Dustin Meadows

Comedy. Punk Rock. Werewolves.

A Festival For The Restival (Part Two)

In 2015, I produced the Columbus Comedy Festival for my second and final time. When I stepped away, no one else stepped in to pick it up and carry the torch. So for that alone, anyone who complained about the way I ran a festival can take a flying fucking leap, because not a single one of them rose to the occasion when the opportunity to run a festival suddenly lay in front of them.

And that's probably because running a festival is a lot of goddamn hard work. Many people think comedy festivals are a get rich quick scam for the people running it, and in some cases, that's true. But as someone who's run multiple festivals, I can tell you this: there are easier, less stressful ways to turn a quick buck than producing a goddamn comedy festival.

After Columbus Comedy Festival wrapped, I turned my focus to a pet project that had come about when my previously mentioned frustrations with running a festival had become a massive source of stress for me. I knew that I wanted to produce a full scale comedy festival, with submissions, and multiple shows and venues, and comics from all over the country. But I needed to ease into that. Crawl before you can walk and all that.

That's how Rock Bottom Fest was born, a one-off weekend of comedy that was branded in accordance with the Redefining Rock Bottom Tour, my first ever headlining tour with friends Mike Kolar, Michael Meyers, and later, Walter Hemmelgarn. I wanted to put on a comedy show, and have a sort of punk rock flea market component as well, so I invited artists and a couple of friends who sold records, made custom guitar pedals, and other stuff along those lines to be a part of this silly thing I was putting together.

Save for my friend and then roommate Lauren Bencaz, Rock Bottom Fest was a total sausage fest, and I low key caught some shit for it. But I also went off of three critera for the people I invited to do this show.

1) They had previously helped me out when on tour, typically with a booking or couch to crash on or both

2) They were on board and understanding of the punk rock/DIY mentality of what I was trying to do with this dry run at my own festival

3) Most importantly, they were willing to come to Columbus for, worst case scenario: no money and best case scenario: some gas money

The only locals on this festival were myself, Michael Meyers, Mike Kolar, and Lauren Bencaz. Meyers and Kolar were on it because they'd been my tour mates, and Lauren I ended up offering a spot because we lived together and I had started talking about Rock Bottom Fest one night, and I figured why not extend an invitation? She was funny and I thought she brought something different to the line-up with her comedy.

But everyone else on the festival was traveling anywhere between 2-6 hours for the hope of maybe breaking even on gas money. And I needed people who were okay with that possibility. From Cleveland, I invited Chad Weaver and Walter Hemmelgarn, who'd both set me up with shows in the past. Tyler Sonnichsen, Matt Chadourne, and Jeff Blank from Knoxville, TN, who had done the same. Tim Myers (from Chicago by way of Ohio) who had put me up while on tour, and Chris Clem (also from Chicago by way of Ohio) who was just someone I'd bonded with at a comedy festival. Hunter Roberts (from Kingsport, TN...or maybe it's Gate City, VA? who fucking gives a shit, he's from the south) who'd set me up with shows in Tennessee. And then Mike Szar (from Toledo, OH), who I'd been friends with for years and had actually went on my first tour (along with Michigan's Stu McCallister and Toledo's Keith Bergman) with in 2013. The festival was two-fold in purpose-to see if I was up to the task of producing something like this on my own, and to try to put together something cool and fun for the people who'd helped me out on the road in the past few years.

The festival ran two nights, Friday, April 10th and Saturday, April 11th. Mike Szar even put together a cool Expendables themed poster for the weekend.

Rock Bottom Fest ACTUAL.jpg


The Friday show was simply my Pop Culture Mixtape show performed at the (now defunct, R.I.P.) Strange Loop Records, and Saturday was two blocks of comedy at the Actual Brewing Company. I'd had a venue miscommunication, and three weeks (give or take) before the festival, I found myself scrambling to find a replacement venue. Fortunately, I'd spent the the last six months or so running a monthly showcase at the Actual Brewing Company, and when I informed them of the crisis, they gladly offered their space.

