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The Champ Is Here

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Over the next two weeks, tears will be formed, blood will be shed and wills will be broken in a conflict for the ages. Once again, the Helium Comedy Club is hosting Philadelphia’s Phunniest Person contest.

Kent Haines, last year’s winner, was a bit of a Cinderella story. A graduate of Brown University, Haines and a friend started writing and filming shortKent Haines- Helium Comedy Club's Phunniest Person of 2008 clips to be shown on the web. They pitched their idea around, a show entitled “That Guy” about the annoying person everyone is forced to hang out with, and eventually it was picked up by Sony.

Haines moved to Philadelphia with his girlfriend and took to the city’s stand-up comedy scene, picking up regular gigs around the area. His performance during last year’s contest was steady and stellar, resulting in him walking away with the $1,000 top prize.

“It was very surprising. I knew that I was having good sets, but I had no idea I was going to win,” Haines said. “I wish I could say that I had some sense of inevitability, but the honest answer is that it was pretty out of the blue, to me and everyone.”

Haines’ victory has led to bigger and brighter things. On Sunday, August 9th, Haines will be filming his set for Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham”, making him one of the first Philly-based acts to gain national attention. He also now regularly hosts comedy shows around the region, including at Helium.

“I went from having absolutely no career to barely having a ‘career,’ so that's a step in the right direction,” Haines said.

Haines truly deserves the accolades. As one can tell from his Ivy League pedigree, Haines’ act shows his intelligence and eye for detail; he references everything from British soccer announcers to ancient Roman statues. But that’s not to say his act is too highbrow, either; Haines also knows how to relate to any audience. He’s wowed crowds at Helium and at suburban venues.

But Haines also enjoys experimenting. He hosted a live talk show through the Philly Improv Theater entitled “Why Am I Not Famous” which detailed his many attempts to climb over the little people in his craven ambition for ubiquitous popularity. And he’s also performed as “Henderson Cole,” a small-town southerner who has moved up north to start a comedy career. Haines can relate; he grew up near Birmingham, Alabama.

Haines will be hosting this year’s contest. And while he would not pick a winner, he does have some favorites.

“I don't want to say who I think will win the contest, but Doogie Horner, Chip Chantry, and Anton Shuford have been performing some really excellent comedy recently,” he said.

Philadelphia’s Phunniest Person Contest will be held at Helium Comedy Club, located at 2031 Sansom Street in Center City. Preliminary round will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 4 at 8 p.m.; Wednesday, Aug. 5 at 8 p.m.; and Thursday, Aug. 6 at 7:15 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. The semi-final round will be held on Saturday Aug. 8 at 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.. The finals will be held on Friday, Aug. 9 at 7 p.m. Ticket prices vary by date and time.