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Left to right: Dave Twitchell, Russell Brown and Brian Bishop are among the amateur comedians who will vie for cash prizes at the annual Battle for the Mic. - Bob Pennell

No heckling allowed at this comedy show

Kris Vandehey doesn't get out much, she says. The part-time, stand-up comedian is married, has two children and owns a business in the Rogue Valley.

"I'm what you call a feature comic, not a headliner," she says during a telephone interview. "A headliner has television credits on networks like HBO, Showtime and Comedy Central. They have a little more tooth."

Vandehey books comedians to perform the second and fourth weekends of every month (second weekends May through August) at Wild River Brewing's Comedy Club in Grants Pass.

"It's not like I'm on the road full time," Vandehey says. "I host the Wild River shows and warm up the audience for the other comics."

Vandehey joins a panel of judges at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 21, for the annual Battle for the Mic comedy competition at Central Medford High School, 815 S. Oakdale Ave., along with Kate Skudstad, a theater-arts instructor at Grants Pass High School, and Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Ron Grensky.

"We have a judge who is a judge," Bob Weir laughs. Weir helps produce the benefit for Wilderness Trails, a nonprofit camping ministry for at-risk children and teens. "Because we have rules," he giggles.

This year's lineup of amateur comedians includes Brian Bishop, "The Wolf" on Southern Oregon's KAKT 105.1; Medford financial planner Larry Cogdell; insurance agent Russell Brown; Brady Adams, a retired Oregon state senator, Senate president and bank CEO; retired Los Angeles policeman Dave Twitchell; and auctioneer Randy Dodge.

Comedian Stephen B of Sacramento, Calif., headlines the event. He'll also lead the panel of judges. B has performed in clubs, corporate events and Christian venues for 30 years.

"Not so much clubs anymore," B says. "I work clean venues now, mostly organizations who cannot afford the backlash of insensitive material. There's a huge market for nonoffensive entertainment, and I offer high-energy comedy for all ages."

The amateur comedians will compete for cash prizes of $500, $250 and $100 for first, second and third places, respectively, and the audience's vote for favorite comedian determines the People's Choice award.

"There really is an art to stand-up comedy," Vandehey says. "The first thing is stage presence. It's something that can't be taught. An entertainer either has it or not.

"Especially with stand-up," she adds. "It's the one form of entertainment that makes audiences feel it is helpful to heckle or yell at the comic. They wouldn't behave that way at an opera."

Second is the material. An audience needs to be engaged within 30 seconds of the comic's opening, Vandehey says.

"They're going to make a judgment call right away," she says. "Original material is important, and so is timing. Audiences want to be able to relate to the material."

Humor doesn't have to shock to entertain, Vandehey says. Families should be able to get together and share a laugh at an event such as this one.

"I talk about my kids and my husband when I perform," she says. "It's no fun having smart kids. My 9-year-old threatened to sue me for plagiarism and residuals. I knew I'd have to get tough with her, but first I had to look up the words. And the man I married 26 years ago looks nothing like the man I'm married to today."

"Neither does the woman," her husband yells in the background.

Advance tickets to Battle for the Mic cost $12 and are available at www.battleforthemic.org or by calling 541-772-2892. Tickets will cost $15 at the door. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

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