Comedy recently hit a little too close to home, in a great way, for Green Gravel Comedy Festival President Lee Keeler.
"(The organizers and I) were joking with each other about how cool it would be to bring somebody who just won a Golden Globe come perform at home, kind of laughing it off," Keeler, wrote in an email to Hoopla. "Then when she won, we were just that much more excited to be putting on the fest."
The "she" in question is Rachel Bloom, who in January won a Golden Globe for best performance by an actress in a television series - musical or comedy for "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," The CW network series she co-created, writes on and stars in. She'll leave Burbank, Calif., where she's working in post-production on the show's first season, to stop in Iowa City and headline the third annual Green Gravel Comedy Festival on March 4 and 5. Bloom, presented in partnership with NextGen Climate Iowa and the University of Iowa's Campus Activities Board, will perform at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 5 at the Englert Theatre.
Bloom first gained widespread attention for satirizing Disney princesses, professing her desire for author Ray Bradbury and more in her comedic music videos on YouTube. She's translated her twin talents in music and comedy to television on "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," which regularly features Bloom, who plays the titular former flame, and the other cast members performing songs pertinent to the show's stories.
"She's tapped into a classical era of comedy - reaching back to the world of Bernadette Peters, Madeline Kahn and other greats - which transcends much of the short shelf life of Internet-based comedy these days," Keeler said of Bloom, whom he's booked before for live shows. "She's always been an innovative, ingenious performer to me, so when we initially booked her we were already excited to be having her headline the fest."
Bloom categorizes herself as a comedian, a term she said "encapsulates all of the writing and the acting and the singing and the dancing," and plans to show off her many sides during her performance in Iowa City.
"I'm going to be doing a mix of my old songs from before I had 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,' and songs from 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' and kind of interweaving them with stand-up bits, so it's going to be kind of a comedy-musical mini concert," Bloom said. "Performing live is so fun for me. It's my first love. The thing that's great about it is you can interact in real time with an audience, so as opposed to making a YouTube video or making a TV show, you can really tailor your performance in real time to the vibe of a place and what people want, so I really love the audience interaction of it all."
Category-straddling humor has been the Green Gravel Comedy Festival's specialty since its inception. Past events have featured improv comedy, live podcast recordings, traditional stand-up comedy and the Air Sex World Championship. This year's lineup includes Academy Award-nominated animator Bill Plympton, presented in partnership with the University of Iowa's School of Art and Art History.
"We book our lineup based primarily upon submissions, which we're extremely proud of. But in terms of content, you never know what you're going to get," Keeler said. "It has really shown us that we can be a venue for something besides the usual brand of comedy."
What you need to know
WHAT: Green Gravel Comedy Festival
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday through Saturday
WHERE: Various venues, Iowa City
COST: Passes range from $25 to $50, tickets to individual events are also available (Rachel Bloom tickets are $12 for students and $17 for general admission reserved seating)
DETAILS: A complete list of venues, times and performers is available at greengravelcomedyfest.com.