Mike Glazer and Mary Jane Gibson are traveling from Alaska to California with their podcast Weed+Grub, sampling legal cannabis, snacking on local cuisine, doing live shows, and interviewing fascinating people along the way. They started their journey in Anchorage at the B4UDie Comedy Festival, which ran from April 2-7.
The B4UDie Comedy Festival in Anchorage brought comedians from the "Lower 48," as the continental United States are known in the 49th state, to perform alongside some of Alaska's best homegrown funny folks.
Veteran Alaska comic Kass Smiley founded the festival after being frustrated with the lack of top-notch comedic talent coming to Anchorage. Over late-night drinks with fellow comedian Matt Collins, Kass decided to make Anchorage a comedy destination by producing a kick-ass fest. The first B4UDie Fest boasted some spectacular stats: seven nights, 19 shows, 10 sold-out performances, and two arrested hecklers.
Warm Greetings, Courtesy of Weed
We rolled into Anchorage with our backpacks and podcasting equipment, and were immediately handed swag bags full of weed and other gifts. It was an auspicious beginning to a week full of highs. We happily unpacked our goodies: prerolls, nugs, cannabidiol (CBD)-infused honey sticks, even a frisbee for those looking to get into a high-stakes game of disc golf. We used ours as a rolling tray. Comics swapped their weed like kids trading baseball cards: “I'll give you a Lemon Kush for a Fire OG.” “I'll trade you a Pineapple Express for that Huckleberry Des Star!”
We noted with a chuckle that the well-stocked bar at our shared rental went untouched all week — we were all too busy enjoying the amazing herb from companies such as Greatland Ganja and Alaskan Leaf. It felt like a gentle throwback to college days, minus the hangovers. Comics returned from performing sets to curl up on the couch in the common room, puff and recount wild road stories about sex, fights, drugs, more sex, and above all else, slaying on stage.
Comics Get the Northern Exposure
The B4UDie lineup was smoking. The big moose, headliner Kyle Kinane, was supported by comedy stalwart Derek Sheen, with bright stars Mary Santora and Matt Collins as openers. Kinane's Saturday night shows were standing-room-only, as were many of the rest of the week's offerings. People packed into the legendary Koot's — a maze of rooms and hallways bedecked with Soviet hockey gear, bras and panties, pizza grease and pinball machines — to see hometown buds Jessica Michelle Singleton and Andy Andrist bring the house down with salty sets. Out-of-towners Anna Valenzuela and Carlos Delgado shone brightly, the “Buffalo Boys” Brian Netzel, Don Johnson, Eddo, and John Lockwood cracked wise, and local comic Joe Stolz had us crying with his pelvic floor joke at The Gateway Show.
That show was a particularly high time — four comics (including this Mike) did sober sets, then during intermission got super-baked, and performed again for a crowd just as lit as they were. The Gateway Show is a “must see” if it comes to your town. It pushes comics out of their comfort zone, and into a space of perfectly in-the-moment stoney discovery.
The Great(land) Ganja of the Great North
After Mike performed stand-up at the "B4UDie: The Laugh Frontier" show, we hit the road for an overnight stay on the Kenai Peninsula. Kass had arranged for a special trip with Greatland Adventures. Performers piled onto a bus on a bright and frosty morning, after sharing several joints in the Koot's parking lot. We followed in our rental car, meeting up with the bus at stops along the way where we were gobsmacked by how gorgeous the landscape is. Having been warned from festival organizers about bears coming out of hibernation and the dangerous mud flats, we stayed on the trails and snapped pics with respectful awe.
After touring the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage with the group, Weed+Grub headed further down the peninsula for an extra-special adventure — a tour of Greatland Ganja, one of Alaska's premier cannabis operations.
We were greeted at the security gate by a friendly trimmer named Austin. After we received official guest passes, and Mike put on mud boots to protect his precious sneakers, we met Greatland Ganja's general manager Nick Raume, and brothers Leif and Arthur Abel, who co-own the operation. Arthur, the master cultivator, gave us a tour of Greatland Ganja's innovative, eco-friendly facility, and we were wowed by the canopy of its flagship strain, Pineapple Express, as well as a thriving crop of Space Rip, alongside other glorious greens such as El Capitan and the Nikiski Strain.
We sat down to chat with Arthur, Leif, and Nick for an episode of Weed+Grub and if you're in Alaska, we highly recommend picking up Greatland Ganja's flower, preroll variety packs and blunts at Permafrost or Alaska Fireweed.
We be Puffin' and Munchin' All Trip Long
After smoking heaps of weed and splitting our sides laughing, we ate … and ate … and ate. In Kenai for Mary Jane's birthday dinner, we ended up at the spot all the locals recommended — and Louie's did not disappoint. We whetted our appetites with some Fire OG, and chowed down on clams and crab while surrounded by giant moose antlers. And in Anchorage, we followed our noses to Moose's Tooth, where we answered our stoned cravings with a pizza pie named “Call of the Wild.” MJ also couldn't pass up the opportunity to scarf a reindeer sausage from Tiki Pete's. Yes, she ate it for breakfast.
We Made Friends with Beasts of the Northern Wild
We can't write about our time in Alaska without shouting out all the creatures we met — or safely observed from a distance. At the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC), we said hello to a rescued porcupine named Snickers, who was very cute … but smelled like a musty old sock. Other creatures in residence at the center included brown bears (also known as grizzlies), elk, moose, musk oxen, a horned owl, a bald eagle, and one very playful black bear.
The AWCC is dedicated to preserving Alaska's wildlife through conservation, research, education and quality animal care. AWCC takes in injured and orphaned animals year-round and provides them with spacious enclosures and quality animal care. At the end of our tour, a nature interpreter gave us a short talk on wolves, and had us all howl together ... and the wolf pack howled back!
New Buds to Sesh with
The best part of this kind of journey is making new friends while sharing cannabis and laughs. On the penultimate night of the fest, the out-of-towners threw a late-night bash to puff down on all their remaining herb. Comic Brian Netzel cracked at the Last Gasp show, “Anchorage, I can't smoke any more of your weed ... I wake up with 4.5 grams of new weed every morning … I'm full of weed!”
We met so many incredible folks at the B4UDie Fest — from our Weed+Grub Live! show guests Ali Lu and drag queen Josie Ana Poosiekat (who brought the house down with her performance), to new buds including the one and only Carlos Delgado, a.k.a. Moose Jersey.
After we smoked the last of our weed, we packed our bags, popped a Denali Drop by Turnagain Herb Co. for the plane ride and started our journey south.
Feature image: Anchorage, Alaska (Photo by David Tatum/Unsplash)