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Now that's a laugh and a half

If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. But sometimes anywhere is just as nice.

Ruben Arce, producer and host of the only stand-up open mic in Ithaca, went to New York City to check out performers in one of the most famous comedy cities in the country, and came away with a sense of validation of his hometown comedy scene.

“It wasn’t the kind of interesting experience I thought it would be,” Arce said. “I thought that I was going to see comedy at its best, what I am progressing toward. And actually, what it wound up making me feel was that I am so happy for what I have here in Ithaca.”

Ithaca has had an ever-growing number of performers, festivals and organizations, over the last three years. Last month, ComedyFLOPs hosted its second annual Funniest Person in Ithaca Competition.

Comedians in New York City often have to pay to perform at open mic nights and are sometimes required to bring people who pay for drinks and a cover charge in order to perform at a show, Arce says.

In contrast, Arce has made it his goal to make sure comedy is always accessible and growing in town. His next step is to register a location in which anyone 18 years and older can perform their material.

“What I’m trying to do here in Ithaca is fan the flames of the comedy scene,” Arce said. “It’s been highly visible, I think, and it’s been the perfect environment to start out in. “

This past week, the Acahti players, Ithaca College’s improv troupe, opened for Upright Citizen’s Brigade, one of the premier comedy groups in the country. Zeke Spector, president of Acahti, said he’s noticed the comedy scene develop nationally over the past few years; whereas in the ‘90s only Jerry Seinfeld had his own show, now Daniel Tosh and Louis C.K. are regularly on television, along with many comics releasing specials of their stand-up acts.

“Everybody talks about comedy these days,” Spector said. “I don’t know what’s happened in the past couple of years that’s really put this on, I couldn’t tell you, but the trend is that comedy is growing, more people are interested in it.”

Over the last three years, Ithaca comedy has seen the creation of ComedyFLOPs weekly comedy show and annual Comedy FEST, and an open mic night every other Thursday among other events, according to Steven Barry, founder and director of ComedyFLOPs.

“With the success of ComedyFLOPs ComedyFEST in 2012 and 2013, that has raised the expectation of comedy being a more regular and community-based event rather than a just a few national headliners every year at The State [theatre],” Barry said. “There is not a week that goes by that you can’t catch some dependable laughs in Ithaca.”

Despite the growing interest in the Ithaca area, Spector says he does not know if comedy will continue to grow at the same rate nationally.

“The comedy scene in Ithaca will probably continue to grow because things that happen in Ithaca seem to stay in Ithaca and keep moving forward,” Spector said. “The comedy scene as a whole, I think, I don’t see it being as successful. I think it could be a fad. It will still grow, but not in the exponential rate that we’ve seen recently.”

But Spector and Arce both point to the Ithaca community as a great place for comedy to continue to develop, citing the college town and liveliness of the city.

“Ithaca has every right to have a comedy scene,” Arce said. “We have a really talented base of comics and I have every confidence that it’s only going to get bigger moving forward. So expect great things.”

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