James Adomian steps into the spotlight for The Dallas Comedy Festival. John Rudnitsky of "Saturday Night Live" had a scheduling conflict.

James Adomian steps into the spotlight for The Dallas Comedy Festival. John Rudnitsky of "Saturday Night Live" had a scheduling conflict.


You're gonna laugh ....

James Adomian, late of a Twitter spat with fellow politician impressionist Alec Baldwin and Comedy Bang! Bang! on Comedy Central, will step into another role at the upcoming Dallas Comedy Festival: headliner.

Adomian played Bernie Sanders in a series of skits on Comedy Central's @midnight With Chris Hardwick aptly called "Trump vs. Bernie" during the 2016 election season. Anthony Atamanuik played Trump, and that's the source of the Twitter beef. That was then.

Now he fills a hole left when the filming schedules of announced headliners Jon Rudnitsky of Saturday Night Live and writing partner Jake Nordwind clashed with the festival dates, March 22-25.

It's no big deal for The Dallas Comedy Festival, which has overcome its own share of obstacles to grow bigger each time out. The eighth annual edition is one of its biggest yet: It will will feature 32 comedians and 48 comedy teams; "that's 272 individual performers," according to executive producer Maggie Austin. 

Dallas Comedy Festival

That Rudnitsky was slated at all is proof enough of the esteem that those in the know hold the  festival. Now, with three stages.

"We're very excited to have an extra stage ... more standup than we've ever had," Austin says. "We wanted to expand programming because our goal is to be a big Deep Ellum staple festival."

There's another goal, to be one of the biggest comedy festivals in the U.S. 

Says Austin: "We have nothing to believe we can't do it, so we're optimistic."

Nope, she's not nervous at all. 

"There are so many small things to take care of, but I'm so excited for the first show. There are Jell-O shots to be had." 

(Jell-O shots are a THING. The comedy house only serves them during the festival. Says Austin: "Last year, we sold more Jell-O shots than there were people in the festival.")

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Austin's sister-in-law Amanda Austin founded the festival in 2009 shortly after she opened the Dallas Comedy House. She wanted to have a comedy community much like there is in Chicago. 

"It's been a great way to recharge our local community," says Maggie Austin, who, in a story right out of a romantic comedy, even met her husband, Amanda's brother Kyle Austin, at the Comedy House during a jam in Level 1. "I didn't have any idea that he was super-talented and related to the owner."

The fun starts early for badge holders and performers with a "Kick-off Party" on March 21. Just call it a warm-up, but anyone can come to the free open-mic and "Improv Jam."

The Improvised Shakespeare Company is also a headliner. The improv troupe takes a suggestion of a title from the audience and riffs a Shakespearean play on the spot -- in iambic pentameter -- setting a high bar.

"Anyone who's ever seen it just comes back and is just raving about it," says Austin.

But, wait, the local ones are ready, willing and plentiful. Dallas acts include improv group the 1995 Chicago Bulls, no relation; comedy team CLR; historical society Encyclopedia Moronica; and troupes Manick, Pavlov's Dogs and Primary Colours.

Dallas-area comedians include Funniest Comic in Texas 2012 winner Aaron Aryanpur and Paul Varghese, who Austin calls "friends of the festival."

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"We have a submissions process for most of the comedians," she says. The festival received more than 130 submissions from October through December. 

Non-ticket holders won't be left out in the cold, or hot since the weather wants to be so ornery these days. Get in on the act with more free events, including late-night karaoke on Saturday, improv jam on Thursdays and Friday and "90s Hip-Hop Dance Party" on Wednesday.

The Dallas Comedy Festival will be held at Dallas Comedy House, 3025 Main St., Dallas. Individual tickets are $10-$30; save $5 by buying tickets online. Find the full schedule at DallasComedyFestival.com.

CORRECTION, 3:45 p.m., March 15: An earlier version of this story misspelled Jon Rudnitsky's first name as "John."

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