UNC graduate Zach Ward started the festival after moving back to Chapel Hill from Chicago. He wanted to give back to the comedic community with his experience.
The festival will be spread throughout three venues: DSI Comedy Theater and Local 506 in Chapel Hill, and The ArtsCenter in Carrboro. Ward said he never expected the festival to be an annual event.
“After the first festival in 2001, the response was overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “Literally a month after the first festival happened, I started planning for the next year.”
During his undergraduate career, Ward founded the UNC comedy and sketch group Chapel Hill Players — known on campus as CHiPs — which is one of the UNC groups that will be performing at the festival, along with False Profits, a improv, sketch and standup group at UNC.
Ward said the sense of community between the performance groups is one of his favorite parts of the festival.
“We’re in a very small market, so with that number we’re able to have a pretty substantial presence in the town — but everyone feels like they’re at a party,” he said. “It feels like a comedy family or comedy homecoming.”
UNC senior Luke Miller, who has been a member of CHiPs since his freshman year, said he’s looking forward to his fourth time preforming at the comedy festival.
“I think it’s a really unique experience,” Miller said. “You get to witness all the performances in such a short amount of time —that’s a really fun thing that you really won’t get to experience elsewhere.”