CloudTop Comedy Festival returns to Santa Fe – Albuquerque Journal
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The CloudTop Comedy Festival is set to cure any post-Zozobra gloom still lingering.
CloudTop will take place beginning Thursday, Sept. 15, through Saturday, Sept. 17, in Santa Fe, and features over 50 comedians, including national headliners Hari Kondabolu and Beth Stelling.
Jessica Baxter, founder and director of CloudTop, began the festival in 2019. As an artist herself, she would break from her rehearsals as a classical musician and spend her spare time at comedy clubs.
“I loved the energy between the performers and the audience,” she said in an email.
Creating a comedy festival was a dream for over a decade until a trying personal year eventually encouraged Baxter to finally organize the event.
“Around 2018, my life changed in a lot of ways and started to feel like a sad country western song,” Baxter said. “I started organizing, found a few friends to lend a hand, and the first festival took place in fall of 2019.”
Laughter became even more important in Baxter’s life as it helped her overcome grief – and then the pandemic hit.
Comedy remains the cure, however, as do relatable voices. A plethora of regional and local talent will grace the multiple stages during the three-day event.
A fan favorite
Carlos Medina is a fan favorite in Santa Fe. A monthly regular at Jean Cocteau Cinema, Medina charms the audience with his observations about the state’s culture. His northern New Mexican roots help him bond with the audience.
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“It makes more sense to everybody from here,” Medina said about his material. “But at the end of the day, it’s still basically comedy about your life experiences. It doesn’t matter where you’re from.”
Medina found fame on YouTube with his sketch comedy which helped him begin his stand-up career around eight years ago. The comedian also has a background in mariachi music, and he and his cousin combine the musical style with more comedy, adding to Medina’s uniqueness in the industry.
He said through experience and spending time with his family, he’s able to come up with new material every day. After the pandemic forced entertainers to find other ways to perform like through Zoom, Medina is looking forward to CloudTop and performing with his fellow comics.
“Nothing beats being live,” he said.
This year’s CloudTop will feature an Indigenous Showcase, which will take place the evening of Sept. 16. Native American talent, such as Ricardo Cate, Corey Herrera and Adrianne Chalepah, will offer their observations on culture and life.
Cate’s cartoons have been featured in the Santa Fe New Mexican for almost 15 years, and during that span, a book of his work, “Without Reservations,” was published back in 2012.
His passion for humor began with his peers in elementary school, but his stand-up career began on a whim in 2004 while stranded on the streets of Durango. While navigating the town through the cold, he saw a posting on a pizzeria’s window for a stand-up contest in search for its final contestant of the night. The winner would earn a $50 certificate to the restaurant.
“I started writing some jokes on my hand,” Cate said about his quick preparation for his eventual winning performance. “Twenty minutes later I’m sitting there eating a large pepperoni pizza with a pitcher of beer.”
That was the beginning of a long story and career in comedy for Cate. His humor and storytelling has entertained audiences for the better part of the 21st century, and his confidence, as well as encouragement from his children, keeps him going.
“It makes me happy. I’ve always believed in doing stuff … no matter what people say to me or say about me or tease me.”
Unlike Cate, Herrera took a more studious approach to learning how to perform. He said he’s been doing stand-up for three years, but his research began a year before his debut, attending open mics but never going on stage.
“The first time was scary, and I had five minutes,” Herrera admitted about finally performing in front of an audience. “The butterflies now are just I need to be funny versus actually stage fright.”
He added, “My jokes are kind of all over the place. I call myself a comedian who happens to be Native and not a Native American comedian.”
Herrera has been named the host of the Indigenous Showcase.
He said, “My main focus and emphasis is I want everyone to have a good show … just making sure that the people laugh.”
Herrera shared that there are naturally funny people in the Native American community and on reservations, and the Indigenous footprint in comedy is growing.
Chalepah, for example, has been expanding her career over the last decade in the scene, forming the Indigenous femme comedy troupe, 3 Sisters of Comedy, as well as appearances on “Rutherford Falls” and “Reservation Dogs.”
Indigenous comics have had to battle for exposure, but humor is something that connects the hundreds of unique tribes.
“Humor is no stranger to our respective cultures,” Chalepah said in an email. “Education on Indigenous people and our history is minimal, slanted or erased. Thus, Native comics have created our own market.”
She added, “Humor helps process discomfort. It is a form of truth-telling.”
Her material brings out the irony in people and the environment through her daily observations. She said she likes to “poke fun at things that deserve discussion.” She has performed on stage for over a decade, strengthening not only her own voice, but the presence of a community.
“I bring new material because I want to give each audience a special moment,” Chalepah said. “I am a storyteller at heart, and I love to make others cackle.”
A much-needed connection
Comics are confident, intelligent performers who tackle one of the hardest forms of entertainment to execute. There are times when they bomb or offend, but a majority of the time they bring laughter and joy.
The laughter comes from a good delivery and great storytelling. The joy comes through connection and relatability. The person behind the microphone is the same person sitting in the audience.
Baxter said of rebooting the festival after the pandemic, “It took a little bit of bravery, but I’m glad we are doing it. People need this kind of thing more than ever.”
Laughter is still the best metaphorical medicine. Come get your fix at the CloudTop Comedy Festival.
CloudTop Comedy Festival
WHEN: Runs Thursday, Sept. 15, through Saturday, Sept. 17
WHERE: Various locations around Santa Fe
INFORMATION: Times and locations of performances vary. Visit cloudtopcomedy.com for scheduling and pricing.