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WDVE radio's multi-talented Baumann is engine of DVE Comedy Festival

| Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 9:14 p.m.
JAMES KNOX | Tribune-Review
Randy Baumann, of the WDVE morning show
Getty Images
Comedian Harland Williams

Randy Baumann is a busy man. In addition to producing the WDVE morning show, Baumann is a writer (a finalist in the Steeltown Entertainment Project), a talented musician and a tireless philanthropist donating his time to a variety of causes throughout Western Pennsylvania.

When he isn't busy in Pittsburgh, Baumann is jetting off to exotic locations for a jazz festival or little R&R. Baumann, with his morning sidekick Bill Crawford, has taken time for the past three years to put together a dream-team lineup of comedy and produce the DVE Comedy Festival, which is June 27 at the Byham Theater, Downtown.

This year, the event features Harland Williams, Bryan Callen, Nikki Glasser and Tommy Johnagin.

DVE also is producing a second stage that takes place at 10 p.m. at the Rex Theater. It is the ultimate comedy after-party and this year headlined by Pittsburgh fave Mike Wysocki. It will be hosted by Sean Collier and also feature Joey O'Connell and Jerry Wilson.

With a mile-a-minute mind and metabolism to match, Baumann slowed down enough to answer a few questions about the DVE Comedy Festival via email.

Question: You've interviewed many comedians and always seemed to love standup. What makes a comedian great in your mind?

Answer: It's completely subjective. I think some guys are funny that other people don't find funny at all. And I'm not qualified to say what makes someone great or not: I just know what makes me laugh and that's the criteria we use in picking comics for the DVE Comedy Fest. If we think they're funny, we try and get them.

Q: How much thought goes into picking the right lineup?

A: Quite a bit, because it's not like you can just draw up a wish list and make it happen. We try to find acts that are both complimentary and already have somewhat of a relationship with each other. Nikki and Tommy are pretty close friends, Bryan Callen and Crawford are really good friends and have worked together a lot, and Harland is friends with everybody.

Q: What dynamic does Bill Crawford bring to this show?

A: Besides adding a local angle and representing the show, Bill's standup fits perfectly within the voice of all the other comics that night. I don't know if people truly appreciate how skilled of a comedian Bill Crawford is. We love him here, for sure, but he's a nationally respected comic. Burr, Breuer, Gardell, Bryne, Florentine, Kreischer — these guys all love working with Bill because, like me, they have such tremendous respect for his talent. He can work anywhere in the country and get laughs. And, in a way, has a versatility that other comics would kill for. Doing radio and standup are two different animals. Bill can jump between the two effortlessly.

Q: Is there such a thing as too much comedy for one show? If so where do you draw the line?

A: Too much of a good thing can be bad, yes. We try to make sure that we're striking a balance between the two stages for two mostly different audiences.

Q: What does each comedian bring to this year's show?

A: Harland is such a great improvisor, and so is Bryan Callen. There's silliness to Harland that I think most people can't help but laugh at. Brian is a great improviser and sketch/character guy that I think it acts as a perfect bridge between what you're gonna get from the other guys. Nikki is super-smart and a bit edgier than the rest; Tommy is one of the most naturally gifted working comics in the country — just effortless and a great joke writer — and Crawford is straight-up funny all day long. They each have a unique point of view that makes this show a perfect blend. I really think, for the third straight year in a row, we have one of the best nights of comedy in the country booked for the Byham Theater.

Q: I know you are a gifted musician, but you're very funny. Have you ever thought of doing standup yourself?

A: I always veered much more toward sketch comedy, and had studied improv in Chicago as my plan B right up until I got hired at DVE.

Q: How did the idea for the DVE Comedy Festival take hold?

A: I always wanted to do something like this. Something that we might be able to expand upon. When Bill started at DVE, we were able to parlay a couple of his relationships with ones that had already existed at DVE, and we've had tremendous good luck in getting just about every comic we've wanted the past three years.

Comedian Matt Wohlfarth is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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