by ashlee voorsanger  sat aug 1, 2015 Comedy & Carbs: The 2015 Empire Biscuit Comedy Festival Comedy club     snore. Bar     ...

Comedy & Carbs: The 2015 Empire Biscuit Comedy Festival

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by ashlee voorsanger  sat aug 1, 2015
Comedy & Carbs: The 2015 Empire Biscuit Comedy Festival

Comedy club    snore.
Bar    loud
Basement    dark
Laundromat   done it
Library   shhhh
Hotel   boring
Apartment   creepy
Converted garage   hot
Rooftop   weather


A tiny, fabulous, 24hour biscuit shop.  It’s PERFECT.

One night in February, as a couple of comics grew delirious and punchy on a bus trip to a comedy festival, inspiration struck.  “We’ll have our OWN comedy festival!  And we’ll invite the best and brightest comics in NYC!  Each show will be full of headliners!  It will be three days of amazing comedy!  AND we’ll have it in a biscuit shop!” 

Lesser dreamers would have abandoned such lofty and quirky goals once the luxury of a good night’s sleep had set in.  Some may have gotten as far as approaching a venue, maybe asking a couple of comics if they would be interested, should it ever become a reality.  It’s entirely fair to say that – well, exactly THREE – would go so far as to present to comedy lovers, comics, and New York City - the 2015 Empire Biscuit Comedy Festival.

Enter Andrew Tavin, Brandon Scott Wolf, and Tovah Silbermann, each comedians in their own right – and now comedy festival producers.  Andrew and Brandon hatched this crazy idea on a dark bus en route to Ithaca, and once they confided in friend / comedian / producer Tovah – this trio could not be stopped.

Brandon Scott Wolf, Andrew Tavin, Tovah Silbermann                       photo by Liz Zharovsky
Having performed on countless shows in weird places, produced numerous shows, joked in and worked for festivals – they set about making this a reality.  First stop: Empire Biscuit on Avenue A.  Now, it certainly helps to know the owners, but having the owners jump on board immediately to support your goal of comedy + carbs, is absolute kismet.

The birth of Empire Biscuit is another tale of triumph.  Jonathan Price, a southern boy (Durham, NC), with a biscuit and a dream – teamed up with a like-minded Yonadav Tsuna (Memphis, TN) and decided what they needed - and NYC certainly deserved - was biscuits.  Fresh, homemade, southern-style biscuits… available on a 24 hour basis, no less.  Day or night, these Southern gentlemen would guarantee that no New Yorker would have to go to bed without the comfort of carbs! 

Even with years of restaurant experience between them (they met waiting tables together in NYC), neither of these fresh-faced carb-crusaders had any idea how to start a restaurant.  They did know enough to assemble a team of people with the experience they lacked, and set about the business of biscuits.  For that all important component of a new business – capital – they turned to Kickstarter.

Lest this sound like a modern day fairy tale of boy meets biscuit, waits tables for years in NYC, meets another boy who loves biscuits, boys decide to open shop and change the face of biscuits forever – the road was not without it’s bumps.  For example, upon opening in 2013, the shop was flooded with patrons so hungry for this staple of southern comfort, they not only ran out of biscuits, but had to shut down for a couple of days to regroup and tweak their processes because EVERYONE LOVES BISCUITS.

Cut to 2015, with Empire Biscuits now humming along 24 hours a day, our trio of comedy-festival-producers-to-be sell their idea of the “largest comedy festival held in the smallest biscuit shop” to Jonathan and Yonadav, and the 2015 Empire Biscuit Comedy Festival is officially born.

Comedian / Producer Tovah Silbermann has many credits under her belt, not the least of which is being the second Tovah that Jon Hamm (of tragically cool Don Draper / Mad Men fame) has ever met.  She offers this up very excitedly when asked about some of her favorite comedy experiences to date.  Her enthusiasm for comedy, comedians, and producing comedy magic is contagious even via email.  Through numerous late night email exchanges, the subject is never “me” or “I” – it is always “we”, and when asked what her personal goals are for the festival, she says she hopes that she will be able to “book even larger festivals and projects . . . so I can showcase everyone that I love!”


Midnight Comedy Questions with 
Comedian / Producer Tovah Silbermann

TWIC: How long was the process -- from the idea for the festival to opening night?

TS: The idea for the festival happened in February and we've been busting our butts since then! 

TWIC: What has been the biggest challenge in putting the festival together?

TS: Although all of us have either performed or volunteered for festivals before, and we have all produced countless shows in NYC, none of us really thought about all of the details that putting a fest together requires. We originally went into it thinking "we'll just book out nine shows. Easy". Instead, we quickly realized we also needed to figure out PR, design work, logistics with the vendor, ticketing and much much more. It's been a lot more work than we anticipated but we've enjoyed every minute of it! 

TWIC: How did the lineups come together? Was it based more on the comic's availability or was the goal curating each show with specific kinds of performers?

TS:  A little bit of both. Our goal from the start was to only book comedians that might be considered the headlining act for any of our normal shows. So we thought about who we loved to see perform and also what sorts of credits would be notable (Last Comic Standing, Late Night, Comedy Central Specials) and we started asking comedians who fell into those categories, but offered them a range of dates and as the festival started to get more booked, it became much more of a puzzle making sure we could fit everyone in in ways that would make the lineups interesting, diverse, and also complimentary.

TWIC:  Describe the mix of comics for the festival in 5 words.

