EPIC Fest’s Kelsie Huff, Marty DeRosa and Tim Barnes share adventures in comedy

When the organizers of EPIC Fest called it EPIC Fest, they weren’t kidding. They say it stands for Edison Park Infectious Comedy Fest, but no doubt it’s also for the epic line-up of comedians who’ll settle into Edison Park from Tuesday, October 13 through Sunday, October 18.

You’ll recognize them from The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, Last Comic Standing, Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me, Seinfeld, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and more.

They include comedians who have been named Chicago’s “Best Stand-Up” and the creators of Chicago showcases with national reputations. The Fest finale is an all-Irish dazzler of a show at The Curragh. You can see EPIC Fest’s entire line-up and purchase tickets here.

You can’t go wrong on any given night, but my recommendation is to attend as many shows as possible. Personally, I am considering getting a sleeping bag and huddling from show to show under the eagle sculpture in Monument Park.

Three of EPIC Fest’s headliners kindly agreed to tell me about their life in comedy:

KelsieHuffKelsie Huff is a multi-award winning comedian and a headliner at Zanies, The Laugh Factory, UP Comedy Club and at venues and comedy festivals around the country. She is the producer of Chicago’s all-female comedy troupe the kates and teaches Feminine Comique, an all-female stand-up comedy class. She is a frequent guest on Windy City Live.

MartyDeRosaMarty DeRosa is a nationally touring headliner and host of Wrestling with Depression, the internet radio show where comedians, wrestlers and other performers pull back the curtain on life’s oft-unseen challenges. He is a founder of the showcase Comedians You Should Know which, true to its name, is recognized around the country as a destination for comedy. Chicago Magazine named him “one of the sixteen Chicago comics you should check out.”


Photo by Honk Honk Photography
Photo by Honk Honk Photography

Tim Barnes is also one of Chicago Magazine’s sixteen. He has appeared on NBC, WGN 720 AM radio and Vocalo.org. His podcast, It’s All True, is produced by TouchVision TV and features interviews with comedians such as Eddie Izzard, Maz Jobrani and Wyatt Cenac. He has been selected as one of twenty creative leaders to be featured later this month at “20×2 Chicago,” an offshoot of SXSW.

Please read on and get to know these talented comedians in their own words.

Why comedy?  When did you know it’s what you’re meant to do?

Kelsie Huff: There were lots of jokesters in my family. Plus I grew up with a bunch of drunks so there was a lot of tap dancing and trying to ease the tension,that was my role. FUN TIMES! I also watched a ton of comedy and then repeated the jokes at recess…which got me in some trouble. Worth it.

Marty DeRosa: I still don’t know why I do this. There are times I wish I was a manager at Chipotle.

Tim Barnes: Comedy is always something I had in the back of my head but had no idea how to do. I would repeat jokes that I made up all the time in conversation and really sort of honed them down to a point where a new joke would get a laugh from new ears. Friends of mine had me open for their band in L.A. with stand-up and it went well enough for me to see that this was the right thing for me. It just felt right.

How would you describe your comedy? 

Kelsie Huff: Like a kid who had too much candy at her first sleep-over. So you know, super chill and highly intellectual.

Marty DeRosa: I think I’d describe my comedy as clever poop jokes.

Tim Barnes: My comedy is subversive and conversational. I like to control the audience’s perceptions of me throughout my set and talk about everything from race to why I don’t believe in sports.

Do you have any pre- or post-show rituals?

Kelsie Huff: I like to chat with the audience or the performers. I get energized around people.

Marty DeRosa: Two Miller High Life’s and a shot of Jagermeister.

Tim Barnes: Before I get on stage I repeat to myself “I want to talk to these people. I want to talk to these people.” It forces me to be in the moment and actually care about how I’m communicating on stage. After the show, I get a drink.

What was your worst green room experience?

Kelsie Huff: Once, at a summer festival, I was told to just stand by the port-a-potties until it was my turn to get on stage.

Marty DeRosa: I got locked in the bathroom and could hear the host announcing my name. The club owner yelled at me saying, “Who locks the bathroom door?!?”

Tim Barnes: Nothing bad has ever happened in a green room but there can be some awkward moments. I remember being back stage for Put Your Hands Together at the UCB Theatre in L.A. and Aziz Ansari was one of the comics performing in the same show. I love his work and we had never met so he introduced himself to me. It’s surreal to hear Aziz Ansari say “Hey, I’m Aziz.” Yeah, I know that! I awkwardly shook his hand and said “hey” because I couldn’t tell if I should have pretended like I’d never heard of him before.

What is the most important item to have on a rider?

Kelsie Huff: Wait…do comedians have riders?! Sh*T!

Marty DeRosa: Haha. I’m not that successful. If I had a rider it would demand every item on the Taco Bell menu.

Tim Barnes: Food. Good food.

What is the best, worst or craziest thing that has happened to you as a comedian?

Kelsie Huff: Best, building a community of female comedians in Chicago through my show the kates and the Fem Com classes I teach.

Marty DeRosa: Once after a show a cop let me shoot his gun in a field in Indiana.

Tim Barnes: I did a show in a dog bar once when I was still a newer comic. I had to do a 20 minute set (something that was way out of my league) in front of a crowd of dare I say “cougars.” It was weird. Then me and the other comics on the show got a limo back. We took the limo straight to an open mic and felt like champions returning from the twilight zone.

What’s something the audience would never guess about you?

Kelsie Huff: I purchase my underwear at Walgreens. They actually may have guessed that.

Marty DeRosa: That I’m actually a registered sex offender. JK!

Tim Barnes: People are often shocked that I never graduated college.

If you could be stranded on an island with another EPIC Fest comedian, who would it be and why?

Kelsie Huff: Gross. Those dirt bags?! Can I just befriend a volleyball? 🙂

Marty DeRosa: Ali Clayton. She has stories about her dad getting drunk with Ric Flair.

Tim Barnes: Dwayne Kennedy hands down. I interviewed him once for my podcast and he’s a great conversationalist with a lot of insight on life and comedy. He also sort of talks to me as if I’m his nephew or something. An all-around great guy and a comedy legend in my book.

EPIC Fest concludes with an all-Irish comedy show. How would you define Irish comedy?

Kelsie Huff: Make fun of everything you love so the other guy doesn’t do it first.

Marty DeRosa: I was going to ask you the same thing!

Tim Barnes: Irish comedy is like African-American comedy only the accent is funnier. The Irish comedy that I think of has a working class sentiment that I’ve always identified with. Catholic, big families, and constant struggle. A gold mine for humor.

Could you please describe your life in one sentence?

Kelsie Huff: She scheduled her failures and loved it!

Marty DeRosa: My name is Marty and I tell jokes, eat pizza & take naps.

Tim Barnes: Awkward but not in the cute way.


See the complete EPIC Fest schedule and purchase tickets here.

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