It’s safe to say that with everything swirling around in 2016, we all need a good laugh. Thankfully, we don’t have to go far to get one.
Over 100 of today’s best comedians are descending upon Sonoma County this month for the second annual Sonoma Laughfest, a four-day event packed to the funny bone with standup, sketch and improvised shows, running Oct. 20–23 at the Sonoma Community Center.
Formed last year by actress-producer Brooke Tansley and actress-writer Kristen Rozanski, the event features many performers from the acclaimed comedy collective—originally co-founded by “SNL” and “Parks & Recreation” star Amy Poehler—known as the Upright Citizens Brigade.
Today, UCB is a live comedy institution in New York City and Los Angeles that acts as a master class environment and performance space for comedians to let loose with hilarious results.
In the last decade, entertainment executives have also discovered UCB, and many performers with the collective now work on shows and films as actors and writers.
Tansley first met Rozanski while performing on a sketch team at the UCB Theater in L.A. In 2011, Tansley came to Sonoma County as a performer with Transcendence Theatre Company. By 2013, she knew she was home. “I did an eight mile hike in Jack London State Park, and I just felt that I was going to stay,” she says. “And about six hours later, I met my husband.”
Wanting to transport her love of improv and sketch comedy to her new surroundings, Tansley says Sonoma Laughfest came about because “I wanted to keep doing what I love to do, and this is something I can give to the community.”
Teaming with Rozanski, who still lives in L.A., Tansley last year invited colleagues from the UCB Theater and comedians from around the country to make the trek to Sonoma County for a massive weekend of shows. That inaugural event was a well-received success.
“The performers all were really astounded by how sweet the audiences are here,” says Tansley. “They really felt they were able to reconnect with why they got into comedy to begin with.”
This year, Sonoma Laughfest’s lineup is even more diverse. While the roster is too big to list by name, the performers who will take the stage with spontaneous surprises boast résumés that include hit TV shows like “Modern Family,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Comedy Bang! Bang!” and “Key and Peele.”
The festival’s schedule features 14 different shows, all about an hour long and available multi-pass tickets let you binge-watch the fun like Netflix.
For Tansley, it couldn’t have come at a better time. With all the divisive political rhetoric in the air, she says now is an important time to laugh.
“I Googled ‘election stress disorder’ and it’s a thing,” she says. “For our health and sanity, we need to laugh and heal a bit, and do it together. We need to embrace the power of the collective consciousness, united in laughter.”