo show that goes onto the fringe festivals in New York or Edinburgh.”
According to McRae, one of the best aspects of the festival is discovering entirely new talent — whether it’s somebody at the beginning of their career or is participating from out of town. Still, he had a hunch about a few shows to check out. Read a few of his recommendations below, and check out the PIT’s website for the full list shows.
Jeff Simmermon, “Making a Scene: True Tales of Public Outburst”
Celebrated storyteller Simmermon (“This American Life,” “The Moth Radio Hour”) brings tales from his life to the stage. He shares the hour with Gastor Almonte. Thurs. at 8 p.m.
Actor and comedian Ben-Abdallah is a veteran of SOLOCOM. She’s bringing multiple characters to her sketch-based performance. Thurs. at 8:30 p.m.
Harmon Leon, “Harmon Leon Infiltrates Hell House & Other TALES”
Throughout his career, Leon, a vice-contributor and storyteller, infiltrated several extremist groups and subcultures. Fri. at 8:30 p.m.
Mary Theresa Archbold, “Anybodys Everybody: One Girl’s West Side Story”
Archbold, an actor and dancer, tells the tale of “West Side Story” from the perspective of an outsider who saw Maria and Tony’s ill-fated romance from the outside. Fri. at 9 p.m.
Kevin Jones, “Kevin and Debbie (Minus Debbie)”/Gianmarco Soresi, “Mouthy”
Join Jones as he relives the ups, downs and what-the-hell moments of his failed relationship with his ex-girlfriend then stick around for Soresi’s stories about times his smack talk has gotten him into trouble in his hometown. Sat. at 9 p.m.
Giancarlo Mariutto, “How to Successfully Bury Your Dad at Disney World”/Sloane Miller, “Sloane: The Musical”
During this wacky double billing, Mariutto shares a true story about burying his father at “the most monitored place on Earth” and Miller improvises cabaret songs inspired by suggestions from the audience and her own life. Sat. at 9:30 p.m.
Matt Cox, “I Am Mr. Snuggles”
The writer of the hit “Harry Potter”-parody “Puffs,” Cox plays Mr. Snuggles, an entertainer that definitely isn’t diabolically scheming world domination, or so he says. Sun. at 7 p.m.
SOLOCOM is at the PIT Thursday-Sunday, 123 E. 24th St., single show $10, festival pass $30, thepit-nyc.com