Originally broadcast at 1:00 p.m. ET Friday, July 30, 2021.
Steve Capers’ career as a comedy impresario began while vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard, enjoying a day at the island’s famed Inkwell Beach. It was in 2009, that the managing partner of Knock-Knock Comedy Productions had the idea to produce a comedy festival featuring primarily African American comics. His vision was to feature comedians on the cusp of stardom, whose performances were relevant and edgy, yet family friendly. The first Martha’s Vineyard Comedy Fest (MVCF) in 2010 featuring Damon Williams (The Kings of Comedy Tour), AJ Jamal (“In Living Color”) and Roz G. (Last Comic Standing) far exceeded his expectations. Eight years later, what began as a single event morphed into another Capers’ brainchild, Black Comedy Month, one of the most prestigious celebrations of Black comedy in the country, held each August.
Capers was no novice to the world of entertainment, specifically comedy. Prior to forming his own company, he had a successful career at Comedy Central where he was recruited in 1998 to head up their Chicago regional office. While at Comedy Central, Capers planned comedy events featuring nationally acclaimed comedians and personalities including Jon Stewart, Lewis Black, Ben Stein, Bill Cosby, and Sinbad.
Caper’s professional entry into the entertainment industry was in 1993 when he became an executive at Black Entertainment Television (BET) in Los Angeles. There he was responsible for promoting some of their now iconic programming including Video Soul, Teen Summit, and Rap City. But it was through his informal work with the team behind BET’s Comic View, hosted by DL Hughley, that Capers gained access and insights into the world of comedy.
In 2003, after leaving Comedy Central, Capers began producing comedy events for corporations, non-profit organizations, and colleges and universities. It was in January 2005 that Capers began strategizing with comedian Damon Williams on how to promote a monthly comedy show, Funny First Saturday, in their hometown of Chicago. Since then, Capers has been an integral part of revitalizing the comedy scene in the city.
Continually looking for ways to innovate and create a larger platform for African American comedians, Capers debuted Black Comedy Month as part the 7th annual Martha’s Vineyard Comedy Fest (MVCF) in 2017. The event provided a national platform to showcase the depth and breadth of current and past African American comedians, writers, promoters, club owners, and supporters.
About Chautauqua Institution: Chautauqua Institution is a community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York state that comes alive each summer with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities. As a community, we celebrate, encourage and study the arts and treat them as integral to all of learning, and we convene the critical conversations of the day to advance understanding through civil dialogue. CHQ Assembly is the online expression of Chautauqua Institution's mission.