Unlike some desert festivals that feature camping, naked bicycling or, say, lighting things on fire, Life Is Beautiful has found its niche as a unique mash-up of rock concert, TED Talk–style lectures, art installations and gourmet fare. And this year, for the second time, it’s throwing a comedy club into the mix.
“Integrating comedy into music festivals is a trend that is growing at an extremely rapid pace,” says Paul Chamberlain, who, with Crapshoot Comedy, is producing Life Is Beautiful’s three nights of laughs on the heels of the May debut of its Crapshoot Comedy Festival, also in Downtown Las Vegas. In Chamberlain’s view, humor and music are a symbiotic pair, enjoying a Casablanca-style beautiful friendship that can thrive if handled with the proper care. “Best-case scenario, it’s a wonderful integration of another art form that goes hand in hand with music,” he explains. “What Life Is Beautiful has given us the latitude to do … is truly curate a group of comics who perfectly match the vibe of the upstart, up-and-coming, high-growth potential of the festival.”
That is to say, you might not instantly recognize any of the names—yet. And that’s entirely intentional. Chamberlain has painstakingly selected eight established and emerging comics from across the country—as well as a special group of homegrown talents—who are juuuust poised on the brink of mainstream success. You may have seen them on Conan (Solomon Georgio, Dulcé Sloan), The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (Jo Firestone), Tosh.0 (Ryan O’Flanagan), Adam Devine’s House Party (Matthew Broussard) or MTV’s Mary + Jane (Scout Durwood). You might have heard them on WTF with Marc Maron (Mike Lawrence) or read about an act in Variety’s “Top 10 Comics to Watch” article (Vladimir Caamaño). Between them, they’ve written for Inside Amy Schumer, guest-starred on New Girl and The Mindy Project, and won countless stand-up competitions both on- and off-screen. In fact, after this year’s roster had already committed to Life Is Beautiful, Comedy Central announced its half-hour specials for 2017—both Jo Firestone and Solomon Georgio made the cut. Not that it’s going to their heads.
“I live in Los Angeles,” says Georgio, who will be making his first-ever trip to Vegas for the festival. “It’s easy to be humble about [career success] when you see A-list movie stars get harassed at a farmers market on the regular.”
Last year, the festival’s inaugural comedy component taught producers how to make it even better in 2017. Since Life Is Beautiful is known primarily as a music, art and culinary event, attendees don’t always expect to stumble into a stand-up crowd; performers have to be attention-grabbing in as little time as possible. “I love doing shorter sets,” Georgio says. “It trains you to make jokes that have more impact within a time constraint.”
The lineup of comics skews young and media-savvy, possessed of quick wits delivered with brevity that Dorothy Parker would dream of. They have more in common with the festivalgoers themselves than with arena-filling superstars (for the moment, at least)—and that’s also intentional. “Instead of going for the typical names you would see at a concert, we [have] people who wanted to come to Life Is Beautiful,” Chamberlain says. “They would literally buy a ticket.”
Luckily—at least this year—they won’t have to.