TS:  Funny, Fresh, Famous, Friendly, and FUN. We were supposed to alliterate right?

TWIC:  Who makes you laugh that are local / underground comics?

TS: Some of my favorite local comedians are actually performing on the festival. I love watching Nate Fernald, Julio Torres, Joe Pera, Liza Treyger and everyone else on the fest!

If we're talking people not on the fest, then I've been really into the comedy of Catherine Cohen, Luke Mones, Yoni Lotan, Mark Vigeant, Anna Drezen and about a billion other people. I need to make more fests so I can showcase everyone I love!

TWIC: Last stand up special you watched?

TS: Vegan on the Way to the Complain Store by Eugene Mirman. He's one of my all time favorite comedians

TWIC: What was the first comedy show you attended?

TS: I think it was an improv show at UCB. I distinctly remember Betsy Sedaro on the team. As soon as I started going to shows I felt immediately at home in NYC. 

TWIC: Your comedy idols?

TS: Eugene Mirman, Kumail Nanjiani, John Mulaney and Flight of the Conchords are some of my all time favorite comedians and my idols. I love how silly and energetic and bizarre they all are. 

TWIC:  Describe your first time on stage in 3 words.

TS: Terrifying, Confident, Euphoric 

TWIC: What is your career highlight / favorite comedy experience so far? 

TS: I think my career highlight was when I was helping out at one of Eugene Mirman's shows in Williamsburg Park and they didn't have much for me to do except they asked if I could wait by the backstage entrance and when JON HAMM shows up, could I please show him to the trailer. Turns out I'm the second Tovah that Jon Hamm has met. 

Other than that, I am constantly overwhelmed that my favorite comedians and my friends are turning into one big group. I constantly feel lucky that I am surrounded by such talented and hilarious people.

TWIC: What is your biggest hope / goal for the festival?

TS: If I'm being selfless, I want everyone to have fun! We really put a lot of thought into every facet of the festival to make sure the comedians and the audience are going to have an amazing time and I hope it's a smashing success.

If I'm selfish, I hope this festival gives me the opportunity to book and produce even larger festivals and projects. Booking shows is my favorite part of this game. Whenever I put together a good lineup, I get a huge rush that I assume cocaine must feel like. I would love more opportunities to do that on bigger and badder scales!

 - - - - -

Comedian / Producer Brandon Scott Wolf is a working comedian, not only as one of Brooklyn’s favorite bartenders, but also as a contributor to Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update,  and Funny of Die News among others.  If he looks familiar, you may have seen him on a dating site – particularly HIS dating site: which is THE #1 online dating site for Brandon Scott Wolf.  Having performed all over NYC (including in a barber shop), he immediately saw the opportunity (and the NEED) for an experience so New York, that it could only be a full-fledged comedy festival in a lower east side biscuit shop.

Comedian / Producer Andrew Tavin who can be heard cohosting Podcast Monsters, is quick to point out that each and every ticket for the festival INCLUDES a biscuit and a beverage, and not just an ordinary biscuit, a PREMIUM biscuit.  While his focus is certainly on this year’s festival, Andrew is already thinking about possibilities for next year – which one can only assume involves more premium biscuits. 

- - - - - - -



 * * click the comic's name for more info * *

Julio Torress (Comedy Central's Comics To Watch)
Liza Treyger (Comedy Central)
Alingon Mitra (Last Comic Standing)
Joe Pera (Comedy Central)
Sean Patton (Maron)
Andrew Tavin (Awooga Comedy)
and more!

Guy Branum (No Strings Attached Movie)
Hadiyah Robinson (Comic View)
Giulia Rozzi (Comedy Central)
Jim Tews (Louie)
Griffin Newman (Draft Day Movie)
and more!


Brett Davis (The Special Without Brett Davis)
Casey Jost (Impractical Jokers)
Livia Scott (IAF.TV)
Tovah Silbermann (Forever Dog Productions)
David Bluvband (The Chris Gethard Show)
and more!

Shakir Standley (Last Comic Standing)
Joe List (Comedy Central)
Sue Smith (Vh1)
Ben Kronberg (Last Comic Standing)
Robert Dean (Comedy Central)
and more!

Saurin Choksi (White Guy Talk Show)
Nate Fernald (The Pete Holmes Show)
Calise Hawkins (Funny Girls)
Mike Drucker (Fallon)
Abbi Crutchfield (Vh1)
and more!

Nick Vatterott (Comedy Central)
Matteo Lane (Guy Code)
Hasan Minhaj (Daily Show)
Jeffrey Joseph (Comedy Central)
and more!

Josh Gondelman (Last Week Tonight with John Oliver)
Andy Sandford (Conan)
Joe Zimmerman (Comedy Central)
Nore Davis (Inside Amy Schumer)
Nick Turner (Comedy Central)

Mike Recine (Conan)
Michelle Wolf (Seth Meyers)
Myq Kaplan (Comedy Central)
Sasheer Zamata (SNL)
Kevin Barnett (Friends of the People)
Brandon Scott Wolf (SNL's Weekend Update Contributor)
and more!

Seaton Smith (Mulaney)
Sean Donnelly (Comedy Central)
Christian Finnegan (Comedy Central)
Phoebe Robinson (Girl Code)
Carmen Lynch (Inside Amy Schumer)
Aparna Nancherla (Conan)
and more!

General Admission, Seating is limited.  For questions please email

*Lineups are subject to change

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