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American Black Film Festival to Present Its First Comedy Festival in DC

The festival—a celebration of new BIPOC comics—will kick off at the Wharf in October.

iStock/Getty Images Plus photograph by 7713Photography.

The American Black Film Festival will introduce its inaugural comedy festival, “Because They’re Funny,” at the Wharf in Southwest DC from October 6 to October 8. 

The three-day festival will highlight rising BIPOC comics, as well as feature performances by what are promised to be well-known comedy stars. (The names have not been released as of press time.) Besides performances, there will be conversations with comedians, panels, and sneak previews of films and TV series. Jeff Friday, founder and president of ABFF, says the pinnacle of the weekend will be the “Next Up Comedian of the Year” competition. The ABFF will select 20 rising comedians from across the country, who will go head-to-head to win $25,000 and a deal with a major talent agency. Friday said that, as on American Idol, the audience will get to vote on their favorites. May the best comedian win. 

“This is the thing that aligns most with the DNA of our company,” Friday said. “I’m personally most excited about the idea of ushering a new person into this Hollywood ecosystem.”

Friday says that ABFF’s foray into comedy has been a long time coming. Since the film festival (which will be in Miami in June) was founded in 1997, it has often featured performances by BIPOC comedians—including major stars such as Kevin Hart, Cedric the Entertainer, and JB Smoove. Friday said that the comedy performances have grown so popular at the film festival that ABFF was inspired to start a spin-off festival dedicated solely to laughs.  

Friday says he chose DC as the venue for a variety of reasons. He and his wife are Howard University alumni. DC is located in a central spot between several major East Coast cities. Plus, he says: “I’ve always felt that DC is a place that could be a perfect destination for a national entertainment-oriented event like this. We hope to do a little part in expanding the reputation of the District as an entertainment hub.” 

Friday teamed up with Events DC’s president and CEO, Angie Gates, who in press release called the city’s collaboration with ABFF “a great way to expand our entertainment portfolio to the District and its visitors while supporting future BIPOC talent.”

Gates said she loves “firsts.” She’s excited to be hosting the inaugural comedy festival in a city that she said is full of opportunity for creatives, entrepreneurs, and entertainers.

“We are a hub for global politics, social movements, and American culture,” Gates said. “Unlike any other city in the world, we thrive as a local, national, and international community. We are the capital of creativity.”

Tickets go on sale April 1. For more details, visit here

Tory Basile
Editorial Fellow