The weekend of the show rolled around, and we ended up getting crowds both nights. As a producer, the biggest fear is that no one is going to come out to your show. It's a fear that has not gone away in all of the years I've spent producing comedy shows. And for whatever reason, my experience with indie comedy shows is that audiences don't think they have to show up on time, so the show often ends up holding for a bit. We ended up doing that for this show, and at show time I was outside having a panic attack because three people had shown up. Then half an hour later, we had a full audience. Maybe audiences should show up on time, maybe we (comedians) shouldn't cater to the expectation that we'll wait on them to start the show. I don't know what the solution is, honestly.

The show went well in spite of all the obstacles I'd hit along the way, and everyone seemed to have a great time. Chris Clem closed out the second block, because I didn't want to close out my own festival, and frankly, I didn't feel the need to provide one more thing for comedians to shit talk me about in secret Facebook groups. Even though those same comics (for the most part) showed zero interest in supporting something new in their town if they weren't booked on it right from the get go.

The long and short of it was that my little experiment had been successful. Three months later, I would produce the first backyard comedy show under the Whiskey Bear Comedy banner, featuring Laura Sanders, Kyle Tolliver, Kamari Stevens, and Oklahoma City's Cameron Bucholz. That was the beginning of something new and exciting for me, and I'll talk more about the birth of Whiskey Bear on the next round.

A Festival For The Restival (Part One)

It's that special time of year again for comedians, when they start getting acceptance or rejection letters from festivals. It's a goddamn exhilirating feeling to find out you got into a really cool comedy festival that you were pumped for, and it is a gigantic fucking bummer to find out that you didn't make it into one. It's easy to get bitter and frustrated over shit like that, because lord knows I've done it myself in the past. You can typically tell because people will Facebook or Tweet or whatever about what complete bullshit it is that they didn't make the cut for something and how festivals will never get another cent of their money ever again. That's fine, too, but you can just not submit and go on with your life instead of having to make it into a whole thing. It sucks hard not to get into festivals, and it sucks to see people get it over you that you think you're better than. But that's a completely unhealthy way to think about comedy (or anything you pursue, really), and if that's your attitude, that other people getting something is somehow holding you back, then you're never gonna go very far anyway. I think most people have no fucking idea the amount of work that goes into producing a festival. And that's what I'm here to talk about.

I've done a bunch of different comedy festivals in different towns in the last five years. I've also been rejected from several in the last seven years. Since 2014, I have produced five different festivals, and by the end of next month, I will have produced my sixth. So I've definitely had some experience on both sides of the coin as far as running a festival. In the fall of 2014, I took over running and producing the Columbus Comedy Festival along with friends Michael Meyers (a fellow comedian) and Sarah Fulmer (one of the showrunners of Speak Easy, Columbus' longest running storytelling show). I stepped in because my friend Sumukh Torgalkar (another comedian), who had been one of the producers of the festival for the last few years, was stepping away from it, as were the other producers who'd been involved. Basically, unless someone took the reigns and continued producing, the Columbus Comedy Festival would cease to exist. I had just moved back home from Chicago and was trying to be more proactive and put into the scene what I wanted to get back from it, so I asked if it was something that I could take over, because for the city to lose what had become a comedy staple would have been a major disappointment.

Once the torch had been passed to me and my producers, we were then left with the unenviable task of having to first bump the festival back to the fall (during Buckeyes football season, no less), because we would've had one month to turn everything around if we'd tried to do the festival during it's usual time of year in April/May, and then we had to hammer out our line-up and finalize bookings within the month so we could work on scheduling, procuring sponsors, and all the other minutiae that most folks don't realize is a the unsexy but necessary part of running a festival. Because we didn't have time for a submission process, we decided to book it (which is how the festival had been run in previous years), and boy, did we get a lot of fucking clapback from comics who weren't booked. Suddenly, every comedian in the city knew how to run a goddamn comedy festival and how to produce the best possible show. This was a festival that featured sketch, improv, and stand-up, and over the course of three nights, stand-up only accounted for about 1/3 of the programming. So we had limited spots. We booked our line-up with comics who ran shows or mics, people who were making a significant contribution to the comedy scene somehow, which me and my producers all thought was a pretty fair way to go about it. In spite of a lot of shit talking, the festival ended up being a success, and we all had a great time.

