Over the last few years, local groups like Comedians of NWA have built quite a comedy scene in Fayetteville at the UARK Bowl.
On Friday, however, they’ll host their final performance at the venue, after the building owners announced that they will re-focus as an event space beginning this fall.
Twelve Arkansas comedians are set to perform at the event, titled The Natural State of Comedy Showcase, intended to be the group’s last hurrah at the space.
“They’re going a different direction, but I will say we’ve been blessed to have that space as long as we did,” said Sam Letchworth, manager for the venue and one of the regular performers at the comedy nights. “I’d also say I’m proud of what we’ve built these last few years. There’s a ton of talent in this scene. I’d put these Northwest Arkansas comics up against anyone in the country.”
Arkansas comics from Fayetteville, Fort Smith and Little Rock perform at Friday’s event, including Letchworth, Chucky D, Seth Dees, Zac Slusher, Richard The Genius, Brett Robinson, Jonathan Shannon, Ant Waits, Jocelyn Morelli, Ray Porter and Whitney Wasson. Local comedian Troy Gittings will host the show.
Letchworh said that even after the UARK Bowl finale this weekend, all is not lost for the local comedy scene. The comedians’ increasingly popular free comedy open mic nights have already found a new home, and will be carrying on their Thursday night tradition at Dickson Theater beginning in September.
Mark Landon Smith, actor and co-founder of local improv troupe Phunbags, who have also held performances at the UARK Bowl, said they will also be moving their shows to the Dickson Theater beginning Oct. 19.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Letchworth said he wasn’t sure about the status of touring acts such as Bobcat Goldthwait, Ralphie May, Tom Green, and others who’ve made their way to town for shows at the UARK Bowl over the last few years.
“That would be up to the management of the Dickson Theater,” Letchworth said. “I would imagine you’ll be seeing some showcases and pro touring comics in town in the future.”
Troy Gittings, a local comedian and frequent host for the comics open mic and touring comedian nights, said he’s hopeful that once the group gets the local shows going, the touring shows will follow.
“I think once we show them that it’s viable – we went from eight people in the crowd when we started this three years ago to consistently drawing around 140 people most weeks – I think then we’ll be able to grow it from there,” Gittings said.
Admission to the final show at the UARK Bowl on Friday is $5. After that, Gittings said, the group will begin holding comedy open mic nights at Dickson Theater beginning Sept. 5.
For more information about the show, visit the Facebook event page.