Behind the Scenes: Josh Filipowski, Creator & Producer of March Comedy Madness

By Tasha Harris Stage Time Magazine Published on March 24th, 2010

Josh Filipowski, Producer and founder of Like 2 Laugh Productions

Best known contribution to comedy: Creating and producing some of NYC’s top stand-up comedy competitions such as March Comedy Madness, Paid or Pain and the NYC Comedy Olympics.

Latest achievements: Producing on shows in Costa Rica and celebrating the 7th anniversary of Like 2 Laugh Productions.

When did you fall in love with stand-up?

My parents didn’t allow me to watch rated-R movies until I was 27, so I spent lots of time at friends’ houses. I fell in love with stand-up at Karl Hofer’s house when a couple of white suburban 4th grade boys gathered to watch Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy videos for the first time.

What inspired you to start producing comedy shows?

My first year performing I was having people tell me I was the funniest comic on the show. Now that was funny! I knew that shouldn’t have been the case, and that the problem was shitty shows. I promised to not make any other family, friends and fans suffer at the hands of bad producers.

If I’m producing shows — I can’t lose! Truly though, it adds an extra dimension of excitement, nervousness, courage. In live entertainment, it’s kill or be killed — and competition brings out the best in people.

What do you enjoy most and least about producing comedy shows?

I most enjoy happy laughing crowds and comedians that always kill. I least enjoy drunk comedians who bomb and blame bad crowds, and chatty folks in the audience who I need to ask to be quiet or leave.

The challenge is keeping the shows fresh and keeping the crowds coming back. And of course, what to do next? I have a million ideas. Hopefully, I can get a dollar for each one.

What are the skills needed to be a successful producer?

You gotta please the people as best you can, and know that you can’t please them all. You have to understand that if and when there is nobody else there to help, you can do it yourself. You have to be self-reliant, persistent and patient…and have fun! Comedy is supposed to be fun! You can’t forget that!

How do you balance your personal and professional relationships with comedians?

It’s an easy balance because every relationship you have is personal and should be professional. I work with people I know I would like on and off stage.

How are your comedy competitions different from others? How do you maintain fairness and equal opportunity for participants?

Most competitions I produce involve the audience deciding or a panel of judges. It’s a democratic society, why should one or three guys decide who is funny, when the whole audience is watching and should have a say? Paid or Pain! and March Comedy Madness work just like that. With the Olympics, we have diverse and objective international judges.

To keep things fair, we’ve had open calls to meet new comics, and I have a wealth of comedy friends I love working with. I’ll let them know about a crazy idea I have first and then I’ll reach out to the comedy public to fill other slots. And whoever pays me off with the most money wins!

It’s been said that comedy has been reduced to a “contest”. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think there are too many contests?

It’s all a contest, right? Each night, the clubs have a contest for who will have the most audience and not go out of business. It’s capitalism. There are too many bad shows, bringer shows, free barker shows, “intern spots”, old comics still hogging the spotlight, unfunny producers bogarting the mic, comedy casting directors that think they know comedy, and new talent coordinators that don’t know talent. That’s what’s killing comedy.

Having the best comics giving their best stuff makes for the best show.

How has your comedy competitions helped comedians?

The winners have received lots of recognition in the industry and have gone on to book TV spots and club dates. All comedians can benefit. encourages comics to get their act together: Headshots, bios and video clips. Comics have to be timely in responding to emails and invites to shows. And over the past seven years, we’ve provided a ton of STAGE TIME!

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned as a comedy producer?

That party of 10 isn’t coming. In other words, don’t sit back and expect people to come out. You must do what you can to spread the word. And carry a roll of duct tape. If not for the show, for later…

What advice do you have for comedians who would like to produce a successful comedy show or open mic?

Walk the city. Find a room you like. Bug the owners. Bug them again. Set a date. Find the funniest comedians you knows to do the shows. And PROMOTE!

What’s next for Like 2 Laugh? What would you like to accomplish next?

I just returned from the Costa Rica Comedy Fest with Mike Ennis and Gabe Pacheco. We had seven shows in eight days, coast to coast, and it was amazing. So there are L2L possibilities worldwide. Central America Tour next year? Burning Man 2012?

March Comedy Madness has rocked New York for the past four years…It’s only fair to have a West Coast edition. I’ll be heading out soon to bring the L2L brand of hilarity to L.A. Produce some fun shows. Pitch some good TV. Be the gringo loco on one of the Spanish radio shows. Who knows?

March Comedy Madness 2010
Wednesday, March 24 at 9:30pm at Comix
Wednesday, March 31 at 9:30pm at Comix

In honor of the NCAA College Basketball Tournament, 64 comedians go one-on-one in this 4th annual comedy competition hosted and refereed by Bryan Kennedy and Josh Filipowski. In each round, two comics will perform stand-up head-to-head and then the audience decides the winner! As the field is narrowed down, the sets will get longer and more hilarious, until the final two comics perform to see who will be crowned the 2010 March Comedy Madness Champion! Past winners include Julian McCullough, Reese Waters and Myq Kaplan. The winner of this year’s competition will win a cash prize, a Mark Manne headshot package, a weekend of shows at Comix, in addition to industry exposure!

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