Just like the music stages at the 10th Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival offering a wildly diverse array of styles, this year’s Comedy Tent has also broadened its scope to include not only some of the best and edgiest stand-up around but spoken word, puppets and a couple of television casts.
Expertly booked by Rocky Benloulou-Dubin, this year’s performers include Lewis Black, the 420 Comedy Blaze hosts by Cheech Marin featuring Jay Pharoah, Ralphie May and the stars of “Workaholics,” director/author John Waters, Henry Rollins, Bill Bailey, Donald Glover, Henson Alternative Stuffed and Unstrung, The League Live (Paul Scheer, Nick Kroll, Jon Lajoie, Stephen Rannazzisi), the Gregory Brothers, Kathleen Madigan, Eugene Mirman, Ted Alexandro, Tim Minchin, Tig Notaro, Hannibal Buress, Craig Baldo and Nate Bargatze.
Although he’s shocked that people would skip live music in favor of stand-up comedy, Lewis Black nonetheless appreciates the festivalgoers’ dedication.
“They’ve been incredibly receptive and line up to come in the tent really early,” Black tells Punchline Magazine. Black’s a huge music fan himself; his congertgoing experiences date back to the late ‘60s, seeing the original Allman Brothers Band and Janis Joplin. “There’s a whole group of people out there who really have a love of comedy. Those people come, in part, because of who’ll be performing comically. They come at it a bit more focused.”
Listen to comedian/actor/writer Nick Kroll discuss his third trip to Bonnaroo and its clear why he’s among the more than 30 artists returning to be a part of the 10th anniversary celebration.
“I really love the festival,” he tells us. “I think it’s always a good mix. They take good care of us in the comedy area. Totally psyched to do the shows, and it’s just fun. So many great bands. All the obvious stuff.
“Also, because of the way it’s set up in the artist colony area, it’s a great way to go ‘Oh, wow! That’s Lil Wayne and there’s the dude from Wilco.’”
He continues, “What makes Bonnaroo so special is that you are in a city made up entirely of Bonnaroo for three to four days. That whole aspect gives it a different feeling. You are in the world of Bonnaroo for that time– and nowhere else.”
Kroll will be joined this year by his fellow cast members in the FX series The League. The show follows four friends (Kroll, Jon Lajoie, Stephen Rannazzisi and Paul Scheer) in a fantasy football league whose personal and sports lives intersect for better and worse. Its third season premieres this fall, airing 10:30 pm EST every Thursday.
Besides acting in the show, the four are all seasoned stand-up artists. Kroll has created numerous memorable characters (Fabrice Fabrice, Bobby Botteservice) and had is hour hour-long Comedy Central special Thank You Very Cool. Lajoie, besides cranking out musical comedy albums, is an Internet sensation, with videos including “Show Me Your Genitals” and “Everyday Normal Guy.” Rannazzisi not only studied with the famed Groundlings improv group but appeared in Paul Blart: MallcopImagine That. Scheer, of course, was one of the creators (along with Aziz Ansari and Rob Huebel) of the MTV sketch comedy show Human Giant.
“We’ve done some shows on the road as a group,” Kroll says. “People are excited to see us do stand-up, but they also are excited to see us all together. There will be a lot of time of us being onstage together doing some songs from the show and stuff that people can relate to, but you won’t need to have seen The League to enjoy what we’re going to do.”
As far as giving a sneak peak of what’s in store for Bonnaroo comedy fans, he said, “The more that you can make the show really specific and special to that specific moment in time, people who are in that room, being at Bonnaroo, the better off you are.”
For those who are unable to make it to Manchester, Tennessee for the sold out festival, they can check out some of the comedy performances online. Starting at 6 p.m. EST on June 12, with the assistance of Comedy Central, there will be a live stream of the Bonnaroo Comedy Tent, hosted by comedian H. Jon Benjamin. The slate includes Cheech Marin, Donald Glover, Henry Rollins, Bill Bailey, Ralphie May, Eugene Mirman, Ted Alexandro and Tig Notaro.