For more than four decades, The Kennedy Center has built a reputation for bringing the very best in performing arts to our nation’s capital. There’s the Washington National Opera. The National Symphony Orchestra. The Kennedy Center Jazz Club. Tony Award-winning theater. And…stand-up comedy?
Yes, for the past three years, the Kennedy Center has hosted the District of Comedy Festival, part of an initiative “focused on elevating comedy as an art form and uniting the local community together through laughter,” according to a press release. This Thursday through Saturday, come to the storied venue to laugh, clap, and ponder our current state of things at any of about two dozen performances and workshops. To help narrow down the list, start with these highlights. (Because these shows contain strong language, the Kennedy center recommends them for mature audiences)
If you like Saturday Night Live’s mock presidential debates, you might like … James Adomian in Bernie Sanders Town Hall.
The stand-up comedian and actor had a starring role in David Cross’ Hits and has impersonated the likes of George W. Bush, a drunk Orson Welles (here’s his inspiration) and 2016 presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Adomian honed his spin on Sanders with Trump vs. Bernie, the debate sketch in which he as Sanders faced off against Anthony Atamanuik as then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Following the sketch's debut in 2015, it expanded to a few TV comedy specials and an international tour.
(Thursday, 6 p.m., FREE)
If you like Christopher Guest films, you might like … Harry Shearer: Up to Eleven.
Between the characters that Shearer voices on The Simpsons and his understated yet hysterical roles in mockumentary master Christopher Guest’s films, Harry Shearer has had quite the prolific career. At this event, watch the iconic film This is Spinal Tap, in which he plays bassist Derek Smalls, and ask him all your burning questions at a post-screening Q&A. (You may also want to check out his recently released debut solo album before you go.)
(Thursday, 8 p.m., $19-$49)
If you like Insecure, you might like … RIOT!: Women in Comedy.
Female comedians unite for this night of laughter and music. Performers include Amanda Seales, who plays Tiffany on HBO's Insecure and hosts the live game show Smart, Funny & Black (which also stops at the festival Saturday), 2 Dope Queens co-host and writer Phoebe Robinson, Inside Amy Schumer comedian Bridget Everett, and Saturday Night Live cast member and musician Melissa Villaseñor.
(Friday, 8 p.m., $19-$49)
If you like Whose Line Is It, Anyway?, you may like … Baby Wants Candy.
Take a break from Hamilton, playing in the same building, and bear witness to a musical that has never been performed before—and will never be performed again. The comedy ensemble Baby Wants Candy takes cues from the audience as cast members improvise music, choreography, and dialogue for a one-night-only show that Lin-Manuel Miranda himself might appreciate.
(Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., $19-$25)
If you like Chris Rock, you might like … Hari Kondabolu.
The comedian and podcast host, who holds a master’s degree in human rights from the London School of Economics, recently ignited debate (and ultimately a response from The Simpsons) with his 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu. Much of Kondabolu’s comedy serves as biting commentary on politics and race, and the former writer for Rock-produced Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell regularly takes to Twitter to register his disdain for the current presidential administration, tweeting daily that “this is not normal (and normal wasn’t that great either).”
(Saturday, 7 p.m., $29-$39)
If you like Fresh Air, you might like … The Bentzen Ball Podcast Studio: Employee of the Month with Catie Lazarus.
Catie Lazarus’ writing credits include The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine and Marie Claire, but perhaps her biggest claim to fame is her live talk show, Employee of the Month, where she chats with notable writers, actors, media personalities and others about their careers. Join Lazarus as she chats with Chris Jackson of the original Hamilton cast, SNL alum Sasheer Zamata, and Vox founder Ezra Klein, with performances by the show’s house band. (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., $25)