Can comedy sneak up on you? Yes. The inaugural Comedy Ninja Film and Screenplay Festival takes place April 30-June 1 at downtown Los Angeles’ Japanese American National Museum. In addition to panels, parties and comic Dwayne Perkins hosting the final evening’s Hi-Yah! Awards ceremony, festival director and programmer Chuck Parello promises a non-stop attack of stealthy laughs.
Where did the idea for the Comedy Ninja Festival come from, and how does it set itself apart from other festivals?
My friend, filmmaker Quentin Lee, and I decided to start a film festival a while back, but we weren’t sure what kind of a festival it would be or any of the other details. I am a filmmaker myself and I had been having a lot of fun attending comedy film festivals with a short I made called Dr. 420, so I suggested to Quentin that we start our own comedy film festival. He liked the idea because LA has such a huge comedy community and things just started moving in that direction from that point on. Comedy Ninja is different from other comedy film festivals I’ve attended because it aims to be completely unpretentious and fun. Ultimately our goal is to create a welcoming environment that celebrates funny filmmakers and screenwriters and the gut-busting work they create.
What did the selection process entail? Are there any specific styles, themes or attribute you wanted to highlight?
We received submissions from every corner of the globe and were happy to be able to view so much stellar work. The reason we called our festival the Comedy Ninja Film Festival is because we’re most interested in sly comedy that sneaks up on you when you least expect it. We really aimed to invite stuff that was extremely clever and unobvious, and when I look at our delectable line-up I have to say that we most definitely succeeded in this goal. Our submission team catchphrase was that we were seeking out “comedy with a kung fu kick!”
Surprise hurdles you’ve found yourself facing leading up to the festival?
Starting anything new comes with its ups and downs. The biggest hurdle I think we’re facing as a festival is getting people to know who we are when we’re the new kid in town. LA is filled with film festivals and film event , so we’ve really had to push and plug away to make our Comedy Ninja voice heard. Luckily both Quentin and I have backgrounds in publicity so we are up for the challenge of getting some recognition in a very crowded marketplace.
One of the highlight events will be a tribute to Lin Shaye. Why was she chosen as an honoree?
I worked with Lin on a couple of projects and can think of nobody more deserving than her to have a Comedy Ninja Achievement Award bestowed on them. These days people know Lin as Elise Reiner in James Wan’s Insidious films, but she’s also had such a remarkable career as a comedic film actor in films like There’s Something About Mary, Kingpin and Detroit Rock City. She just so fearlessly inhabits all of these weird characters, and she’s so darned funny!
How do you envision the festival evolving long-term?
So far the response to the Comedy Ninja Film Festival has been tremendous. I love that even just saying our name makes people giggle. Quentin and I hope to keep building on the festival and making it bigger and more fun. We love that we’re giving independent comedy writers and directors the opportunity to get some much-needed exposure, and hope that we can continue to do so well into the future.
Anything else you’d like to mention?
I definitely want to give a shout-out to all of our great sponsors, especially the world famous Laugh Factory comedy club. Thank you everybody for everything. You rock!