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Q+A: Comedy, culture + community at Kansas City’s inaugural Black Comedy Fest

The metro’s first all Black comedy festival kicks off this weekend with showcases, workshops, and performances by local + national talent. We sat down with founder Hilari Holt to learn more.


Look at that Gem shine. | Photo via ArtsKCGo

Black Comedy Fest KC, a gathering of local + national Black creative talent in areas from improv to sketch comedy, will come to The GEM Theater, Mutual Musicians Foundation, and the Black Archives of Mid-America for the first time ever this week, Thursday, April 25-Saturday, April 27.

It takes a metro to showcase everything BCFKC’s talent has to offer —
sketches, workshops, open mics. Editor Charmaine sat down with founder + director Hilari Holt to talk about the fest, improv, and how to get a laugh in KC.

What made you get started?
I’ve been in improv performing for eight years + Kansas City my whole life... I’ve been on the board when the KC Improv Festival happened, as well — 2019 was the last year — and I’ve been wanting more improv, but also more people of color in improv.

A lot of that is just trying to get more representation, as well as knowing how improv helps. It helped me connect with my emotions. You’ve got to pull, working together to create something.

Why did you want to start one specifically around Black comedy?

Improv is mostly in predominantly white spaces in Kansas City. At the beginning of it I even had the thought of having a BIPOC festival instead, but I went with Black. As a kind of analogy, I needed to put the oxygen mask on myself first before helping other people.

I want to celebrate us and our talents, but not just a specific type of comedy — trying to have a variety of different comedies, [...] steering away from misogyny, steering away from anything homophobic or transphobic. We want to create something safe because we as Black people are still part of everything. We’re everywhere. We’re part of everything, not just one thing. That’s not to shame anyone that what they’re doing is wrong, it’s just, let’s show something different.

I have a lot of hope for things that could inspire, knowing that they may not be picked up by everyone. But I think there’s enough to be like, “We’re here. We’re funny. We’re very talented.”

Why should I attend?
Do you like to laugh? (laughs)

Attending Black Comedy Fest KC will be an event. We’re trying to make not just a stand-up show — you’ll get a variety of talent, from local talent as well as out-of-town talent. It’s going to be fun!

It means a lot to me, as well as helping something that is clearly still necessary to grow. Having our own space to exist, showcase, come together. You should come, because if you want to laugh, we’ll make you laugh — but we also want you to have an enjoyable experience.

What do you think attending a comedy show does for building a community?
Laughter helps with the good brain — but also, it can still have that social commentary. If you have the right person delivering it, the laughter makes it easier to digest. So if we have it, we can see each other in this thing that brings us joy, then it can help make it special, and then we want to keep it, and then we want to come together. It’s hope.

How to attend

Check out the festival schedule + grab tickets to events like:

  • Performances from Vincent Bryant, Nnamdi & Patrick, and Janell Banks
  • A live recording of The Kimology Show
  • BCFKC open mic night at The Bird
  • Comedy workshops with BCFKC performers
  • Standup showcases at The GEM Theater

Can’t attend? Show your support by checking out the festival’s fundraising page.

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