Kingpin of Comedy: Crowning the Best Jester in West Michigan

Now in its fifth year, the Kingpin of Comedy competition, hosted by longtime local comedy legend Brian Borbot, aka Brian B., will wrap up with its semifinals and finals this month.

An annual part of Borbot’s ongoing Sunday Night Funnies comedy showcase held weekly at the Spectrum Entertainment Complex, 5656 Clyde Park SW, Wyoming, this year’s Kingpin of Comedy competition began back in May, and has seen over 91 comedians vying for the title.

“Next to the NHL’s Stanley Cup or the Academy Awards’ Oscar, I don’t think there’s more of a coveted trophy than the tricked-out bedazzled Kingpin of Comedy bowling pin that the Kingpin of Comedy winner receives,” Borbot said about the award that honors the “Funniest Person In Wyoming.”

He added that the title comes with prizes from the event’s sponsors: Spectrum Entertainment Complex, Craig’s Cruisers, Midtown GR, and LaughFest. 

“Also, the $500 cash the winner gets isn’t too shabby,” he said.

Usually drawing closer to 75 comedians into the competition, Borbot added a few weeks to this year’s competition to accommodate all the comics who wanted to participate. Entering into the quarterfinal rounds last month, he said that 26 of the 42 remaining comics had never competed in Kingpin before, or this is the first year they’ve made it further than the opening round.

“There always seems to be some dark horse or brand-new comic who comes out of nowhere to make it interesting,” he said.

Past Kingpin of Comedy winners include 2018 winner Megan Wirts, 2019 winner Mike Logan, 2021 winner Marv Barnett, and 2022 winner Seth Lee. The competition took 2020 off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“From the response that the Kingpin has, I think that it creates a buzz within the comedy community bringing in comedians who have never done the show before, or might never would have,” Borbot said. “Which is great for the audience because it keeps the show fresh for them seeing new talent each week.”

Borbot readily admits he obviously took inspiration from Dr. Grin’s long-running annual “Funniest Person in Grand Rapids” competition (currently on hiatus), and even made no secret about it in his advertising for the event.

“I figure if the second largest city in Michigan Grand Rapids has (or) had their funniest person, why can’t Wyoming, the 14th largest city, have their most humorous human?” he said. 

Unlike other comedy competitions, Borbot said Kingpin of Comedy does its voting the right way by not going based on the opinion of only a few judges, or applause. Instead, he turns the entire audience into the judges for the night, issuing ballots to each member before the show.

“They need to vote for three of the comics performing that night with all the votes counting the same,” he said. “So, a comic can’t just bring a lot of friends and expect to win. They will also have to win over a majority of the other audience members as well to advance to the next round.”

This October also marks the 15th anniversary of the first Sunday Night Funnies show. 

“I started the Sunday Night Funnies back in the fall of 2008 because at the time Dr. Grin’s was the only place West Michigan comics could perform,” Borbot said. “With the demand on their Thursday open mic stage time comics were limited to how often they got on stage and how much time they would get. Fast forward 15 years now and there are open mics pretty much every day of the week – sometimes more. I would like to think that the Funnies has been an influence to other show runners to go out and start a mic.”

Taking satisfaction in knowing that something he created has brought comics and audiences together, Borbot said that he’s proudest of the show’s connection with Gilda’s Club of Grand Rapids and LaughFest. 

“I had cancer at the same time the first LaughFest happened back in 2011, and the Sunday Night Funnies and myself, have been connected ever since,” Borbot said. “The Funnies has raised over $27,000 over the course of those years. This past March I organized a cancer survivor show where all the comedians, including myself, are cancer survivors. They were so happy with the success we’re planning on doing it again next year. Unfortunately, through the number of comics who have performed at the SNF through the years – close to 1,200 – I’ve met enough comics who have had their own cancer journey.”

This year the Sunday Night Funnies also started hosting specialty shows in honor of Black History Month in February, Women’s History Month in March, and Older Americans Month in May. Next year Borbot plans to start the Kingpin of Comedy competition earlier to add a special show recognizing National Hispanic Heritage Month in September or October. 

“Right now I plan on promoting this milestone as ‘The Sunday Night Funnies 15 Year Anniversary – halfway there,’ or ‘15 Years Down - 15 To Go,’ or something along those lines,” Borbot said. “I’ll be 80 years old 15 years from now in 2038, so I’ll have to reevaluate then if I want to commit to another 15.”

Sunday Night Funnies: Kingpin of Comedy  |  Spectrum Entertainment Complex, 5656 Clyde Park SW, Wyoming  |  Semifinals October 8, 15, 22, Finals Oct. 29, 8:30 p.m., Free admission