The inaugural Burning Bridges Comedy Festival kicks off this weekend (April 15-16) in Pittsburgh’s Allentown and South Side neighborhoods. Founded by local comedians Jesse Irvin and John Dick Winters of Race to the Coffin Comedy, BBF brings to our city’s southern parts an eclectic blend of stand-up acts and bit shows from Pittsburgh and beyond.
The PCF team spoke with John Dick Winters, festival alum from 2016, about BBF, PCF and the Pittsburgh comedy scene.
Hi John! Who the heck are you?
I’m a standup comedian, storyteller, chef, father of twin girls and owner of countless regrets. I also founded Race to the Coffin Comedy and the Burning Bridges Comedy Festival. I’m based primarily in Pittsburgh but have performed as far away as just outside of Pittsburgh.
How did you end up doing comedy?
I did my first open mic in January of 2012. It was hosted by none other than PCF alum Derek Minto at the Smiling Moose in South Side.
Tell us how the Burning Bridges Comedy Festival got started.
BBF was an idea [local comedian] Jesse Irvin and myself had a few years back. He and I started Race to the Coffin Comedy together and we wanted to start a festival. Not too long after, the first PCF was announced, so we were like, “Cool Pittsburgh has a comedy festival now.” After PCF was established, it became clear that there was room for another festival. And now, Pittsburgh has two comedy festivals that are structured very differently.
What can BBF audiences expect this year?
The audiences can expect some incredibly high caliber stand-up from comics they’ve never heard of from all over the country and from right here in Pittsburgh. Not to mention, super one-of-a-kind shows like nearly nude comedy and the worst tattoo competition.
You performed at PCF last year. What was the experience like?
PCF was a great experience for me. I got my slot by winning an amateur contest at Arcade Comedy Theater. It was probably the most professionally conducted festival I’ve ever participated in. But BBF is completely different from PCF. It’s completely unprofessional, among other factors. PCF has improv, some stand-up and takes place in a single venue. BBF is all stand-up and will be a ****show. There are 14 shows in 6 venues, over two days, with over 50 performers. If someone doesn’t go the the hospital, I’ll be disappointed.
Tell us about the support you’ve received from local businesses/organizations.
Our sponsors were supportive right out of the gate. It was overwhelming, to be honest. All of the sponsors are listed on our website, but their generosity has not only provided financial support but encouragement to do this highly risky endeavor.
Alright, we’ll check it out. How can we get tickets?
BurningBridgesFestival.com. We’re only selling 100 festival passes, but individual tickets may be purchased at the door if available.