Laughter Is the Best Medicine

Academy Award-winning actor Jack Lemmon once said, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” Sure enough, most film festivals—local, regional and national—tend to blend drama and horror, and keep comedy on the distant, distant horizon. That’s what makes LOL JAX such a refreshing concept. Now in its third year, LOL (Laugh Out Loud/Love Our Locals) has thrown down the gauntlet before local filmmakers: Come on, let’s have some laughs. And, lo!, Northeast Florida’s filmmakers, actors and comedians have answered the call, showcasing their short films in this light-hearted and welcoming atmosphere.

Festival founders Adam and Monique Madrid saw the region’s comedy chops on display at events such as the 48 Hour Film Project, which they also organize. If these filmmakers could produce screen gems in just two days, the Madrids mused, imagine what they would be able to craft if they were given a full year to create comedy-forward short films.

“There is a lot of talent here in this city, and we wanted to show it with a comedy spin,” Adam Madrid said. “Because we also have standup comedians who are amazing. So we just wanted to mix it all up.”

While there is a thrill in the challenge of making a film in just 48 hours, there’s also something to be said for deliberation and experimentation. Again, comedy isn’t easy, and trying to create gags on command can overwhelm even the city’s most jocose minds. LOL JAX gives these filmmakers—and their jokes—the chance to breathe, to mature, develop and sharpen to the point that no funny bone is safe from their prick.

LOL launched at Sun-Ray Cinema in 2017. Hosted by comedian Jenn Weeks, the inaugural edition was a rousing success. The second time around was even bigger and better. Sun-Ray hosted once again, and Weeks was joined by fellow standup comedians Christina Schriver, Forest Scott and Kelley Moore, as well as local musicians.

Entering their third year of the growing festival, the Madrids have changed venues (to the Museum of Science & History), but the mission remains the same. “It is about comedy, laughter and positivity,” Monique Madrid explained.

For the third year running, Jenn Weeks emcees the proceedings. On the program are 28 short films produced by local filmmakers and screened in the Bryan-Gooding Planetarium. Comedians Marcus Crespo and Danny Johnson also perform. Festivalgoers ought not grab their popcorn and head for the exit as soon as the closing credits start rolling, either. Like a superhero film, there’s action a-plenty after the FIN. Opening night is capped with a rooftop after-party complete with live music and filmmaker meet-and-greets. Sunday night’s closing ceremonies—also on the MOSH rooftop—include an awards show hosted by television personality Haddie Djemal.

By combining the talents of these filmmakers along with local bands and comedians, Adam and Monique have helped to create an event that isn’t just entertaining; it’s a true celebration of local talent. The mood is light and the focus is squarely on mirth. LOL JAX is jovial from the opening film through the award ceremony. This infectious positivity helps to make this a festival worth returning to year after year.