I don’t know if it was the funniest or funniest thing, but I saw it in local director and actor Joe Grisaffi. I had gone there to test a card game he had developed for his film knight’s death, and I asked why his very old dog Zoe wore grippy socks. He said it was because she was now so old and her hips so weak that she couldn’t stand in the kitchen without slowly collapsing onto her stomach as her limbs spread apart as if she was fell on a frozen pond. I looked at her and saw that even with the socks on, she was still struggling against gravity as if the floor was made of banana peels.
Zoe passed away last year, her final happy days turned into a series of videos that Grisaffi posted online for fans and friends. Now he’s named a comedy film festival for her.
“The Laughing Dog Comedy Film Festival was created as a tribute to Zoe, who passed away in 2021,” says Grisaffi. “She had a way of bringing people together, so hopefully this film festival is at least a small step in bringing Houston’s film community together after the pandemic.”
The festival will screen 53 short films from around the country and around the world. Submissions from eight countries will be considered, 13 from Texas. Some of the highlights include Jake Balfour-Lynn’s Rear seat driver, which follows a London taxi driver as he deals with naughty couples during the journey; by Texas filmmaker Michael Charron First impressions which follows a weekly game night gone horribly wrong; and Ann Hurd Mimsy the Breakup Clown about a clown who questions his place in the world.
Grisaffi will also present one of his own comic works, Joe returns a video. The hilarious short, featuring plenty of Houston actors, tells a fictionalized version of Grisaffi as he realizes he never returned a VHS copy of Steven Seagal. Above the law at a local video store he visited in the 90s. He bonhomoously wanders the neighborhood, encountering a collection of happy psychopaths and weirdos along the way. Zoe appears in a brief scene.
The Houston film festival scene appears to be slowly recovering after the COVID pandemic brought most events to a halt. While some like ReelAbilities have remained virtual, others like Laughing Dog and the Houston Horror Film Convention have painstakingly tried to get people back into real seats.
After a long, trying time full of trauma and tragedy, a comedy film fest honoring a beloved dog seems like the perfect opportunity to laugh at the sadness.
The Laughing Dog Comedy Film Festival runs through Saturday, February 26 from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn, 10609 Westpark. For more information, visit LaughingDogSBB.com. $5, free parking