The second year with the Columbus Comedy Festival, me and Michael Meyers made an executive decision to cut the improv, because historically, it had been the one part of the festival that people had regularly complained about. And that's not to disparage the current state of improv in the scene, because it's grown by leaps and bounds. Comedians dog on improv, but I've seen just as much (if not more) bad stand-up as bad improv in my life. But back then, it was a little rougher to sit through that, and most of the time the improvisers would do their set and then bounce right the fuck out. Like the second they were off the stage. Every comedian on that festival showed up at the start and stayed for the whole show on the night they were booked, because that's what you do. You support the show, especially when you're on it. When we booked comedians that year, we decided to open things up and book out of towners to expand, my first real taste of attempting to produce a festival on a larger scale. The pushback was a little less than the previous year, but there were still people bitching that we should have a submission process and all that.

The nice thing about comedy is that it is now easier than ever to start a mic, a show, or even a festival if you're motivated enough. When I expressed interest in expanding the Columbus Comedy Festival and including satellite venues and the like, the way a real festival does, I was met with resistance from the venue. The venue who'd also expressed dissatisfaction that I'd cut the improv from the festival. The venue that I was paying to rent out for the event, who were not producing or putting the work in for the festival in any way. So I wasn't thrilled by the opposition I was getting. I decided then and there that I was going to produce my own festival, and start something completely new. And so the seeds of what would become the first, last, and only Rock Bottom Fest began to germinate in my mind.


Plan B. Let's Just Kill Each Other.

A few weeks ago, someone wrote this article acknowledging the 20th anniversary of the 1997 John Woo action film Face/Off, everyone's favorite face swapping movie starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. Which is fine. But then the author offers up that this might be one of the best action films of all time, which it abso-goddamn-lutely ain't. First off, MIGHT BE? The author isn't even committed to their own feeble premise here. And that makes them a FUCKING COWARD.

My name is Dustin Meadows, and I fucking love action movies. I can confidently tell you that Face/Off is nowhere near in the running for best action movie of all time. It's not even the best action movie of 1997, a year that gave us fun action films like The Fifth ElementStarship Troopers, and Con AirFace/Off isn't even the best action film directed by John Woo that stars John Travolta, because that goes to the mercifully shorter Broken ArrowFace/Off is an overly long 140 minutes, and with very few exceptions, no movie (action or otherwise) should ever clock in that far north of the two hour mark. And if you're an action movie running that long, you better be goddamn Die Hard or Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

The article pontificates on the differences between the action movies of then and now, by lamenting a simpler time when action movies were non-stop explosions, shootouts and choreographed fight scenes without any kind of nuance or artistic leanings thrown in the mix, incorrectly labeling Face/Off as a pure breed of the former in that comparison. That's also complete horseshit, because this movie is lousy with dramatic interludes and pointless scenes that attempt to build tension, but rarely in a meaningful way.

This movie is 2 hours and 20 minutes long. There are five total action set pieces throughout the film-the opening airport/hangar chase and shootout, the prison escape, the warehouse raid, the funeral/Mexican stand-off, and the boat chase finale. That's roughly one action sequence every half hour, which, all told, maybe makes up for 40 of the 140 minutes of the film. That's about 28% of the movie that's action sequences, which seems pretty damn light to me. I can handle action sequences being spread out if the in-between moments are really well done or bring something amazing to the table, but that's not the case with Face/Off. Everything in between those scenes is a lot of introspection and occasional quipping. Die Hard is basically the bar that I measure all action movies against, and there are more action sequences in that movie, which largely takes place in a single location and still has a shorter run time than Face/Off.

In addition to these problems, the finale is a boat chase. With the lone exception of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, I don't think I've ever given a fuck about a boat chase in an action/adventure movie. Need proof of my point? A little movie called Speed II: Cruise Control, which takes place entirely on a fucking boat and also is terrible and slow and boring as shit. Almost the entire movie is a boat chase. Striking Distance, a largely ignored thriller starring Bruce Willis from the early 90s, tanked financially and critically. It's a movie about boat cops solving murders on a river? Were boats to blame for the film's lack of success? Well, I just can't say. But I'm sure it didn't help.

