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Sam Mazany among performers at Oak City Comedy Fest

Tony CastleberryMay 15, 2019

Comedy festival season in North Carolina kicked off in April with the second installment of Greensboro’s North Carolina Comedy Festival.

Wilmington hosted the 10th annual Cape Fear Comedy Festival May 9-12, and now, Raleigh is ready for its time in the spotlight with the second annual Oak City Comedy Festival coming up May 22-26.

Raleigh comedians Matt White and Shari Diaz, who moved to New York City after living and performing in Raleigh for a few years, are co-producers of the festival, which Diaz says had a clear goal from the beginning.

“Matt and I started Oak City Comedy Festival with the sole purpose of shining a light on the thriving comedy scene in Raleigh,” Diaz said. “It was one of the most diverse comedy festivals. Representation is everything, and we worked hard to select quality comics to showcase in front of true comedy fans.”

Festivals, particularly in their first year, often hit roadblocks due to unforeseen problems with booking, travel, venue changes, etc.

Wilmington comedian Drew Harrison is a festival veteran, and he was impressed with how smoothly the inaugural Oak City festival ran in 2018.

“I could not tell that this festival was in its first year,” said Harrison, who won Port City’s Top Comic competition in Wilmington in 2016. “The organizers are comics, so they just get it.”

Around 130 local and national comedians are scheduled to perform at this year’s Oak City festival in stand-up and improv shows with ticket prices in the $5 to $15 range. Headliners include The Lucas Brothers, Jourdain Fisher, and local standouts Lauren Faber and Andy Forrester.

Shows will be held at Goodnights Comedy Club, Raleigh Little Theatre, Comedy Worx, Kings, Neptunes, Imurj, Watts and Ward, The Pour House, Proof, The Outpost, North Street Beer Station, The Green Monkey and Sonorous Road.

A full list of performers and a festival schedule is available online.

One of the local comedians performing at the Oak City festival is also gearing up for his first headline show at Goodnights.

Sam Mazany, a 26-year-old Long Island, N.Y., native who moved to Raleigh in 2005, started doing stand-up in 2014. His first Goodnights set was at an open mic when he was 22, and the iconic Raleigh comedy club soon became the center of his universe.

“I was talking to my girlfriend about this and she was saying how excited she was for me,” Mazany said of his May 31 at Goodnights. “She was like, ‘Yeah, it’s like your second home.’ I was like, ‘I don’t know about second. It’s kind of like my first home. I’ve been there more consistently than the apartment we’re in right now.’

“I’ve spent my most formative years in that building. I’m there all the time. … The carpet feels like it has absorbed 30 years of comedy. That’s why I like it. It’s this classic building that feels lived in.”

The upstairs room is where Mazany did his first non-open mic set after a comedian gave him a guest spot on the Anything Goes Late Show.

For the May 31 show, Mazany plans to do an hour, which will serve as a fond farewell of sorts to Raleigh.

Mazany is planning on moving to New York City this summer.

During an interview in a Wilmington coffee shop before a show at the Cape Fear Comedy Festival, Mazany recalled his comedy trajectory.

“Four years ago, you did a three-minute guest spot on a Saturday show at 10:30,” he said. “Now, they’re letting you headline.”

Before leaving North Carolina, Mazany hopes to utilize the many lessons he’s learned from an eclectic group of comedy friends — including Goodnights General Manager Brandy Brown and Raleigh stand-up standouts like Andy Woodhull, Mike Mello, Mark Brady and others — to make his headline show a great one.

“I consider myself very lucky because I have a deep bench of people I can call on and ask for advice, and they treat me like an equal and invest in me,” Mazany said. “Someone being good at it doesn’t take away from you being good at it. You can help each other.”

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