Let’s Get Ready to Rumble: Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase features 30 female comics performing 90 seconds each


Comedy Rumble 2019

Clockwise from top left: judges Reese Leonard, Sam Rager, Jacob Barr, and host Bret Hayden will be at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase as part of The Comedy Rumble.

It started when comedian Bret Hayden decided to have a party.

“I wanted to have a Christmas celebration with my comedian friends, so I did it as a show and everyone showed up.”

That party has since blossomed into one of the fastest-growing local humor nights: The Comedy Rumble.

It's not your typical comedy night with an opener, warm-up, and headliner; instead, the Rumble is a lightning-fast show featuring 30 comedians doing material for 90 seconds each. The briskly paced routines are performed in front of a panel of professional comedian judges, with the top four vote-getters getting to do another quick set before a final winner is declared.

The show at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase marks the second anniversary of the Rumble. “We started at Cellarmen’s [in Hazel Park] in December of 2017,” Hayden says. “Since the first one went so well, I wanted to make it a regular event. After Cellarmen’s closed [in July], I talked to [Comedy Showcase founder] Roger Feeny, who knew me as a regular at the club. He was 100% on board and supportive, so we did our first show in Ann Arbor on October 30.”

The next one happens Wednesday, December 18, and this show is special because it is the second time the Rumble features female comedians only.

“About five or six years ago, when I first started in comedy, I could count on two hands the number of women comedians that I knew personally," Hayden says. "Comedy has always been overwhelmingly male, so I wanted to see if it possible to find 30 women comedians to perform.”

The first show had an audience “that was just so incredibly supportive,” Hayden recalls. “And I think the performers really appreciated that there were 29 other women on the stage with them … some said that they didn’t realize that the scene had gotten so full and they were able to meet new women stands up that they hadn’t known before.”

Having a night of all women performers is “important so as to not have too much of the same thing," Hayden says. "When it’s straight white guy after straight white guy -- it’s not that they are not funny. They are. But it’s the same people talking about the same stuff. As they say, variety is truly the spice of life.”

Audiences can expect rapid-fire jokes from the comedians, as well as short sets by the judges and the winner from the last show. “These comedians have 90 seconds to prove themselves," Hayden says, "so they are going to bring it. No filler in this show -- just jokes. I call it sensory overload in the best way."

This show’s judges include Sam Rager, who Hayden calls a “one of the most beloved comics in Michigan and who just put out her first album on [streaming services], called Trigger Warning. We also have Reese Leonard, who is the featured performer this weekend at the club. The closer is Jacob Barr, the top vote-getter from our October show.”

The first female-only Comedy Rumble broke the attendance record for the series, and they hope to break it again on December 18.

“With this kind of show, you don’t have time to get sick of any one comedian because in less than two minutes another comedian is on the stage," Hayden says. "There’s no other place where someone can have such crazy comedy experience and see so many people at once place at one time. You won’t see this anywhere else.”

Patti F. Smith is a special education teacher and writer who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and cat.

Bret Hayden’s Comedy Rumble happens on Wednesday, December 18, 7:30 pm, $10 at Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase.