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Members of the West Dakota Improv group chaotically run around during a warm-up exercise before practicing sketches in 2015.

Journal file

They say laughter is the best medicine.

If that's the case, Rapid City is about to be a very healthy place to be.

West Dakota Improv is hosting the second annual Black Hills Comedy Festival this Friday and Saturday at The Basement, 632 1/2 Saint Joseph St. Riding on the success of last year’s festival, the goal for this year’s event is to continue to promote the rising comedy scene in Rapid City.

Ryan Schendzielos, creative director for West Dakota Improv, said he is amazed at how popular comedy is becoming in the area, and how successful the event was during its first run.

“We’re just thrilled that there’s a comedy scene taking over in Rapid City, and we appreciate everyone for supporting it,” he said.

The idea for the event came after the comedy club moved into its current location on Saint Joseph Street. They started hosting open mic nights for local comics as a way to work on their craft. Those nights began drawing large crowds, and Schendzielos knew they had something special.

“We ran the first one last year, and it was well attended. The comics were amazing. We knew it was going to be an annual thing for sure,” he said.

Last year’s event drew a sold-out crowd for both nights, so the comedy club decided to host a “Comedy Throwdown” later that year. The show was a quarterly version of a festival where comics who participated in the first event got to perform and screen their material for a smaller audience in anticipation of the next year’s event.

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Comics who may not have had the chance to participate in the first year’s competition were able to apply for this year’s event. They were asked to submit a small snippet of their material to the comedy club. Almost everyone who applied was chosen to participate, Schendzielos said.

This year’s festival is similar to last year's. There are three rounds in which each comedian will have 7 minutes to impress the audience and judges in four categories: audience interaction/response, material, time component, and presentation. Three judges are appointed to determine which comedians move on to the next round.

Local comedian Sheldon Starr took home the top prize during last year’s festival and will compete to defend his title this year. The grand prize for first place is $400, but Schendzielos believes the bragging rights are more important to the comics.

“The money is nice, but to be able to say that you won it all, I think is bigger,” he said.

Advanced tickets are $25 for both nights and get you into all three rounds of the competition. Schendzielos recommends buying tickets soon, as the show is starting to sell out. For purchasing information, call 431-6848 or visit the festival’s official Facebook event at facebook.com/WestDakotaImprov/ and click on the "Events" tab on the left side of the page.

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