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Add this legendary cannabis comedy festival to your bucket list

Attention all Humboldt County weed farmers: Give your work crew a night off, or better yet the whole weekend, and send them down the hill and into town for some laughs. Because the 10th Annual Savage Henry Comedy Festival returns October 7-9, with 10 venues hosting over 100 comedians in and around the town of Eureka, CA.

A comedy festival in the middle of Northern California’s harvest season gives everyone a chance to relax, inhale, and laugh.

And if you’re not in Humboldt County, but are within driving distance of Northern California and looking to make an all-time bucket list weedy road trip, then what are you waiting for? What destination could be more worthy than a freewheeling comedy festival, held in the epicenter of American cannabis culture, right at the beginning of harvest season?

You can make a whole adventure out of it by following Leafly’s cannabis travel guide to find the real Humboldt. Be sure to also check out our guide to trimming weed before departure, in case someone offers you a gig. Just keep off, sigh, Murder Mountain.

And make sure to buy local when you’re buying weed.

Homegrown weed and hospitality

So who’s gonna be there?

The lineup for this year’s festival consists predominantly of seasoned road comics who love getting high enough to come play a small club that’s five hours from San Francisco and ten hours from Portland. Plus a homegrown community of local comedians who go out of their way to keep Humboldt weird while making sure every joke slinger who makes the trek gets treated to some of the killer weed and kind hospitality that’s made the county famous.

Headliners at this year’s fest include Sam Tallent (author of Running the Light), Valerie Tosi (Conan), Dave Waite (Jimmy Fallon), Tess Barker (“Billy on the Street”), Nicholas Rutherford (Rick and Morty), and Robert Jenkins (“Laughs”).

The entertainment on offer ventures beyond stand-up, with everything from improv battles to comedic games based on making up songs or projecting someone’s old vacation slides.

As the nights wear on and the edibles kick in, the line between performer and audience can actually get pretty foggy—but don’t you dare heckle.

Who is Savage Henry?

The name Savage Henry comes from an obscure line in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, referring to a possibly made-up heroin dealer the novel’s erstwhile heroes facetiously say they’re on their way to murder:

My attorney hunched around to face the hitchhiker. “The truth is,” he said, “We’re going to Vegas to croak a scag baron named Savage Henry. I’ve known him for years, but he ripped us off—and you know what that means, right?”

In 2010, when Chris Durant lost his job as a Humboldt County crime reporter, he lifted the name for a humor magazine he and his wife Monica started up on their kitchen table. For ten years and more than 100 monthly issues, they and their co-conspirators got hella laughs by lampooning Humboldt’s outlaw weed culture, particularly the heady local blend of hippie idealism and backwoods weed-fever paranoia that makes it such a wild and wonderful place.

To wit, the free magazine publishes an annual Harvest Issue every autumn, featuring a pull-out Trim Scene Motivational Poster. One previous example:

Standup comedy meets onsite consumption

The magazine recently shut down after struggling to remain solvent during the pandemic, but the Savage Henry Comedy Club in Eureka has managed to stay open, and will be hosting the festival’s biggest shows in person this year—with all state and local COVID precautions in place.

For the small dedicated crew who’ve struggled to keep the comedy club up and running for the past two years, the fest offers a chance to bring together their homegrown fans along with a community of comics from all over the country who see the club as a second home.

“This year’s festival is extra special after 2020 put the comedy club on the shelf for months and months,” says Chris Durant. “It will be the first time I see a lot of these comics in about two years, since the 2019 Festival. We were able to squeeze a festival out last October but most of it was on Zoom and that’s like when you’re used to smoking Humboldt’s finest and then you have to switch to Mugwart—it’s going through the motions but the fun stuff isn’t there. And doing this for a decade is a huge milestone. We’ve blossomed into a festival that comics use as a credit and comedy fans build vacations around it.”

The pandemic forced the magazine to shut down, but Savage Henry’s Comedy Club, in Eureka, CA, has survived. (David Bienenstock photo)

Of course it’s 420-friendly

And to make things even weedier: Additional shows will take place at the Papa & Barkley Social Dispensary, which features an on-site dispensary, tasting room, day spa, and restaurant. So yes, you can smoke weed while you take in an outdoor show.

By the way, an informal poll of comedians at a previous fest found that drunk audiences laugh louder and more easily, but stoned ones are far more perceptive, not to mention much easier and more fun to deal with. So if you’ve ever felt turned off by the sometimes loutish vibe at a comedy club, you should definitely try it on weed.

David Bienenstock's Bio Image
David Bienenstock

Veteran cannabis journalist David Bienenstock is the author of "How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High" (2016 - Penguin/Random House), and the co-host and co-creator of the podcast "Great Moments in Weed History with Abdullah and Bean." Follow him on Twitter @pot_handbook.

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