Last fall, local concert promoter Andrew Youngblood and a few of his buddies staged the Houston Whatever Fest in the so-called EaDo Party Park—the span of blocks near BBVA Compass Stadium anchored by Warehouse Live and Lucky’s Pub. The two-day festival featured over 30 musical acts, including headliners Andrew W.K. and Passion Pit, plus another 30-plus local and national stand-up comics. To Youngblood’s considerable surprise, the comics drew more attendees than the musicians.
“The best part of that festival, the part that really shined, was the comedy stage we had,” Youngblood says. “It never had a small crowd, and people were watching the whole time, not bored. After that success, I was like, wow, we really need to do a standalone comedy festival.” After realizing that Houston had no such thing, Youngblood and his friends, in true DIY spirit, decided to start one. They ended up creating this month’s Come and Take It Comedy Takeover, a two-day event at Warehouse Live (where Youngblood works as an assistant booking agent) featuring around 50 comics, including SNL alum Norm Macdonald, Kids in the Hall co-founder Kevin McDonald, and improv troupe The Whitest Kids U’ Know.
“We should be up there with LA and New York, to be honest,” Youngblood says. “Every major city has a comedy festival. It’s about time Houston had one.” The acts will be spread out across Warehouse Live’s three stages, allowing audience members to catch as many comics as possible.
In comedy circles, Houston is still best known for producing Bill Hicks, the acerbic, volatile comedian and social critic who first gained attention as one of the so-called Texas Outlaw Comics who performed at Houston’s Comedy Workshop in the 1980s. Hicks later moved on to bigger markets, but he put his hometown on the comedy map before his untimely death in 1994 at the age of 32. According to Youngblood, Houston’s comedy scene is no longer centered around a single club like the Comedy Workshop but is dispersed throughout the city, with comics performing at open mics and any other gigs they can arrange. That’s one of the reasons he wanted to bring all the local talent together for Come and Take It.
One of those locals is Gabe Bravo, an indie rock drummer who’s been transitioning into comedy for the past two years. As with many comedians these days, Bravo’s first exposure came through social media. “I was always just kind of a problem child, an attention-seeker, and I started writing jokes on Twitter for my friends to see,” says Bravo, who grew up in Memorial. “And the more reaction I got, the better I felt, so I just took it to the stage.”
Although playing in a band is great, Bravo says it doesn’t compare to the experience of being on stage telling jokes to an appreciative audience. “You see these specials on Netflix and HBO, but to actually be live in a room, the laughter around you makes it completely different. When you have a comic reacting to the moment who’s on his toes, it just makes it a million times better.”