If your New Year’s resolution is to see more incredible live comedy, then you can go ahead and thank Abbey Londer right now. The founder of RIOT LA’s alternative comedy festival has once again worked her magic so that another RIOT will kick 2014 off correctly in Los Angeles, California, January 9th-12th (this Thursday!!). Abbey took a few minutes out of her insane schedule to tell us all about how awesome this year’s festival will be, including not only comedy jokes, but beer and Pac-Man.
RIOT LA 2014
Serial Optimist: After the overwhelming success of last year’s festival, would you say that you pity any possible naysayers who may have said it would never happen, or would you say they should be taken out and beaten? Or was everybody completely on board from day one and I’m just being a big jerk by even asking this question?
Abbey Londer: First off, thanks for the kind words! And thanks for doing this interview, you guys are super duper. Of course you’re not a jerk! I think with anything that is creative that goes against the grain, that there will always be a handful of people that will try to discredit you. That being said, I’m not sitting here twisting the corners of my imaginary mustache in a maniacal fashion, like, Ha-HAH! In this creative business there’s a lot of passion and with passion comes emotion and with emotion can come ugliness. Fortunately for me, I was (and still am) surrounded by an amazing community of comedians and awesome people that are unbelievably supportive.
SO: Was funding easier to get this year? I would imagine sponsors backing up Brinks trucks to your door, but I also have very little understanding of how the real world works.
Abbey: Oh boy! Ya know something? It was. No one really wants to invest in an idea that’s never come to fruition. At least not for a grass roots, first year, grunge-comedy festival. So now that it’s happened once before, and people saw it with their own eyes, they saw the potential in it. Then this year all of a sudden people were like, “Hey, we saw what you did and it we thought it was pretty neat — how can we be a part of it?” instead of it being the other way around. I was really fortunate to get some great sponsors on board this year, including Squarespace, Golden Road Brewing, Ploom (a vaporizer company!), Taxi Magic (they’re doing a breathalyzer station in the parking lot — how RAD is that?) of course IFC and KCRW, and many others. I’m really open to doing weird things at the fest, the weirder the better actually. It’s been nice to work with sponsors that are like-minded in that way.
ALL that being said, it’s still been a process and we’re by no means made in the shade just rolling around in beds of cash. It all goes towards making the festival as best as it possibly can be.
SO: Was there anything you didn’t get to do with the festival last year that you’re excited to do this year, and conversely, was there anything you did get to do last year that you’re bummed you can’t this year?
Abbey: Yeah, for sure. I’m very excited that we were able to expand this year while still being able to keep it all on that one block in downtown LA. We added two official venues this year, which are small but delightfully intimate. More venues equals more stage time for comics, which is something I didn’t have as much flexibility with last year with only three venues. The other thing I’m most excited about that’s new this year is in The Lot — which is, if you’re not familiar, a parking lot we rent smack dab in the middle of all of our venues that’s only open on Saturday & Sunday of the fest. We’re bringing in an arcade! Shuffleboard, skeet ball, air hockey, old school Pac-Man multi-cades, pinball — it’s going to be super cool and so much fun.
SO: Do you have any suggestions/tips/advice for someone who’s going for the first time or even someone who’s an old hand and wants to get the most out of the whole shebang?
Abbey: WHAT A GREAT QUESTION.
If you love to watch comedy, but aren’t able to go out and see shows that often, or are only familiar with a few names in the fest — get a Superfan pass. It’s just an incredible deal. It’s $85 for all four days of the fest — plus that gives you admission to The Lot, which has that arcade, plus FREE beer, Jarrito’s sodas, Sprinkles Ice Cream, live music from KCRW DJs, a Photo Booth and more. There aren’t any bad lineups in the fest, and you will not be disappointed with anything you see. I guarantee it.
If you’re a comedy aficionado (nerd) and there are a few shows that you absolutely cannot miss, $10! For Saturday AND Sunday. Individual tickets will guarantee your seat at those must-not-miss shows you love, and then you can spend your time before and after lounging in the beer tent, or the arcade, or just veg-out in our AstroTurf lounges.. And then after you get those tickets, grab a ticket to The Lot. It’s only
Everything is staggered in the festival, so if one show is completely at capacity, you can literally walk 50 feet to the next show. Easy breezy.
SO: As massive an enterprise as this is, you must have some really dedicated souls helping you with all the little day-to-day stuff. How great are they? Like, would you say tremendously so, extravagantly so, ridiculously so, or…?
Abbey: They’re ANGELS. The staff I have this year is incredible and I am so so so lucky to have such hard-working, smart people on board. Joel Mandlekorn and Mandee Johnson (Super Serious Show) are two of the best producers in this town and they helped me get my footing last year when I was sort of like a deer in the headlights. There’s no festival for dummies book so it was without a doubt the scariest thing I had ever tackled in my entire life. I just made it up as I went along. This year it’s been so much easier. Now having done it before, I at least know how it works, what worked well, what didn’t work well — it’s been an incredible learning experience.
This is a passion project. I worked full-time at KCRW this year, and I had a full-time job at a cafe last year. It’s just me producing this thing from top to bottom up until about two weeks before, when all my staff gets thrown in the mix. All that being said, I certainly do have a strong support system of some of the most awesome, amazing friends.
Of course, I would love for RIOT LA to grow and become a staple of the Los Angeles comedy scene, but I’ll take my time. I’m patient and want it to develop the right way. I love producing festivals and live events. It’s just my favorite thing ever. Bringing people together to laugh. A few opportunities have come along for me and for RIOT which is really awesome, and hopefully more will come along soon.
SO: Thanks so much, Abbey!
How could you guys possibly be more excited for this festival? Maybe if you add the Ramones to footage from last year’s fest? That oughtta do it, yes?
RIOT LA 2012