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Live comedy and short film: two totally different mediums, right? Not so, says DC Shorts Laughs, a 90-minute show that marries the best Funniest Fed comedians with seven classic DC Shorts mini-movies. Each of the four shows in the schedule doubles as a “best-of” showcase for both organizations: two to three past DC Shorts comedies, then a Funniest Fed comedian, rinse, and repeat.
But what does stand-up comedy have to do with short films? Admittedly, says Naomi Johnson, not a lot—-at least, not on the surface. Johnson, 45, is a comedian and the producer of Funniest Fed, a biannual show that roots out D.C.’s best comic who’s also a federal employee. But when Funniest Fed became the subject of a DC Shorts documentary in 2008, Johnson realized there was potential for cross-promotion. “I was saying, ‘We should figure out a way to partner,’” says Johnson.
She spoke with Jon Gann, program director of DC Shorts, about a possible partnership. Gann, 47, was receptive to the idea—-he’s no stranger to mashing up his short films with mediums like burlesque, storytelling, and other kinds of live performances. In fact, Gann says it’s fundamental to his organization’s livelihood. “I think the days of just showing films and people sitting in a dark theater are quickly dying,” says Gann. “I think that we need to direct audiences in a more interactive and interesting manner, and that’s one of the reasons I like combining live action and films together.”
Funniest Fed runner-up Shahryar Rizvi will host the event for three of the four performances. “He’s a fed, he’s smart, he’s clean,” says Johnson. “He’s just one of the absolute best comedians in the D.C. scene right now.”
Though the Funniest Feds are local comedy’s crème de la crème, Gann admits that it doesn’t always go as planned. “One year we had them come out and they completely bombed,” he says with a laugh. But the unpredictability is just part of the fun, and Gann says you can’t buy that kind of entertainment with a movie ticket. “I think that audiences are much more into it than they are when they just go to a screening,” says Gann. “You don’t have to think about it. You can just laugh and enjoy it.”
Catch one of the four DC Shorts Laughs shows at the U.S Navy Memorial Heritage Center’s Burke Theater on June 13 and 14 at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Online general admission is $15, plus a $1.75 service fee.