This final boat chase in Face/Off is the most underwhelming and unimpressive of the film's action sequences. You've gotta find something really special to make a boat chase interesting and fun to watch, and most movies fail to do it. That's why I typically don't give a shit about boat chases in films, aside from the previously mentioned Indiana Jones movie.

(You can hear a lot more of my dumb opinions on this episode of my old podcast, How Have You Not Seen This?)

Going back to the previous point about the underwhelming finale of Face/Off, this is a common problem in action films, particularly contemporary ones, in which the final action sequence can't even hold a candle to the more impressive action set pieces that came before. The airport sequence in Captain America: Civil War is so grand in scale and fun to watch, that even though the dramatic beats of the film's final handicap match between Captain America and Winter Soldier against Iron Man are more important to the story, the action in the final battle doesn't come as close to the airport fight. Wonder Woman's CGI clusterfuck fight against Ares from the film of the same name is nowhere near as impressive as the sequence in which Wonder Woman storms across enemy lines to take out an entire battalion of German soldiers. Kingsman: The Secret Service culminates in an extended gunfight/chase sequence/hand-to-hand combat between parkour James Bond type Eggsy and the knife-legged Gazelle, which is a great string of action, but again, comes nowhere near to the sheer brutality and coolness of the second act's church sequence where Colin Firth turns in an against-type performance as a badass who completely beats the shit out of a church full of Westboro Baptist types. While John Wick: Chapter 2  learned from its predecessor and stepped everything up, the finale of the first entry, John Wick, isn't as good as the bath house shootout or the botched home assassination attempt that occur earlier in the film.

The Expendables trilogy, on paper, is a brilliant idea, assembling an exciting ensemble of action stars from various eras in R-rated violent fun. While the series has its share of missteps, the trilogy at least understands that you always save your best for last when it comes to the action sequences.

The third act of Face/Off phones it in harder than any action movie has ever phoned in a third act, and is one of the many contributing factors that takes this film out of the running as a serious contender for best action film of all time. We get an amazing shootout during the warehouse raid, a heated and dramatic personal exchange between John Travolta's Castor Troy and Nicolas Cage's Sean Archer, and the emotional ending when Castor sees brother Pollux Troy knocked to his death by his nemesis, the man wearing his (Castor's) own face. Naturally Castor/Archer doubles down, abusing his power as a senior agent of the FBI to increase the manhunt for Archer/Castor, resulting in a climactic and explosive final battle between good and evil and giving us, without a doubt, the best action set piece of the entire film.

At least that's what should've happened. Instead we're treated to a third act that just kind of stumbles its way into a confrontation that feels empty and cheap, ultimately giving way to an uninteresting boat chase and finally fumbling the ball into the end zone as Archer/Castor harpoons the man he's spent his entire life chasing, avenging the murder of his son and then getting a brand new son in the process from Gina Gershon, because sure, why the fuck not?

Remember, I say all of this as someone who owns and enjoys the movie Face/Off. It's okay to be critical of shit you like, because frankly, sometimes we deserve better than what we get. Anyway, if you need me, I'll be busy working on my Face/Off reboot starring Wesley Snipes as Sean Archer and Terry Crews as Castor Troy.

Batman V Superman: Dawn Of The Rise Of The Planet Of The Force Awakens


EXT: Gotham City, Night.


Bat Affleck sits perched atop a gargoyle or what the fuck ever, surveying his city, ever vigilant in his never ending fight against crime. A fight that might be less never ending if he’d just kill his villains as opposed to slapping them on the wrist and throwing them in what has historically proven to be the revolving door correctional institute that is Arkham Asylum. You already wear a bat costume and jump on dudes off of rooftops without any sort of government sanctioned law enforcement authority, so why not just grow a pair and start killing dudes like the Joker, who are so far beyond redemption and who are so clearly guilty that he might as well have written a book bragging about how he would’ve done it like the Juggalo version of O.J. Simpson.


Something else is weighing on Bat Affleck’s mind tonight, however. He read the comments section on a trailer for his new movie, and lonely MRA nerds apparently got tired of threatening women on the internet long enough to make some riveting commentary on the casting decision of Affleck with such glaring insight as “Why is Warner Bros. raping my childhood?” and “This movie is gonna be teh suxxorz!” All these sad nerds shitting on the casting decision of the newest Batman, despite the fact that since tragic missteps like Reindeer Games and Gigli, Affleck has proven himself as a capable and powerhouse actor and director, and fuck anyone who says otherwise! The Town  was so good, you guys! So good!


