Chicago spoiled comedian Ramon Rivas II. While spending the summer of 2010 there, he found he could perform onstage five nights a week. It also made him realize Cleveland needed more places for comics to hone their craft. "You need to do it in front of an audience to get that response and figure stuff out," he says. Since then, he's been organizing comedy shows at Reddstone, the Grog Shop and Great Lakes Brewing Co. This month, Rivas hosts the comedy stage at Ingenuity Fest, Sept. 14-16, while his Accidental Comedy Fest — a multi-venue barrage of comedians — runs Sept. 9-16.
Q. You put national names such as Neal Brennan and Hannibal Buress on the same bill with local comics. Why is that important to you?
A. I like to give people that kind of opportunity. I'm a fan of comedy, and I love Cleveland, so it's cool to bring all these talented people here.
Q. Who was the first comedian you really got into?
A. I got really into Brian Regan in middle school. When I was in high school I got really into Richard Pryor. I spent like $150 on a box set of all his stuff from like '68 to '91.
Q. Do you like hosting more than performing?
A. The whole reason I started producing shows is so I could perform more. ... I'm writing new stuff and using hosting a little differently. I just do my own thing and it kind of works out.
Q. How does a comedy show host's job differ from that of the other performers?
A. I'll usually do like a quick joke between sets if the show needs it. If the feature [comedian] got a standing ovation, I've got to calm the audience down for the headliner. A good host will reset the energy of the show to keep it enjoyable for the audience.
Q. How would you characterize the sense of humor of audiences here?
A. It's very appreciative. It's more real. Not that they don't laugh at absurdist stuff, but they dig someone who genuinely is in to what they're doing. They like it a little blue — a little dirty — but not excessively. We laugh at ourselves. Clevelanders are very aware of how the city is perceived by outsiders.