They’re here, they’re queer, they’re hilarious: Far Out! Comedy Festival presents 50 comedians in Northampton and Greenfield

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 08-25-2023 7:25 PM

As many as 50 comedians will be performing later this month as part of a three-day comedy festival celebrating the voices of those who are traditionally underrepresented in the world of comedy.

“Myself and any touring comedian would say that festivals tend to skew on, ‘You’re in the minority if you’re not a straight, (cisgender) white guy,” said Ang Buxton, co-owner of 10 Forward. “(Far Out!) is really about highlighting diverse perspectives. Anyone who has a story to tell that’s based on their experience as a human being— those are the voices we want to highlight.”

Far Out!, which kicks off Aug. 24, will take place at both 10 Forward in Greenfield and The Majestic Saloon in Northampton. With comedy shows each night, the lineup primarily features queer people, people of marginalized genders and Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Building off the success of numerous one-off Far Out! comedy shows Buxton has hosted at other venues, the festival also includes a drag show, a speed dating event, a karaoke night and a dance party.

Some comedians who will be making an appearance include New York City-based Bailey Pope and Sunny Laprade, Baltimore-based Kenny Rooster, Boston-based Steph Dalwin, Alabama-based Tae Madden, and Awet Teame, who starred in two episodes of the Dexter series filmed in Shelburne Falls in 2021. Local comedians include Bobby Saldana of Amherst, Bella Carmela Levavi of Greenfield, Jessie Baade of Brattleboro, and Francis Tierney of Northampton, Michelle Talarico of Orange and Sidney St. Ives of Springfield.

“This is a really big deal for us to have the names we have coming into this area,” Buxton said. “It’s bigger than a couple of fun comedy shows. A lot of the folks on these lineups are climbing the ladder really hard. I want there to be a pipeline with Western Mass. I went them to feel, ‘What a great room; I want to come back.’ ”

To Buxton’s knowledge, there hasn’t been a comparable festival in this area for at least the last decade.

“Western Mass. is not necessarily known for its comedy scene,” Buxton said. “I think it should be, but we have to put ourselves on the map.”

Mo Schweigher, who is co-producing the show with Buxton, said that while comedians will come from across the country for the festival — some as far as Portland, Oregon — several will be local comedians who have performed at Buxton’s Monday night open mics at The Majestic. Schweigher, who hails from Los Angeles but has made a home for themself in Greenfield, also produces Jewish comedy shows throughout the year at 10 Forward.

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“Little by little, we’ve been trying to establish ourselves as a scene by having these really well-curated Far Out! shows that (Buxton produces),” they said. “For my Jewish comedy shows, I try to pull more established people from other places, but I feel like having one big weekend event is going to cement Western Mass as a place where really good comedy happens.”

Buxton, a lifelong Western Massachusetts resident, added that through the shows they produce, including the upcoming festival, the intention is to create a more welcoming scene for queer comedians, particularly those who are young or new to the comedy scene.

“Mo got on the scene (when) they came to the first Far Out! show,” Buxton recalled. “I was like, ‘If you want to do this … come practice with us.’ When you have a queer-friendly space, you open the doors for more diverse comics to work out their material.”

Schweiger said they questioned whether to pursue stand-up comedy after their first time behind the mic. Getting to perform at one of Buxton’s shows, however, changed their perspective.

“It’s so hard ... People don’t naturally feel safe in a stand-up comedy setting,” Schweiger said. “It’s so important to specifically carve out a space ... that’s not going to be uncomfortable in any way, and there’s not going to be someone being discriminatory.”

And that is exactly the kind of energy Buxton aims to bring to their shows.

“Anybody — no matter their experience level — can feel welcome and … safe to learn and grow,” they said.

Festival passes – which include entry to all shows, a free drink at 10 Forward and The Majestic, Far Out! merchandise and reduced merchandise at festival venues – are available now at https://tinyurl.com/10Forward. Tickets for individual shows will be available at the door for each show and also on Eventbrite.

Follow @faroutcomedyfest on Instagram for the latest details on the festival.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

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