Then Bat Affleck detects it. The unmistakable smell of a cherry lime vape pen, the scent of a flop sweat soaked fedora and the pointed cadence of a “Well, actually in the comic books!” and just like that, Bat Affleck dives off his perch and into the long cold stretch of night below as he drops to the city streets.


On the streets below, some mouth breathing MRA shit fuck has cornered a poor dark haired girl with glasses, her replete in a Return Of The Jedi t-shirt and all the splendor so often afforded only to sunsets and unicorns, and he replete in his dumpster fire personality and Cheetos stained fingers protruding from fingerless gloves because MRAs apparently have the fashion sense of people who like ska but also know all of the words to at least one Mudvayne album. “Okay, fake geek girl,” the MRA wheezed between mouthfuls of pizza rolls and flippant misogyny, “what are Superman’s real parent’s names? What’s Superman’s real name? In issue #75, what color is Jimmy Olsen’s shirt?”


“Leave me alone,” she responded. “I’m just trying to go home.”


“Why won’t you fuck me, you stupid bitch?” the MRA squealed, ignorant to the fact that his very existence was the answer to that awful question. “I’m a nice guy, you stupid whore.” he continued, completely oblivious to the fact that he was a virus with shoes. “Ugh, friend zoned again!” he cried, sucking his expensive vape pen the way a petulant child sucks their thumb when they don’t get their way. “Guess I’ll just go home and watch Family Guy, you fucking bitch.”


210 pounds of Affleck came crashing down on the MRA with a tremendous force, the kind of force that you wish you could use to power a roundhouse kick to all the dipshits in last week’s Ohio primary election who switched their registered party to Republican to vote “against Trump” instead of just, y’know, voting for the candidate that they fucking believed in.


“Get off me!” the MRA cried out. “I need to get home to tell women they don’t need make-up to look beautiful on Reddit and then turn around and tell them that wearing too much make-up makes them look like gigantic sluts!”


“I was so good in Gone Girl!” Bat Affleck shouted, bringing his powerful fists down into the MRA’s stupid face. “I won a fucking Oscar for Argo, goddammit!” Bat Affleck dropped a knee to the MRA’s crotch. “Smokin’ Aces? That was a good one, too!” Bat Affleck broke the MRA’s arms. “I could recite my filmography all night, you misogynistic piece of shit! Buffy The Vampire Slayer!” Bat Affleck drove his fists into the MRA’s midsection, the sound of crunching ribs punctuating his righteous fury.


“Wait, you were in Buffy The Vampire Slayer?” the dark haired girl with glasses asked, intrigued.


“Not the Joss Whedon television series, the movie version with Kristy Swanson and Pee Wee Herman!” Bat Affleck knife edge chopped the MRA and followed up with an obnoxious “Woo!”


“Oh, never mind then.” the dark haired girl with glases followed up.


“Fuck you! It’s a good movie! I’m sorry there aren’t gay witches and a bunch of teenagers talking and quipping the way that literally no teenager does, but some of your sacred cows are fucking bullshit! You hear that, Joss Whedon?” Bat Affleck screamed into the night sky of Gotham City. “Avengers 2 completely ignored the most important story elements laid out by Winter Soldier and Iron Man 3, and now the Afflecks are coming home to roost!”


The tell tale sound of Bat Affleck’s grappling gun registered the report that he was now making his exit.


“Wait!” the dark haired girl with glasses called out. “Don’t I even get to know your name?”




“Sorry,” she said. “Can I at least give you a kiss?”


“Save it for Spider-Man, you fucking nerd! And to all a good night, for truly, this was a DAWN OF JUSTICE!”


And with that, Bat Affleck disappeared into the sky, protecting the innocent from those who would prey upon the weak, defending the defenseless, and to unfortunately portray Batman in quite possibly the worst adaptation of Batman to date.


Plus that title is still the dumbest fucking thing in the world.