Northern Michigan Events: For two February weekends in 2010 and 2011, the Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival, spearheaded by Michael Moore, lit up downtown Traverse City with crowds, glowing marquees and laughter. But in an e-letter this morning, Moore announced that he was suspending the 2012 festival, citing a conflict with the Traverse City Winter Microbrew & Music Festival. Last year, the Microbrew & Music Festival, sponsored by Porterhouse Productions, moved from the Grand Traverse Resort to downtown Traverse City—it happens on the same weekend as the Comedy Festival. According to Moore, the two events coexisted okay when separated by 6 miles, but not when both took place downtown. As he wrote in his e-letter:
"The result of doing the events on the same weekend in our second year was that a number of shows were interrupted by drunks who had been to the beer fest and decided to visit the Comedy Fest for some yucks. Unfortunately, no one told them that the audience was there to see the famous comedians we brought in, and not them in their happily inebriated state. We didn't have to deal with this in our first year, when we were a stand-alone event. In our second year, anticipating problems, we had paid security, but we didn't have enough to deal with the disruptions -- and we will not ask our volunteers to act as bouncers."
A 2013 Comedy Festival is under discussion.
Read Michael Moore's entire letter:
Many of you have been asking about the upcoming 2012 Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival. The long and not very funny story behind the answer goes back a whole year, when we made it clear to Porterhouse Productions (the for-profit organization behind the new Traverse City Winter Microbrew & Music Festival), and to the City of Traverse City, that we will not do a repeat of 2011, when Porterhouse moved their beer fest to downtown -- and on the same weekend as the Comedy Fest.
One would think that with our nine months of winter when tourist activity is at a minimum in TC, it might be a good idea to spread out downtown festivals rather than to jam them onto the same weekends. Isn't that what would be best for the local economy -- to create events on different weekends in the winter, not on the same ones? Even in the summer, how would the community respond if we decided to hold the film festival the same week as the Cherry Festival? Kind of counterproductive, don't you think?
So after the beer fest announced late in 2010 that they were going to hold their event downtown (originally it was held at the Grand Traverse Resort), and on the same weekend we had reserved for the second Comedy Fest, the City helped us get together with other area festivals to come to an agreement on a 2012 schedule that would allow each festival to have its own weekend in our third year. We thought that the issue was resolved. Porterhouse later insisted they were going to hold their beer fest on the same weekend as ours anyway.
The result of doing the events on the same weekend in our second year was that a number of shows were interrupted by drunks who had been to the beer fest and decided to visit the Comedy Fest for some yucks. Unfortunately, no one told them that the audience was there to see the famous comedians we brought in, and not them in their happily inebriated state. We didn't have to deal with this in our first year, when we were a stand-alone event. In our second year, anticipating problems, we had paid security, but we didn't have enough to deal with the disruptions -- and we will not ask our volunteers to act as bouncers.
We chose not to deal with this again in 2012, and asked the beer fest to please not cram their fest onto the same weekend. Unlike the for-profit beer fest, the Comedy Fest is a non-profit, community-based and community-run project of the Traverse City Film Festival. Our only mission in putting on the Comedy Fest is to improve the quality of life in TC and help the local economy.
So, when we heard just recently that the beer fest was planning to repeat what they did last year and piggyback off our event -- despite the agreement that had been reached -- we told them that if the beer fest was scheduled on Comedy Festival weekend, we would bow out. And earlier this week, Porterhouse decided that the beer fest does in fact need to be on the second weekend in February -- not just in 2012, but every year in the future.
We had already moved from our preferred date of the third weekend in February to accommodate the Winter WOW Fest. We can't hold it in January as we are in Sundance making deals to bring next summer's films to TC.
So, sadly, we are suspending the Comedy Fest this year. This is not what we want to do. But we aren't going to compete with people drinking a lot of beer. One of the reasons comedians like to come to our festival is because it is a refreshing change from the clubs they play and the drunks they have to deal with most everywhere else.
We will decide later next year if we'll be bringing it back in 2013. We appreciate any feedback you can give us.
We thank the City and the DDA for doing their best to help resolve this problem and for their efforts to coordinate the scheduling of festivals onto their own weekends. We feel most sad for the Comedy Fest fans who will miss out on all the great comedians we had planned to being to Traverse City this year.
At least we'll all still be able to drink beer, and that can't be so bad.