Back in March, the Cinder Block Comedy Festival grabbed headlines when it announced that their submission process would have “wage gap” pricing: female, gender nonconforming, queer, and trans performers and comics of color would pay 77% of the fee required for applications from straight white male comics. It was a pointed commentary on the homogeneity of comedy and a signal to performers that this festival would take a different approach. Unsurprisingly, it did not go over well with some corners of the internet, but large parts of the comedy world (and beyond) embraced the organizers’ radically tongue-in-cheek approach.
Today, the Voice is pleased to exclusively announce the inaugural Cinder Block lineup. Co-organizer Coree Spencer says she and her colleagues reviewed 420 submissions over two rounds and emerged with an impressive, and impressively varied, roster. “Our lineup is fire. Not for an inclusive festival — for any festival,” Spencer tells the Voice. “People didn’t care about the discount itself — it was just a way to tell them they were welcome. A lot of festivals struggle with booking a diverse lineup, but because the submissions were so diverse, we just chose the best tapes.”
The four-day schedule is packed with 150 performers. The headliners — Baron Vaughan, Laurie Kilmartin, Jon Laster, and Marga Gomez — represent a broad range of styles and backgrounds. “Half of them reached out to me to ask if they could be part of this after all the press,” says Spencer. “It’s awesome when someone you respect says to you that they believe what you’re doing is not only important, but they want to take part.”
There’s standup, improv, music, one-person shows, and more. The fest is spread over eleven Williamsburg venues, with sixty shows covering the lineup. It was a lot of work and inspired a lot of hate, says Spencer, but it was more than worth it. “I can’t count how many emails and comments I got from people telling me they hoped I would die. Because we created a comedy festival,” she says. “But none of this matters. The festival exists because we love comedy too much to see the same ten people headlining every show.”
The Cinder Block Comedy Festival runs September 14–18. Check their site for the full lineup and tickets.