2016-09-22 / Around Town

Comics Come Calling Columbus Weekend

By James Merolla

Since 1635, when a banished Roger Williams left the Massachusetts Bay Colony and settled on land granted him by the Narragansett Indians, and then in 1775, when the colony was the first to declare independence from the British crown, and then later, as host to a succession of loathsome infamous for taking liberties from government coffers, this state has colloquially been called “Rogue’s Island.”

The jokes regarding the Ocean State could fill the routines of a dozen comics’ sets at a comedy festival. Well, what do you know?

Enter Newport native Doug Key’s Rogue Island Comedy Festival, now burgeoning in its second year, bringing up-and-coming national comedic talent to Newport on Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 6-9.

Key, 29, a standup comic himself for the last seven years, once did monthly shows with many of the young comedians he is now bringing to various nightclub venues around Newport over the four-night span, as well as to the Broadway Street Fair on Saturday, Oct. 8.


Newport native Doug Key (far right) works the crowd at the first Rogue Island Comedy Festival last year. He welcomes an even better lineup of comics to the city Oct. 6–9, including national headliners, sam jay, Gary Vider, and Corinne Fisher and three dozen others for four nights of laughs. Newport native Doug Key (far right) works the crowd at the first Rogue Island Comedy Festival last year. He welcomes an even better lineup of comics to the city Oct. 6–9, including national headliners, sam jay, Gary Vider, and Corinne Fisher and three dozen others for four nights of laughs. “The festival exceeded our expectations last year, so we upped the ante, and made the lineups stronger,” said Key, who splits his life between – no joke – working as a physical therapist in a Bronx, New York nursing home and honing top-notch comics on stage. “We made the festival so the comics get compensated for their art.”

Key bounced around the idea of a Columbus Day weekend comic blitz for several years before taking the plunge, so to speak, with a handful of like-minded people: Rob Greene, who is also in New York; another co-producer, Dean Lapham, who helps manage the shows; and marketing director Katie Latimer and Becky Killian, who Key said “has her boots on the ground here in Newport and in community outreach. She is the Newport boss.”


sam jay sam jay “For a town saturated with character and good spirits, Newport deserves to have a festival dedicated to nothing but laughter,” Key said. “These are some of the hardest-working comics today. A few will inevitably go on to be comedy’s next big thing. I am so thankful they are here.”

Key, a straightforward comic himself (“No gimmicks, no novelty shows”), says he makes his own brand of comedy “relatable.”

Born in Newport, Key has a degree from CCRI in physical therapy. He considers it a good balance with comedy. “I don’t tell client stories [on stage]. I keep my job separate,” he said, adding, “I have so much comedy around me.”


Gary Vider Gary Vider The talent he has chosen to play 10 shows at various venues in Newport – Brick Alley Pub, Studio Three, and the Firehouse Theater, as well as introducing new acts to the Stone Street Stage on Broadway during the Oct. 8 street fair – will include headliners Dan Soder (“Comedy Central,” “Inside Amy Schumer”), Gary Vider (“America’s Got Talent”), Sam Jay (“Oddball Comedy Fest”), and Langston Kerman (“Just for Laughs”), as well as several dozen others on the cusp of stardom.

In selecting the comics, Key said he scouted them in New York and “looks for diversity beyond mere talent.”

Some of the comics will emcee and host. “They are very talented, too, introducing seven or eight acts,” said Key. “Then we have the lead-off comics who will do about 10- to 15-minute shows, followed by two featured comics, with longer credentials, who do longer acts.”


Corinne Fisher Corinne Fisher One of those is Kerman, who first met Key when he appeared on his New York show a year ago. The Illinois native is now based in Brooklyn.

“New York is the best place to do stand-up. It was a necessary career move,” Kerman said. “It really helped.” He is currently on a 13-city tour, “Hennessy and Tickles,” with colleague Jak Knight.

This is Kerman’s second appearance in Newport. “I love the crowds. The crowds are dope.”

TO GO:

WHAT: Comedy Festival WHEN: Oct. 6 – 9, 7 and 9 p.m. plus a late-night (BYOB) 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday WHERE: Brick Alley Pub, Studio Three, and the Firehouse Theater Tickets: $20 in advance MORE INFO: rogueislandcomedyfest.com.

Return to top