OBSERVER Staff Report
Comedian Billy Gardell, the star of the hit show "Mike & Molly," will headline this year's Lucille Ball Comedy Festival.
The festival will take place Aug. 1-5 in Jamestown.
Gardell, originally from Pittsburgh, is seen by more than 12 million "Mike and Molly" viewers each week, appeared in his own hour-long Comedy Central Special in 2011, and will be performing Aug. 4. Tickets go on sale April 17 at LucyComedyFest.com.
According to an economic impact study, 13,000 people put $3.6 million into the local economy during the 2011 five-day festival.
Returning after contributing to this success, Paula Poundstone, one of Comedy Central's 100 greatest comedians of all-time and panelist on NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," will headline the Aug. 2 performance.
Attending this show and others, Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, will be in town to witness the center's new Legacy of Laughter direction, one pillar of which is comedic arts education.
That programming debuts this year with a set of comedy courses to take place the week of the festival, culminating with students earning stage time at Lucy Fest and the Gotham Comedy Club in New York City. Courses are presented in partnership with Jamestown Community College's Center for Continuing Education, and registration for youth and adults begins April 17.
Classes include intensive training in the areas of improv, sketch and stand-up, and will be taught by Bill Chott, T. Faye Griffin, and Andy Engel, respectively. Engel is the founder of Manhattan Comedy School and the director of new talent at the Gotham. Griffin is a former writer and segment producer for both "In Living Color" and the BET Network, as well as a personal joke writer for Steve Harvey. Chott toured alongside Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in the Second City comedy troupe before re-uniting with former troupemates Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell to work on "The Dana Carvey Show" and "Saturday Night Live." Lucy fans will recognize him for his award-winning portrayal of Fred Mertz in "I Love Lucy Live" on stage.
The Aug. 3 performance will feature a showcase of up-and-coming comics. Lucy Fest has featured performances by then-rising stars Ray Romano, Lewis Black and Ellen DeGeneres, and aims to catch comics on a similar rise to the top with this showcase.
Saturday matinees will include the return of a live on-stage radio show, produced by Gregg Oppenheimer, son of "I Love Lucy" creator Jess Oppenheimer. Also returning is the critically acclaimed kids comedy troupe, Story Pirates. This nonprofit creative-writing organization will visit Jamestown schools to do in-classroom story-writing workshops in the spring. The stories will become the basis for the show.
Other festival events include Lucy Town Tours, shows featuring the best Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel impersonators in the world, a parade, memorabilia auction, "Party on the Plaza," and the "I Love Lucy" trivia contest. The schedule will be updated as events are confirmed at LucyComedyFest.com.
The Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, or "Lucy Fest," embodies Ball's vision for her hometown legacy: a celebration of the comedic arts held annually on the weekend closest to her birth date, Aug. 6. Last year's festival commemorated Lucille Ball's 100th birthday and set an attendance record,
The Lucille Ball Comedy Festival is the first pillar in a four-pillar Legacy of Laughter vision for the organization, including a comedic arts education program, comedy film festival and the establishment of the first national comedy museum and hall of fame.