It’s not often that a venue has a starring role in comedy, but when that venue is the state of Alaska and the performers are some of the funniest people in show business, it’s a match made in comedy heaven. For the past 20 years, Jerry Evans has been bringing the two together, with memorable results and more than a few unexpected adventures.
He has hosted more than 100 comedians as part of his Alaska Comedy circuit, including household comedy names such as Pauly Shore, Jamie Kennedy, Bobcat Goldthwait, Brian Posehn, Louis CK, Chris Kattan and Tom Arnold.
They’ve performed in communities from Utqiagvik (Barrow) to Ketchikan; Nome to Juneau; Anchorage, Fairbanks and Anaktuvuk Pass, among others, weathering many only-in-Alaska moments. Todd Glass and Jimmy Pardo got stranded in the Aleutians. Craig Robinson got dumped off a dog sled, and Chris Titus hung out at the World Extreme Skiing Championships in Valdez. Jamie Kennedy once did a 50-minute set by the light of dozens of iPhone flashlights when the power went out. Arden Myrin took a ride to North Pole to meet Santa Claus and hung out at the Bonspiel during a “fever dream” of a weekend. Bil Dwyer, (“who has played more weird Alaskan rooms than any national comedian,” Evans said) is still hoping to see a moose.
Over the years, comedians have performed in more than 70 different bars, clubs, theaters, gyms, retirement homes, tribal halls and strip clubs, then went out to see the northern lights and the midnight sun, moose and more. Comedians often left with new material and lots of memories, which Evans decided to turn into a documentary last year.
“The shows are always great, but one of the best things about them is hearing these comics give their take on Alaska. Talk about fish out of water,” Evans said. “Alaska is normal to us, but strange and foreign to them.”
The result is “20 Years of Alaska Comedy,” which will have its “world premiere screening” Saturday at the Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts at Pioneer Park.
The show contains adult language and is for 21 and older. Alcohol will be available.
In March 2018, Evans brought back five of the most accomplished comedians who had performed in Alaska, loved it, and couldn’t wait to come back to talk about it. They performed two shows at The Blue Loon, a favorite venue among all the comedians (described as “magical” by Myrin), which were professionally recorded. Then Evans flew to Los Angeles to film other popular comedians who couldn’t make The Blue Loon show.
He said, “a lot of pretty impressive comedians expressed interest in appearing in the project but logistically it’s wasn’t feasible to bring them all up for the taping, so we took the cameras to them.” Much of the L.A. footage was shot inside the historic Laugh Factory on Sunset Boulevard.
The finished documentary includes footage of Posehn, Myrin, Glass, Kennedy, Pardo, as well as Chris Porter, Jeff Dye, Jamie Lissow, Bil Dwyer, Bob Zany, Brad Williams, Jimmy Schubert, Lachlan Patterson, Doug Benson, John DiCrosta, Jon Reep, Andi Smith, Mo Mandel, Maranzio Vance, Darren Carter, Steve Hytner, Pablo Francisco, TJ Markwalter, Evans and his Fairbanks partner-in-comedy, “Glenner” Anderson. Original music throughout the movie is provided by Marc Brown & The Blues Crew.
Evans will have DVDs for sale at the premiere and at The Comic Shop and hopes to have them available via Amazon, as well as to buy and rent digitally, and via streaming services in the near future. He’s planning further screenings in Anchorage and plans to distribute the documentary nationally.
“Whew,” he said of the documentary, which has been years in the making. “I think I’ll finally be able to relax and enjoy it once the lights dim in the theater.”
Contact staff writer Julie Stricker at 459-7532.
If You Go
What: Premiere of “20 Years of Alaska Comedy”
When: Saturday, Sept. 7. Will call and bar open at 6:30 p.m.; doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m.
Where: Pioneer Park Theater in Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts, 2300 Airport Way
Tickets: Limited tickets are $10 and available at the Comic Shop and AKTickets.com. Ages 21 and older.