I had the honor this year of being selected for the Limestone Comedy Festival. This was the festival's fifth year bringing comics from all over the country to Bloomington, Indiana (home of The Comedy Attic and Indiana University). Headliners this year included Colin Quinn, Hari Kondabolu, Fortune Feimster, Mary Mack, Janelle James, Billy Wayne Davis, W. Kamau Bell and more. Somewhere at the bottom of the roster was me.
The day before Limestone, I had to put my cat, Moxie, down. We'd spent $600 on tests and shots trying to keep her going, but she stopped eating or drinking, her pancreas was inflamed, and her liver had started to go. She had a great run with us -- thirteen years. My son and I found her (or were found by her, I should say) while on a walk in Toledo's Old West End in 2004. Moxie saw us, decided we should pet her, and walked across the street, in front of traffic, to get to us. I texted home and said "this cat is too dumb to live outside. I'm bringing her back with me."
She became part of the family, even winning over my cat-ambivalent wife, and in the last couple years of her life she'd become inseparable from my daughter. Now she's gone, and I felt like a monster even though euthanasia was the only humane option left for her. On top of that, her vet bills wiped out any cash I had for this festival, plus money I owed other people. I went into this weekend feeling pretty low and anxious, and not sure I was ready for this much social interaction and potential disappointment.
But Limestone turned out to be exactly what I needed. It's curated with care and love, run impeccably and set up from the top down as an artist-friendly place. All the shows are within walking distance of each other. Attendees get free food, a hospitality station with coffee and snacks and a place to chill, free headshots and caricature portraits, and multiple after-parties.
The shows themselves were remarkable. The people of Bloomington come out in force to support this thing -- both of my shows were in front of full houses of smart, engaged, gracious comedy fans. I opened for Hari Kondabolu on one show, and he gave me some much-appreciated praise for my new closer I'm working on. The second show, the next night at the Comedy Attic, was just as fun, with a full room giving us a chance to do our thing.
The other comics were of such an impressive caliber -- I don't recall seeing one single set that I didn't like. The festival spotlights local comedians with "The Blooming10," a homegrown show at the beautiful Buskirk-Chumley Theater downtown, scheduled apart from the other events so everyone can attend. It's the perfect mix of bringing in rising stars from around the country and giving the local community a boost, and a chance to be seen as equals with the bigger names.
There were still some moments of melancholy. A lot of that came from just plain not taking care of myself -- being hung over and bone-weary on a bright sunny day in a picturesque downtown is an affliction one brings upon oneself. But I made so many new friends, saw so many people I care about, and had so much fun that Limestone was as much of a spiritual reset as it was a networking or performance opportunity. It gave me a sense of community and positivity that had been lacking for me in comedy for a while now.
I could write all day about each event, each person, hell, each meal. But I think you get the idea. Limestone was an amazing experience and it gave me more hope than I've had in a while. No matter what else happens on my trip, comedy has given me a second family, a chance to use my voice, and a conduit for adventures, and that's more than a lot of people get out of one life. I've got it on the calendar for next year already, and if I can't perform again, I'll buy a ticket and sit up front and laugh like hell.
Where I write about the stuff I do when I'm out doing the stuff I do.