MERCURY: What's changed from last year to this one?

ANDY WOOD: This year has a higher proportion of people who've never performed at the festival, so we're excited to show off the next generation of comics.

We're of the size that we can afford to have a lot of new faces. [We also have] an easy means of submitting material that lets us be blind to somebody's heat or management. We take people from anywhere, if they're funny.

Was the inclusion of all-black, all-women, and all-gay showcases a response to criticism that women or minority comics were underrepresented?

It was nothing to appease people. It does bother me a little bit every year when we post the lineup and there's grumbling on some message board, or usually the Mercury's blog, by somebody who does the numbers and then takes us to task for not having enough diversity, when really we end up having exactly the proportion of every group that applies.

And usually it's not something we take into account when we're doing the selection. It's just happened to work out: 24 percent of those submitting were women and 24 percent of the lineup are women. It all comes out to about the same for every demographic, interestingly enough.

Which, to me, points out the fact that everybody is kind of the same—the average person isn't funny at all, but every cross-section of any group of people will have the same percentage of funny people.

One in five male comedians is funny, one in five female comedians is funny.

Who are you especially excited about?

Emo Philips, I still can't believe—that was the first tape of any kind, either music, comedy, or otherwise, that I ever owned. I was seven or eight years old. It's called E=MO². I have the whole thing memorized. He's maybe my favorite joke writer ever. I still can't believe he's coming to the festival.