'Laugh your Ashland off'

Children stand in front of Ashland Springs Hotel yelling out to passersby, "Ashland Comedy Tour! Laugh your Ashland off!" A crowd of locals and tourists gathers around a man with a guitar.

The tour has begun.

The Ashland Comedy Walking Tour leads groups of people around downtown Ashland performing different kinds of comedy as they go. The comedy is geared toward families and comes from the imagination of Josh Danielson and Michael Filippi. The pair met through an ad that Danielson posted on Craigslist calling for a comedian who could do magic. Filippi's wife Betsy saw the ad and knew it would be perfect for her husband.

"He's funny, can't you tell?" she said.

Danielson got his new business together in three weeks and has produced eight shows so far.

Besides walking around downtown Ashland the tour pauses at different locations. A big part of the tour is to connect with local businesses, Danielson said. He has collaborated with several. With the purchase of a ticket customers get either a free drink at the Hong Kong Bar on the plaza or 25 percent off of a an ice cream cone at Zoey's Café, across from Ashland Springs hotel.

"It's a great addition to the offerings of Ashland," said Ryan Lehmann, owner of Zoey's Café.

The tour group will stop people on the street asking them to join the act, many look bewildered.

Many of the nearly 30 children and adults had been on a tour before. "We will continue to do this," said Travis Staples, an Ashland resident. "It's a good way to spend the evening, it's changing and evolving."

He said that he would come back at least once a month to see the new material.

That is what Filippi and Danielson are going for.

Most of the act is improvisation.

"Ninety percent of what we do is right now," said Filippi, the main comedian and tour guide.

He has several characters that come out for the tour.

"They just keep coming. You never know who your tour guide is going to be," said Danielson, who hasn't recognized Filippi on three separate occasions.

It takes a special person to do this kind of comedy, according to the tour guides. There are bar comedians and there are improvisation comedians, said Danielson. A bar comedian stands on the stage and talks about issues like sexual orientation and politics. This comedy group walks around Ashland and builds a unique routine off the people in the street and the audience in the tour.

"I don't want to be offensive. I like being PG. I play to the adults, but I like to be childlike," Filippi said. "I was a youth pastor for 17 years and I just pull from that."

The subject matter ranges from yoga to Ashland "artsiness" and "historical" facts about the town.

"Comedy dies in Ashland," said Danielson. Filippi added that this won't die because it's always changing depending on the group of people that night.

"It's different every time," said Danielson. "We have comedy groupies."

Tours begin in front of the Ashland Springs Hotel Friday thru Sunday at 4 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students and $5 for children under 12. For information call Danielson at 503-998-4474 or e-mail at Joshua.danielson@ashlandcomedytours.com.

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