Omaha Comedy Festival returns with local, national acts

OMAHA, Neb. -- A recent staple of the Omaha comedy community returned this weekend -- in a slightly scaled down form.

After taking a year off in 2020, the Omaha Comedy Festival came back for its eighth annual event, hosting over 90 sketch, improv, standup and musical comics from across the country.

Though comedians came from as far as New York, Seattle, D.C. and Los Angeles -- and as local as Omaha and Winside -- event organizer Dylan Rohde said the festival made plenty of adjustments this year.

"Obviously with COVID around, we've had to take a lot of different choices this year," Rohde said. "We kind of aimed a little smaller and spread stuff out a little bit more. We've got a lot of great folks, and we really try to focus on community."

Rohde, a Hooper native who graduated from Wayne State College, started his comedy career in Los Angeles before moving back to Nebraska and starting The Backline, a comedy theatre in downtown Omaha, in 2011.

"When I started the Backline, I really just wanted to start teaching," Rohde said. "Because there wasn't much of a scene, I thought I'd start teaching, and it turned out I was alright at it."

From there, Rohde, began plans for a large festival for Omaha, which started out solely featuring improv comics, before adding sketch, standup and musical acts in recent years. 

"I really wanted to get the national improv community aware of Omaha, so I started bringing folks in trying to have it be a place where everyone can hang out and get to know each other," Rohde said.

The festival also hosts workshops and has had celebrity guests. This year's festival shows were performed at The Backline, Big Canvas Theater and The Cottonwood Hotel.