For Josiah Carlson, the founder of the Spokane Comedy Film Festival, it's always about more than the laughs. After a successful inaugural year in 2022 and with the event's second showing happening this weekend, Carlson is already looking forward to the years to come. We recently caught up with him to discuss the festival's second year, memorable moments and what the future holds for the now-annual event. (Responses have been edited for length and clarity.)
INLANDER: How did the idea for a comedy film festival come about?
CARLSON: I come from a background in animation and video production. When I was a kid I made animated comedy shorts. I really loved comedy and making people laugh, so I started messing around by creating those funny little videos. When I started doing stand-up comedy, I was surprised that there weren't many people getting together and filming skits and whatnot among the stand-up community in Spokane. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to create a yearly event for people to do exactly that.
How did the festival's inaugural year go? What was the general reception?
Very well! The capacity of our venue [the Garland Theater] was approximately 450, and we ended up with a head count of 280, which was a huge relief. As for the reception of it, we heard nothing but good things from audience members and participants. By the end of last year's event, there was no question as to whether or not we'd be back for year two.
What makes this year different from last year's event?
Well, for starters, we've gotten even more submissions than we received last year. I think because everything happened so quickly last year, a lot of comedians ended up submitting work that they had "on the shelf." This year we had more people creating things specifically for the festival, which is great to see.
How many submissions did you receive this year in comparison to last?
Oh, this year I would say we got a bit north of 40 films submitted to us, whereas last year we probably had around 30. I saw a ton of new names but also recognized some return submissions. It was nice to see that uptick in submissions, it shows me that the community is growing.
Most memorable submission yet?
I would have to say our winner from last year — a claymation film by Ron Ford. My jaw dropped when I got it in, you can tell that so much work went into it. It's absolutely the one to beat.
What are you most excited about seeing at this year's festival?
I'm excited to actually sit in the audience and watch the films along with everyone else. It's fascinating to see what hits and what doesn't when it comes to comedy. Everyone has different tastes, so it's fun to see what the audience's reactions will be like from film to film. I'm also excited to see some specific shorts this year that were created in the new [Central] Library's media studios because that sharing of resources really puts an emphasis on how the community comes together to help each other out.
Describe the Comedy Film Festival in one short phrase.
A flavor-blast of Spokane. That's exactly what it feels like. Spokane has its own vibe and its own specific energy. I believe that this film festival emphasizes that extremely well.
What does the future of the festival look like?
I'll give you a tease of next year: It's gonna be our third year, and since I'm a total dork, every ticket is going to come with 3-D glasses. Like the shitty, old-school red and blue ones. We're gonna incorporate those into the screenings for sure. Like, "Glasses on! Now glasses off!" It should be hilarious. Oh, and next year, I want to have trophies made of a bronze stool with a whoopie cushion on top for the participants. A little something to pose with.
What do you hope the festival accomplishes in the long run?
The goal is to increase the total number of comedy projects generated locally. Anyone can pull out their phone and record a funny video, but I strive to give people a reason to create something that they're proud of and share it with the rest of the community. ♦
Spokane Comedy Film Festival • Fri, Feb. 24 from 7-10 pm • $10 • Garland Theater • 924 W. Garland Ave. • spokanecomedyfilmfestival.com