Nathan Smesrud, known affectionately as Faribault’s neighborhood Fed Ex guy, wants to show off his friends to a local audience.
He’s not just introducing them to Faribault but including them in the lineup of the Summer Comedy Showcase he’s hosting at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 20 at the Paradise Center for the Arts.
Smesrud, who also performs standup comedy, calls Joe Christianson, Jeff Pfoser, Ali Sultan, Chris Maddock and Elise Cole “the tippy top of the comedians in Minneapolis.” While Smesrud has hosted comedy showcases at the Paradise Center in the past, he wants to give these performers more stage time this time around.
“I’m bringing a dream team,” said Smesrud. “These guys are the best of the best as far as comedians go.”
Joe Christianson, a comedian originally from Fargo, North Dakota, is one of Smesrud’s favorite joke writers. He typically performs at showcases around the Twin Cities, different Midwest clubs, rural one-nighters and county fairs.
Known for his one-liners and quirky jokes, Christianson didn’t know standup comedy was a real thing until he walked past a club on a date and saw a large audience listening to an entertainer deliver a comedic routine.
“I was always interested in it, but I didn’t understand it was something you could just get up and start doing,” said Christianson. “…Now it’s just something I don’t even think about. It’s a compulsion, basically.”
Smesrud describes another one of his comedic friends, Joe Pfoser, as “a real high-energy, nice guy.”
Pfoser began doing stand-up comedy around nine years ago, and while he’s traveled to Nashville, Tennessee to perform, he likes to stay in the Midwest to remain close to his family. He pulls his observational humor material from his four children and family life, but he also likes to focus on a wide spectrum of topics.
“I don’t like to pigeonhole myself in one category,” said Pfoser. “I sprinkle [family stories] in when I can because it’s a nice, soft way to ease myself into a new audience.”
Even with nearly a decade of stand-up comedy under his belt, Pfoser said he still learns something new after every performance.
“When I stop learning things maybe it’s not good for me to be doing this anymore,” said Pfoser. “I’m lucky to be working with people 20 to 30 years in. I think it’s a constant evolution. You’re really wired to think about things in a different perspective through that comedic lens.”
Chris Maddock is one of Minneapolis’ top comedians whose sense of humor Smesrud described as “dry and poignant.” Maddock has performed his autobiographical stand-up comedy for 18 years throughout the Midwest and likes to encourage other comedians to spend a weekend in smaller towns like Faribault.
According to Maddock, the comedy scene in Minneapolis is changing in the sense that comedians no longer move to Los Angeles or New York but instead remain in Minnesota.
“It’s just a great scene so comics want to be here,” said Maddock. “There’s been people who move here to do comedy. It’s a great place to get started for sure.”
The Summer Comedy Showcase lineup also features Ali Sultan, a storyteller and one of the funniest people Smesrud knows. During his routines, he often shares his unique perspective of living in the U.S. after growing up in Yemen.
Elise Cole, who performed at the Paradise Center in the past, is a familiar face Smesrud wanted to bring back to Faribault. Cole, he said, writes sharp material about her personal experiences of being a new mom and having a crazy family.
“When I saw the lineup Nathan put together for the show, I was so excited,” said Pfoser. “You’ve got real top notch performers together. It’s such a variety. The material is from so many different perspectives; I think people are going to love the show.”