Comedian Addy Najera offers her guide to the highlights of this week's comedy festival.

Todd Barry photo
Todd Barry

Hell Yes Fest kicks off in New Orleans tonight for its third year, offering up local comedians and improvisers as well as acts from around the country. Sketches, web series, improv and stand-ups are featured at Hell Yes Fest, which runs until November 18.

"It's all about doing comedy that comes from a joyful place and being enthusiastic about it," says New Orleans comedian and festival performer Addy Najera. Najera is a performer with the New Movement, the comedy collective that hosts Hell Yes Fest both in New Orleans and Austin, additionally offering shows and classes year around. Najera says The New Movement and Hell Yes Fest tries to shift focus off of the stereotypically sarcastic, broken stand-up comedian. "There's nothing wrong with being enthusiastic about what you do," she says. "It just means that you're good at it and you're committed to it, and when we go in on something, we go all in on it."

Najera offered up insight on the festival's can't-miss shows and personalities:

Hell Yes Fest opening night, Nov. 12 at One Eyed Jacks

Najera and Sophie Johnson are opening night's sole stand-up acts. Johnson is also a performer with The New Movement and co-creator of Shipwrecked!, a podcast and live storytelling performance, as well as other projects in New Orleans.

Dean's List, one of the first New Movement improv troops, has a casual style perfect for anyone hesitant about improv, Najera says improv "is so unpredictable, and I know it makes people nervous. Dean's List is really the group you want to see. They make it look easy."

Duo Chris Trew and Tami Nelson co-founded The New Movement in New Orleans, and they host another opening night improv show boasting strong chemistry, Najera says.

Also on opening night: Stupid Time Machine, season 2 premiere of local web series Least Favorite Love Songs

The Bounceback, showing Nov. 13 at Prytania Theater

The festival also hosts films throughout the week, including The Bounceback, an Austin creation and SXSW selection.

Also showing that night: premiere of local web series Sunken City

Todd Barry, Nov. 13 at Cafe Istanbul

Todd Barry is one of those comedians who cameos in a multitude of TV shows and films, but his name is worth knowing, Najera says. "He has a dry, kind of droll personality," she says, adding he'll do an hour of crowd interaction. Najera recognized the nervousness associated with comedic crowd work but said the experience should be a positive one. "The best comedians make crowd work a way to connect with the crowd and not humiliate anyone."

Supporting Barry is local Andrew Polk, who Najera says is "the biggest comedian to watch" at Hell Yes Fest. "It's almost to the point where he's not a hidden gem anymore," she says.

Also at Cafe Istanbul that night: Vincent Zambon, Ariel Elias

Dusty Night, Nov. 14 at the Shadowbox

The "Dusty" format was developed by The New Movement to create a better flowing, fast-paced improv show. "You find really fun ways to infuse the scene with new life," Najera says. Rather than stopping between improv scenes, the Dusty show is non-stop. "What we're hoping to do is to get people fired up about it." Groups performing include Najera's own Brows, Moonsault and Sapphire.

The Standup/Short Film Mashup, Nov. 14 at Hi-Ho Lounge

Najera touts Dane Faucheux as one of New Orlean's most reliable stand up comedian, noting his talent for crowd work.

The Day I Was Born by rooftopcomedy

One of the festival's youngest is Chandler DeLacerda, a current freshman at Louisiana Tech who first met members of The New Movement when he opened up for a number of them at a stand-up show in Ruston. Najera notes his impressive perspective on youth experiences. "He's definitely someone to keep an eye out for outside of New Orleans."

Sara Schaefer, Nov. 15 at One Eyed Jacks; Megaphone Show, Nov. 16 at the Shadowbox

Sara Schaefer is another headliner with national pull, starring in her own MTV show Nikki & Sara Live as well as podcast "You Had to Be There."

Schaefer will also host a Megaphone Show, a New Movement favorite where a guest tells true life stories that inspire improv sketches.

For a complete listing of events, visit Hell Yes Fest's website.

My Spilt Milk has a pair of tickets to give away to one winner to see two shows at Hell Yes Fest. Register for a chance to win tickets to see The Stand-up/Short Film Mashup Thursday at the Hi-Ho Lounge at 7 p.m. and The Megaphone Show with Sara Schaefer Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. at The Shadowbox Theater.