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Cape May Comedy Festival Cape May Comedy Festival gives contestants a chance to break into the business

 CAPE MAY – The city will welcome the inaugural Cape May Comedy Festival at the end of the month.

Mayor Ed Mahaney said the city was partnering with Rock Solid Productions to put on the July 26 event.

“This is definitely the type of event we want to attract,” he said. “It brings diversity to the programming and shows that we can cater to a younger age group, in terms of entertainment.”

The city is known for its week-long jazz and folk festivals. In the winter, ballroom dancing and roller skating, respectively, draw hundreds of participants.

Rock Solid Productions has local roots, even though its events draw comedians from across the country. Jacquelyn Tocci and company founder Dan Sinclair run their enterprise out of Upper Township, and have extended their reach beyond the Mid-Atlantic region with the Cape May Comedy Festival.

“Our headliners are nationally known acts,” said Tocci, “but the contest is what is drawing people from all over.”

So, while Gilbert Gottfried, Joe Conklin and Big Daddy Graham knock out their sets at the Convention Hall here, lesser known professionals and people trying to break into the comedy club circuit will compete for prizes in the festival’s Stand-Up Comedy Competition.

“I don’t think anyone gets how big it is,” Tocci said. “We have 96 contestants coming from all over the country. They were chosen out of hundreds of submissions and range from newbies to 20-year veterans of the comedy circuit.”

Tocci said that she and Sinclair spread the word on the contest by “hitting open mike nights from New York to D.C.”

“We’d get in the car, have a list of clubs and hand out competition information at 17 clubs in a night,” she said. “Once we got the word out, it spread even further.”

The competition has entrants from a more than a dozen states, including California, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, she said.

According to Tocci, each round of the Stand-Up Competition will be judged by a “unique panel of industry and media reps, as well as the audience.”

The audience, which can attend the preliminary round of the competition for free, will vote. Tocci said that the audience vote will equal “one judge’s vote.”

“People can come in and watch the prelims and take part,” Tocci said. “The performers will be doing five minutes sets, then they will be critiqued by the panel and votes cast.”

The format, similar to the NBC television show America’s Got Talent, will permit participants to hone their performance chops while entertaining stand-up comedy fans.

“The contestants are traveling here on their own dime,” said Tocci. “They are paying their own lodging and food. Most are coming for the publicity and the chance to network with professionals in the industry.

“A lot of these guys are already on the comedy club circuit, earning a living doing this, but there’s a lot of talent looking for a way to break in. I think the networking opportunities will pay off for the contestants,” she added.

The top three performers get prizes. There’s cash involved, of course, but also bookings at local, Atlantic City and Philadelphia clubs.

The schedule for the preliminary competition, as well as for the headline events, comedy contest finals and workshops is available at Tickets prices are posted as well.

The festival opens at 10 a.m. on Friday, July 26 with a“Sketch Comedy Writing Room Workshop.” The first round of the Stand-Up Comedy Contest will begin at 11 a.m. at Convention Hall.

Workshops cost $50 for each three-hour session. Topics include the writing workshop, a teen comedy workshop, an improve comedy session and “Comedy A to Z”.

“We are using the Convention Hall as our main stage, and have venues throughout the city,” including Cape May’s VFW Post #386, The Grand Hotel, The Chalfonte, A Ca Mia, the Pilot House, and the Emlen Physick Estate, said Tocci.

A “Sunday Funday Comedy Carnival” scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Emlen Physick Estate will close out the three-day event.

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