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Laugh it up 

The SLO Comedy Festival returns for its second year

More than anything else, stand-up comedians need to have balls big enough to make them think, “You know what? I’m so damn funny that I could get in front of a room full of people and keep them laughing for a good 10 minutes straight, all by myself.”

click to enlarge MR. SILLY MAN:  This model of professionalism, Eric Shantz, somehow managed to bring 40 comedians and 10 venues together for five nights of funny: Feb. 29 to March 4. Visit for a complete schedule, or else. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIC SHANTZ
  • MR. SILLY MAN: This model of professionalism, Eric Shantz, somehow managed to bring 40 comedians and 10 venues together for five nights of funny: Feb. 29 to March 4. Visit for a complete schedule, or else.

Of course, they’d have to drag those massive balls onstage to test that theory under a bright-ass spotlight. Failure would be embarrassingly apparent right off the bat, but even then, the big-balled bastards just sit back on the things, bounce off stage, re-tool their acts, and try again until they get it right. These guys must have to order special underwear from the Internet, banana hammocks of some kind with extra pouches that look like elephant ears.

And it’s not just guys. Every once in a while, you’ll see super-sized scrotes dangling from hilarious ladies. This one time, I even saw a comedian with balls bigger than her entire midget self (Little person? Dwarf? I forget which is PC these days, but I guarantee Tanyalee Davis doesn’t care. Just check her YouTube clips or see her live at the festival I’m about to discuss any minute now).

Such balls belong to Eric Shantz, comedian. Even his bald head looks kind of like one, which makes sense (no it doesn’t), because his ego (balls) is (are) so swollen with chutzpah and engorged to the point of bursting that he thinks he can single-handedly transform lazy little San Luis Obispo into a comedy Mecca. If Shantz has his way, stand-ups everywhere will someday face west every time they tell a fart joke.

He says SLO’s proximity to Los Angeles and San Francisco makes it the perfect spot for a full-blown, month-long comedy festival similar to events that take place in Canada, Scotland, and Australia. Despite a few weekend festivals, there’s nothing in America today that can compare on the international stage.

“We’ve outsourced everything in this country,” he said. “We’re not going to outsource comedy.”

Basically, Shantz is the brain ball behind the SLO Comedy Festival. I met with him at Spike’s Pub one recent Wednesday evening to drink beer and something about an interview.

Shantz had spent the whole day schmoozing venue owners and other media reps, and every booze slinger in town wanted to have drinks with the professional goofball. Apparently they’d gotten him too drunk to negotiate straight, because none of the bars are paying squat to host several nights of awesome entertainment.

“We’re not charging the venues anything,” Shantz said. “Just give each comedian a beer, but don’t get them too fucked up. They still have shows to do.”

Word. They’ve got lots of shows to do. Shantz and his crew at Rebel Rouser Entertainment whittled 250 applicants down to the 40 best comics and packed them into 19 shows over five days.

In only its second year, the SLO Comedy Festival is already starting to grow. Shantz has added another day and two more venues since 2011, and Sirius XM will be broadcasting the shows live on the Raw Dog Comedy station. Also, roughly 50 more comics responded to the open call for five-minute submissions.

“[Watching the tapes] was the longest three days of my life,” Shantz said.

He name-dropped a few of the comedians who made the cut, but I didn’t recognize any of them. Shantz claims that they’re well known among comedians even though they aren’t famous. Rather than take his baby-faced word for it, I had to search comedy clips on YouTube all night (sigh … more grueling work for the art basher. You’re welcome, SLO County).

Ryan Stout was by far the funniest dude I came across. Go to his shows. Jimmy Dore, who had a one-hour special on Comedy Central in 2008, was also pretty great. Personally, I didn’t care for Suli “crazy legs” McCullough, but Sid Davis and Shannon Hatch were hilarious. The sketch group, Weekend Pilots, was a bit weird but damn funny. With 40 people performing, there’s bound to be some kind of comedy for everyone. If you like to laugh, I’d suggest that you shell out the $8 to $20 to attend a show. If you don’t, I’d suggest that you visit a doctor, because your brain is broken.

Calendar Editor Nick Powell has been looking forward to this event for a year, and has positioned himself to enjoy it thoroughly. Congratulate him at

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