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For Art Hop, Burlington Comedians Stand Up and Deliver

State of the Arts


Natalie Miller and Nathan Hartswick
  • Natalie Miller and Nathan Hartswick

Riding the bus can be kind of a drag. But the ArtsRiot Express shuttle buses serving the 2012 South End Art Hop in Burlington this weekend could be a heck of a lot more entertaining than the average bus trip — all apologies to the CCTA buses also hauling people to and from the Art Hop. Thanks to a joint venture between Spark Arts and the new Burlington-centric arts and culture website,, the express buses — which will ferry passengers between the Burlington Town Center garage and stops along the Hop on Pine Street — will be destinations in their own right. The mobile stages featuring local comedians will set a light tone for revelers as they embark on Art Hop adventures.

“We’re just hoping to put people in a good mood on their way down there,” says comedian Nathan Hartswick.

Hartswick and his wife, Natalie Miller, a fellow comedian and a board member of the South End Arts and Business Association, are the founders of Spark Arts, a theater and performance-art studio based in Burlington that specializes in standup and improv comedy. The duo was tasked with augmenting the performance angle of Art Hop for its 20th anniversary. One idea: jokesters on wheels.

“It was the product of a huge brainstorm trying to figure out where we could add pop-up performances,” Hartswick says. “So we thought it might be fun to stick a comedian on a bus.”

Hartswick says each bus will have one or two local comedians, drawn from a roster including Jason Lorber, Kyle Gagnon and Josh Starr, and “maybe one with a ukulele.” Riders can expect a variety of performances, from straight standup and improv to game playing and a “hyperbolized tour of Burlington.”

The mobile comics are part of a larger attempt by SEABA to increase the visibility of performance art at the Art Hop through pop-up-style performances. Spark Arts also will host a pair of comedy shows on Friday, September 7, and Saturday, September 8, in a former Jazzercise studio at 257 Pine Street, repurposed as the Pop Up Comedy Club.

“The Jazzercise logo is still on the wall,” Hartswick says. “We’re joking about doing Jazzercise routines.”

Barring impromptu exercise bits, the early set both nights will be a “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”-type improv-comedy show by the Spark Arts crew. The later shows will feature traditional standup comedy from comics including Kit Rivers, Josie Leavitt, Colin Ryan, Carmen Lagala and others.

Hartswick also hints at a “top secret” pop-up performance that he says Miller may or may not be curating on Friday, “possibly” in the Soda Plant parking lot. Wink, wink.

“There’s something going on at seven, and maybe again at nine, in that area,” Hartswick says coyly. “I won’t tell you what it is. But you might want to be there.”