In anticipation of Warped Tour’s very first Comedy Tent, we checked in with one of its organizers, Joe Sib. Sib, best known as the founder of SideOne Dummy Records and the former lead vocalist for Wax, launched the Tent this summer with the help of co-hosts Grant Cotter and Eli Olsberg, drawing on the same DIY ethos that helped make punk shows so successful in his youth. Here, he runs down the story behind the laughs, and why he thinks this generation of Warped fans is ready for a new kind of entertainment.

How did the Warped Comedy Tent come to be?

JOE SIB: I’ve been in bands my whole life: I was the singer of Wax, started SideOne 20 years ago and about six years ago, I got into doing spoken word and stand-up comedy. It just replaced that itch of playing in a band. Everyone else was picking up acoustic guitars, and I was like, “You know what? I can’t play acoustic guitar, and I don’t know if I really want that, so what can I do to be onstage?” And I really got into stand-up. I did stand-up for five years and I really dove into the comedy scene, and what ended up happening was we—Kevin and I, because we’re good friends and work together—we started talking one night at SideOneDummy.

We did a storytellers show. He was part of it, and there were a lot of comics there. He met Grant Cotter and Eli Olsberg, and they’re two kids that grew up going to the Warped Tour. That night when we were talking, Kevin said to me, “Man, we should do a comedy stage at Warped Tour. What do you think about it?” They had done it before in the past. But this year, with doing it, in true Kevin Lyman fashion, I was like, “Yeah, that would be great, and this is the way we could do it, and we could get these people on it, and have different comics here,” and he was like “Okay, yeah, that sounds great. Why don’t you do that?”

He gave me the reins to the whole thing. What I ended up doing was bringing in Cotter, who did Oddball Comedy Festival last year, and Olsberg, who had went out with New Found Glory as a comic, was friends with Chad and they actually reconnected at one of our storytellers shows. Grant, Eli, and myself were talking and I said, “Look, if you guys are up for doing this, you guys will be the ones that’ll be out there for the summer, but let’s pull it together; let’s put comics on it that we dig and that we think would understand the Warped Tour and that world, and maybe have grown up on it.” We started pulling the rest of the comics. Basically, everyone from Dave Ross to Beth Stelling, everyone just started pulling together.

Every time you do something at the Warped Tour, whether it’s Kevin Lyman having guys jumping motorcycles or the skateboarding and the ramps, or even bands, you just never know what’s gonna be at Warped Tour—if it’s gonna work, if it’s not gonna work. What I love is that Kevin is always up for trying something new.

I feel like right now, comedy is bigger than ever. It’s definitely had a huge resurgence. With shows like Meltdown [with Jonah and Kumali] and all the alternative comics, there’s just way more younger people getting into comedy. It’s not something that just your parents go to. When I was growing up, it was like, “Yeah, my mom and dad go see comedy..” Now, with the explosion of alternative comedy, there’s just so many younger comics and younger kids at the shows, and it’s another entertainment form that they’re really into. I think that the Warped Tour could possibly be a place for a comic to break out, just as No Doubt and Sublime and Eminem and Kid Rock and Katy Perry all went out on the Warped Tour [as audience members]. One of the things that Kevin and I were talking about was the idea, “How cool would it be if a comic, five to 10 years from now, said, ‘I went to the Warped Tour to see Falling in Reverse and I was like ‘Okay, I can’t do that, but I went over to the Comedy Tent and I saw Dave Ross. I wanna do that.’ And then they go on to do it.” That right there is the germ. That’s what I would love to see happen. That, to me, would be so cool, and that’s all I want out of it. I would love it if a kid went, saw the comics and was inspired to go “You know what man? Maybe I can’t pick up a guitar, maybe I can’t sing in a band, but I’m funny, and I got stories, and I’m gonna try that.” That’s my whole goal.

I’m only doing it this year. I curated it this year, but already, it’s grown and so many people want to be a part of it, and I want to focus on my own stand-up. I have enough irons in the fire running SideOneDummy Records, signing bands and doing stand-up. Kevin and I talked this morning. We’re getting calls from everyone that wants to be a part of this, and it’s awesome. It’s a way better response than we thought. We’ll see how it goes this year.

You said that you feel like a lot of younger people are responding to comedy in a way that they haven’t before. Why do you think that is?

Well, I don’t want to say that they haven’t responded before. I feel that right now, in the world of comedy, when I go to shows, shows like Meltdown, shows here in Los Angeles, [like the one at] Best Fish Taco,—and so many scenes out there, Chicago, New York City, Phoenix. There’s kids in the stand-up community and improv community. People are doing shows in their backyards. People are doing shows in basements. People are doing shows at Mexican restaurants. And it just reminds me of punk rock. It reminds me of 1982, going to see Minor Threat, or going to see the Faction in a backyard, or Social Distortion at a VFW hall. Like, c’mon. Social Distortion, really? At a VFW hall? Yeah. Green Day at a party! It’s like, you’re seeing comedy do that right now.

I think with the cost of everything in the world and everything that’s going on, you can get together a group of friends and have a barbecue, get a keg of beer, get some of your funny friends together, and get up there and entertain everybody. It’s so immediate, and I think kids are smart, and the comics that are doing well are smart. They’re talking about things that are real; they’re talking about society, and they’re commenting on it. The people that do it well are really good at it. I think a lot of today’s comics are the voice of a generation speaking out—whether it’s homophobia, sexism, racism—they’re talking about it. They don’t have a fear; they do it. That, to me, is exciting. People are thinking and they’re laughing and I love that.

When you phrase it like that—stressing the parallels between that and punk shows— it makes total sense for the Warped environment.

