Jamestown ready to host 26th annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival

After nearly a year’s worth of planning, the National Comedy Center is once again prepared to do what it does best: make an entire community laugh.

The 26th annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival returns to downtown Jamestown and the immediate area beginning today, this time featuring an entire week of programming.

The annual festival itself will take place Thursday through Sunday, during which time several of comedy’s A-list performers will make an appearance. Headlining this year’s festival will be Jim Gaffigan, Kevin James, Lisa Lampanelli and Robert Klein.

“Anybody who knows comedy knows that Jim Gaffigan is one of the biggest and most respected voices in comedy today,” said Journey Gunderson, National Comedy Center executive director. “He’s a multi-platinum-selling artist, and he will definitely be remembered by generations — if we have anything to do with it — as having been one of the greatest of all time.

“We’re thrilled that so many people who know Kevin James from his hit TV shows and films will get to see him in the mode with which he got into comedy, which is stand-up. And Robert Klein is a legend who is also credited with influencing some of the most popular comedians today. There are very few people, if any, who have had a career that has spanned as long, and has been as influential, as Robert Klein.”

All four headlining acts will make their first visit to Jamestown to be a part of this year’s Lucille Ball Comedy Festival. Gaffigan’s performance will be Thursday at Northwest Arena at 8 p.m. James will perform at Northwest Arena on Friday at 8:30 p.m. Klein will perform Saturday at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts at 6 p.m. Also on Saturday will be Lampanelli’s performance at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts at 9 p.m.

The Lucille Ball Comedy Festival has been a staple for downtown Jamestown and the surrounding area for 25 years. Notable performers to have participated in the festival include Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Lewis Black, Trevor Noah, Joan Rivers, Ellen DeGeneres, Paula Poundstone, Kathleen Madigan, Nick Offerman, Ray Romano, Bob Newhart, The Smothers Brothers and more than 100 other comedic artists.

Additional programming for this year’s festival includes four comedy showcases featuring comedians who have appeared on “Conan,” “Colbert” and “Last Comic Standing,” National Comedy Center dialogues, block parties, two free kids comedy shows featuring the critically-acclaimed Story Pirates, and more than 40 artists. Tribute events also include a celebration of Desi Arnaz’s 100th birthday, hometown tours, Lucy tribute dinner shows, and an appearance by Wanda Clark, Ball’s former personal secretary.

The 26th annual Lucille Ball Festival will run concurrently with a weeklong series at Chautauqua Institution entitled, “Comedy and the Human Condition” — which kicks off today and runs through Friday at the institution’s newly constructed amphitheater.

Appearing in each of the amphitheater’s 10:45 a.m. morning lecture series will be: Lewis Black on Monday; David Steinberg on Tuesday; Sophie Scott on Wednesday; W. Kamau Bell, in conversation with Kelly Carlin, on Thursday; and Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan — along with a conversation between Stephen Morrison, Kliph Nesteroff and Kelly Carlin — on Friday.

A variety of other events and live comedy performances will occur in Jamestown and at Chautauqua Institution throughout the week. For a complete listing of events to be held during the 2017 Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, or to purchase individual tickets to an event, call 484-0800, visit lucycomedyfest.com or stop by the Lucy-Desi Museum and Center for Comedy at 2 W. Third St. in Jamestown.