Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Comedy is no joke in Spokane: How the city keeps landing big names

Shortly after Kevin Hart sold out the 3,500-capacity McCarthey Athletic Center in 2015, the ubiquitous actor-comic shot through the comedic stratosphere. What were the odds that the star of such films as “Get Hard” and “Central Intelligence” and seemingly every other commercial, would return to Spokane after packing NFL football stadiums?

Well, the seeds were planted for another Hart performance in Spokane in 2022, thanks to Spokane Public Facilities Director of Entertainment Matt Meyer.

“I’ve been working on this for a while,” Meyer said after the announcement that Hart is taking the ONE Spokane Stadium stage in August. “I was at a conference in Nashville. I was urged by a friend to meet with these guys who put on a Canadian outdoor comedy festival in Nashville and we had a good conversation.”

Meyer visited the promoters of the Great Outdoors Comedy Festival in Calgary, Alberta, and they checked out ONE Spokane Stadium and there was a match.

“There was such great synergy that we ended up agreeing to bring their festival to Spokane,” Meyer said.

Kevin Hart will headline the Great Outdoors Comedy Festival, which will feature Tom Segura and Bobby Lee, and is slated for Aug. 25 at ONE Spokane Stadium. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday at

“It’s a great time for comedy here in Spokane,” Meyer said. “We believe that comedy is extremely strong here.”

The numbers back up Meyer’s thoughts. During a seven-day span last spring, the First Interstate Center for the Arts hosted Trevor Noah, who played two shows, followed by Jeff Dunham and Daniel Tosh. All four concerts sold out.

“That says a lot about how well comedy sells here,” Meyer said. “We also had sold out shows with Taylor Tomlinson and Tim Allen last year. David Spade isn’t selling out for this weekend’s show, but he’s selling well.

“And then you have Nate Bargatze, who sold more than 10,000 tickets at the (Spokane) Arena last month. He played in the round, which gave us a capacity of 12,700. We were very happy with those sales.”

It all started for Bargatze at the Spokane Comedy Club, which has been selling out shows as well.

“They have a great couch at that club, and it’s such a nice atmosphere for comics,” Bargatze said in January before headlining the Arena. “Comics rave about the green room there for good reason. It’s a great club, and it’s part of the reason why I’ve come back to Spokane many times.”

Comics take note of where their peers are selling out venues, so Meyer is counting on more big name comics making their Spokane debut.

“It’s an exciting time for us here,” Meyer said. “What’s great for us is that Spokane is a comedy town. The cool thing is that there are so many great comics out there now.

“Everything is on a different scale these days. You go back 15 or 20 years and you see there aren’t tours like there are now.”

A generation ago, comics broke courtesy of appearances on “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night With David Letterman.”

Contemporary humorists are buoyed by stand-up specials on Netflix and YouTube, or short clips on TikTok.

“Look at Matt Rife,” Meyer said. “He went from being unknown to massive in no time, thanks to streaming and the internet. It’s a new age for comedians and for comedy.”

The plan is for the Outdoor Comedy Festival to be an annual event.

“That’s the goal,” Meyer said. “We’ll see how it goes this year, but it would be great if we could do it every year.”

Comedy is hot in Spokane, but some big-name recording artists will also play One Spokane Stadium during the summer.

“We’ll make some announcements over the next few weeks,” Meyer said. “It’s a great time, not just for comedy in Spokane, but for entertainment in general.”