That’s totally where the connection is. Sometimes people forget that Kevin and I met on the stage of Fender’s Ballroom. He was stage managing—I think a Bad Religion show—and I was in my band Frontline, and we came down here to open [the show] and he was the guy that basically ran the night. We became friends, I was a little kid, and we were always into those bands, and that punk-rock attitude. Our subculture that a lot of us were a part of growing up—and you know, we’re all in our forties—it’s pretty crazy to see how something that was a subculture then is now the main culture. Some people my age get really bummed on that, but for me, I’m stoked on it. Skateboarding, surfing and punk rock are now a part of people’s lives. It’s a lot cooler than when I was growing up and music and people’s attitudes were so lame. People got beat up for what they were into. I’ll go down the road to the guy at the coffee shop with a tattoo, and I’m cool with that. Like, “Rad, dude, you’ve got a Ramones shirt on! You weren’t alive when that band was around. ” I’m stoked on that. I don’t hate on those people. There’s so many other things to hate on, why do you hate on a young person getting into music? Someone could’ve hated on me when I had my Clash shirt on—I never saw the Clash! I hate when people hate on kids for just being young.

When you had so many people respond to the idea of a Comedy Tent, how did you decide which comedians you were going to feature?

We didn’t announce that we were doing a stage until we pulled together the lineup because we knew that we’d get hit up by so many people, and we didn’t want anyone’s feelings to get hurt. We were just like, “Let’s have this year’s lineup set up, so that when we announce it, it’s already set in stone, and we already have a plan.” There will be comics joining the tour in each city. In a lot of the cities, we want to put up local comedians. When we’re in San Francisco, we want to put up the local talent up there. L.A., rolling through Chicago, so many great comedians. New York City, East Coast, Austin. There’s just so many comics out there that I want to give everyone a shot. We can’t this year, just because of time, but we will be adding locals in a lot of the market as we go—they’re coming in doing guest sets. But next year, there will be a submission process, and all of the professional ways that you go about doing something like that.

Beth Stelling, Chase Bernstein, Dave Ross––what drew you to them and their style?

For me, like Beth Stelling––great comedian and super-smart, super-funny, has a lot of momentum––really wanted to have her. With comedy, we really wanted to mix it up. We wanted to have [a variety of] different people on the lineup. I just didn’t want to have five dudes that were all the same age. I got to really hand over the lineup [to Eli and Grant]. As much as I have been the guy that’s been called the curator, Grant Cotter and Eli Olsberg really pulled together a lot of the comics on here––you know like Chase, and Beth Stelling.

Dave Ross, he’s a buddy of mine. I really love him; he’s been out there touring. I mean he was just like a band—on the road constantly. He has this improv group called WOMEN that’s doing really well right now.He’s just a guy that has momentum right now. Then, we’re working on Erik Griffin from Workaholics coming out to finish the end of the tour. About two years ago, Erik Griffin and I were in the Bay Area. I was featuring for him up there in San Jose when the Warped Tour came through. I said to him, “Hey man, I’ve got an idea. Would you be cool with going to the Warped Tour and doing a set? I can go into the acoustic tent.” Kevin was totally into it, and I asked Erik, and Erik was like, “Yeah man, I’ll do it, what the hell! Let’s go there for the day.” So we showed up, and we didn’t really anticipate how it would go. As soon as the dude walked on the show area in San Francisco, the guy couldn’t go from one area to another without kids mobbing him, like “Dude are you Erik Griffin? Are you Montez?” He was like, “Whoa dude, this is nuts.” That day he did his set, and the entire tent was filled to capacity. You couldn’t sit another person in there. I think that’s when Kevin and I were like, “Dude...people are into this.”

When the whole team was creating the lineup, was there a specific vibe you were going for? Did you wanna try to be as diverse as possible with the humor, or were you thinking about the age demographic?

One thing that we wanted to do is put people on there that could relate to the Warped Tour––had either been a part of it, or been on it, or gone to it when they were kids. Grant Cotter used to go to it every year. Eli Olsberg, when he lived in Florida, went every year. These guys grew up going to the Warped Tour. I really feel that that was kind of one of our things. We really wanted to have comics that felt like they get the Warped Tour; they get what it’s about. I just don’t want to come off sounding like “Joe Sib went out there and hand-picked these comics”; It was definitely a team effort..

I know you’re also having a lot of musicians in the tent as well. Do you know how you’re gonna structure it?

There’s going to be two shows a day. Grant and Eli will be hosting both of them. We’ll be running a line no different than if you went to any other show. Like you said, when we’re in the Comedy Tent, there won’t be acoustic guitars or anything like that. It will be stand-up and improv only; anything to do with comedy and all things comedy inside the tent. We aren’t combining, like, “Hey, and then one guy’s gonna sing a song!” That’s not happening. That’s why we’re having our own tent, not an acoustic/comedy tent. This is just stand-up comedy.

We can’t just open it up to the public; it’s not going to be an open mic. But, let’s say the bass player is a funny dude, and [his bandmates] say, “Hey man, you should do stand-up.” It would be cool if the bass player or drummer or whoever came over and did 10 minutes. And then, the other thing that’s cool is that SideOneDummy and the Warped Tour have been hand-in-hand with each other for, God, how many years? 19 or 18, we’ve been doing the Warped comp. So it’s really cool that now that I’m into stand-up, I have an opportunity to put together something like this with some comics I really respect and comics I really enjoy, and I hope it turns into something really cool. Like I said, it’d be so special if a kid was like, “Dude, the first time I ever saw stand-up was at the Warped Tour,” and they go on to become a great stand-up.

The Warped Tour Comedy Tent will host two 90-minute shows a day, with Grant Cotter and Eli Olsberg acting as emcees.