Ian Rans and friends hit the road for Mexico: Part 2
The town was founded in the late '50s as a scuba diving community, and was rediscovered later by members of the Grateful Dead's entourage in the '70s. These two facts explain much of the vibe here.
The Kansas/Oklahoma tornadoes have wreaked havoc with everyone's flights. So far, 10 of the funniest people I know have flown through tornadoes, been harassed by customs, been searched, detained (only for a little while), and uprooted. But I'm sure we'll look back on this trip as a bonding experience, only remembering the good times.
After 10 hours in an airport waiting for the majority of the party to show up (it was only supposed to be an hour), I got to know and bond with some of the finest taxi men the Cancun airport has to offer. And then I did it again with the new shift. The only way to pass the
time was to go from mediocre taco to Starbucks to mediocre margarita. I had been awake for 23 hours straight at this point.
I was thrilled when the comedians started to trickle in. Never before had I been so happy to see a collection of sweaty, pasty men. They looked like they had been through a war.
When all were accounted for, most of the group hopped on a shuttle to head the hour south to Akumal. I decided to grab a rental car with Gus Lynch and Chris Maddock, two stand-out local performers who regularly make questionable decisions. I've been lucky enough to be friends with both of them for years, and unbeknownst to me I'd been more lucky than I'd never been in a car with Gus behind the wheel.
|The exhausted comedians arrive.|
The decision to make a quick stop en route in Playa Del Carmen had been made weeks before, and I had been looking forward to it. The opportunity to stop by some place less touristy played a big part in my decision to make this trip. We blasted down the freeway at 100km/h. Or, at least that's what the signs suggested. I don't know how fast that is, but it seemed criminal with Gus at the wheel.
|On the road to nowhere?|
Gus's family has deep roots in Akumal, so he's down here several times a year. After seeing how the economic downturn has hit this little Shangri-la, he and Stand Up! Records founder Dan Schlissel decided to do occasional comedy shows here. It's an opportunity for the comedians to try their craft in front of new faces, and if nothing else it's a damn nice vacation. After "practically being carried out on the audience's shoulders" at last year's show with Issac Witty, the plan to attempt a full-blown comedy festival was hatched.
Upon arriving at Playa Del Carmen, Chris was on the hunt for a surprisingly elusive boot shaped shot glass. The streets of the area are like a tourist town with the safety off: bars with swings, tiny shops selling wares, and people on the street hawking drugs to any gringo they see. I was offered cocaine by five different people in 10 minutes. They all have different slang for it. "Powder" was uninspired, but "booger sugar" was an audience favorite. We politely declined. I opted to settle in for a few margaritas in a swing, while Chris searched for the elusive shot glass (a gift, he assured me).
During our time here, meeting the locals and pitching the festival to anyone who'll listen was a must. They seemed interested, though only slightly. But just attempting to do something like this has elevated all involved to a minor celebrity status around the neighboring cities.
With Chris's shot glass finally in hand and my margaritas consumed, we hit the highway again with the windows down and the AC blasting. When we arrived in Akumal, the comedians had already made a local bar home. La Buena Vida is not only an outstanding place to blast away the white-knuckled memories of circling the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport (for two hours!), it's also a festival venue. There are no doors, and there is no floor. Not the typical place to see a comedy show, granted, but that's going to be one of the hallmarks of this festival.
Over three days there will be 10 shows in places as diverse as the city square, bars, restaurants, and the beach. But when you have this many comedians in the same spot, the show is constant. L.A.-based filmmaker (and local boy done good) Matt Olson knew this, and that's why he and his film crew are in tow. Not only will he be recording things for later use [Editor's note: You can see some of the footage this Thursday at 9 p.m. at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival], but they're also taping sketches that will be used at the shows. There is a constant flow of shooting and editing to meet deadlines, but the film crew seems the most relaxed of the bunch. After cutting their teeth with their winning submissions to the 48 Hour Film Festival -- as well as shooting Drinking with Ian -- this schedule is almost relaxing, I'm told.
But tonight we will rest and try to prepare. In three days we'll all be onstage. In six days it'll all be over.
Ian Rans and friends hit the road for Mexico: Part 1