Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Laugh it up at festival of comedy


Chris Hupe

Whatzup Features Writer

Published July 25, 2019

Heads Up! This article is 3 years old.

Are you ready to laugh? If you couldn’t take the joke that was the rainy, wet spring of 2019 and are having trouble with the heat of summer, then you’re in luck. Let’s Comedy has just the medicine you need.

Let’s Fest 3 takes place August 1-4 in various venues throughout Fort Wayne and you’re invited to every event.

A few years ago, the Fort Wayne Comedy Club picked up the comedy torch and ran with it, altering the traditional comedy club model a bit but continuing the tradition of bringing in nationally known comedians on a weekly basis.

Now, Let’s Comedy has taken laughs in the Fort to a different level. They have booked nationally known touring comedians, who often perform just a handful of shows a year, into non-traditional venues around the city, often on non-traditional comedy nights and without much fanfare.

Friendship came first

Let’s Comedy, the company behind Let’s Fest, was built simply on the friendship and dreams of childhood friends Ryan Ehle and Jared Busch and their shared desire to bring a better variety of comedy to their hometown.

Their first ventures into the comedy world were as organizers of open mic nights. Those were successful enough that they led to booking actual comedy shows. The success of those shows begat more shows, snowballing into a full-time gig as comedy promoters.

“We got into it hoping to do a lot of different events and variety stuff,” Ehle said in a recent interview with Whatzup. “It took some time but we have managed to build up our reputation to where we are now really liked by people all around the country. We work hard to bring in acts that really don’t do a lot of shows. Some of these acts are only doing seven or eight dates on their tours for the year. Getting the amount of shows we get now came from people taking a chance on us and totally convincing them that Fort Wayne can be a comedy town.”

The idea for Let’s Fest came from visiting the Limestone Comedy Festival in Bloomington. Although it’s not quite the same, the Let’s Comedy guys feel they have adapted the idea well to their hometown.

“The way our downtowns are laid out are different,” Ehle said, “so it’s a little more of a stretch from venue to venue (in comparison to Bloomington), but we think it beneficial in that it highlights different parts of our downtown and gives people a chance to see what our city has to offer.”

Full slate of comedians

Welch’s Ale House is the center of the festival with shows every night, featuring up-and-coming comic Ryan Niemiller on Friday, August 2. You might recognize Niemiller from TV as he is currently a contestant on America’s Got Talent. The self-described “Cripple Threat of Comedy” was born with a disability in both arms. Instead of letting that disability hinder him, he uses it to his advantage, making fun of it by sharing his unique perspective in hilarious ways.

Also appearing at Welch’s is Tony Hinchcliffe, doing double duty with two stand-up shows and two Kill Tony podcasts on August 2 and August 3.

Lil Debbie also appears August 2, Ever Mainard takes the stage August 3 as part of the Fort Wayne Pride Showcase, and The Adventures of Pete & Pete featuring Danny and Mike is set for August 4.

Also on August 4 is An Evening with The Authors in which several comedians take the stage posing as accomplished authors reading from their most recent works.

The incomparable and legendary Todd Barry takes the stage August 2 at Columbia Street West in what is sure to be an unpredictable and hilarious night of laughs. Barry, known for his deadpan delivery, has been a “must see” act for years, first becoming widely known with his Comedy Central special in 2000. An accomplished voice actor as well, Barry is recognizable from appearing on Dr. Katz, Home Movies, Wonder Showzen, and Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

From the Rail to the Embassy

The Brass Rail not only hosts comedians Sarah Squirm and Helltrap Nightmare on Friday and Open Mike Eagle on Saturday, but it is also hosting the nightly after party. On Thursday you can check out Best Sleep, Friday Isaiah Grey, Astral Hand, and Jared Andrews. On Sunday, Meat Flowers with Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts wrap things up.

Other events take place throughout the weekend, including “Ben Carr-aoke” hosted by Ben Carr at Bird & Cleaver, “Fort Wayne Ha!” at Wunderkammer Co., and Broken Pencil Improv at Pint & Slice. The full schedule is available on the Let’s Fest 3 Facebook Page.

This year’s festival headliner and closing act is Chris Redd, a fast-rising star and Saturday Night Live cast member who portrays many of the shows’ most popular characters and recently won an Emmy Award for Best Original Music and Lyrics. The Embassy Theatre hosts Redd on Sunday, Aug. 4.

The collaboration with The Embassy is a first for Let’s Fest and represents another step forward for the festival. Bringing in a show of this size has inherent risks, but Ehle and Busch aren’t sweating it too much.

“We’re masochists,” Busch joked. “but we really believe in the value of comedy and we love our city. We believe that Fort Wayne can be a comedy city and is slowly becoming one, so we took that initiative. Comedy is our love. We needed another mountain to climb.”

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