JAMESTOWN - The Lucille Ball Festival of Comedy concluded after five days filled with laughter in the hometown of one of the greatest comedians of all time. People filled the streets and theaters of Jamestown, a city setting out to show it is ready to become the next Cooperstown of Comedy. World-class shows by Billy Gardell, Paula Poundstone, Lucie Arnaz, Tammy Pescatelli, Story Pirates and Gregg Oppenheimer (among many others) filled the seats of the Reg Lenna Civic Center for performances covered by national media outlets including the New York Times and ABC News 20/20.
Tourists from California, Texas, Canada, Manhattan and every place in between grape-stomped and conveyer-belt candy-wrapped alongside locals and live bands at the premiere of the Lucy World Games on City Hall's Tracy Plaza. Musicians and Lucy fans alike gathered at Friday, August 3rd's "Opening Ceremonies" to sing the largest community rendition of the I Love Lucy theme song. I Love Lucy impersonators from Universal Studios also helped kick off the celebration that concluded with Journey Gunderson, executive director for the Lucy Desi Center for Comedy, lighting the "Torch of Laughter." A "Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel" costume contest and an I Love Lucy trivia contest were among some of the events that fans participated in.
Perhaps the most poignant moment of the weekend came at Friday's cornerstone Stand-Up Showcase, when Lucie Arnaz announced her endorsement of a national Comedy Hall of Fame and museum to be featured in Jamestown. She stated to a packed theater how her mother wanted her legacy to live on through new comedy, and how laughter is the best healing medicine of all. Camera crews and reporters from national media outlets covered Jamestown throughout the course of the festival. ABC News 20/20, People Magazine, and The New York Times were among a few of the media outlets in attendance. 20/20 will feature Jamestown and Lucy Fest in a September special, hosted by Barbara Walters, titled, "The Greatest Television of All Time." I Love Lucy has been nominated in the categories for best comedy and best overall show. The New York Times featured Jamestown's comedy festival in an article and extensive slideshow appearing in the Monday, August 6th (Lucille Ball's birthday) edition of the Times.
For more exclusive photos and videos of the event, visit www.lucy-desi.com.
This year's top headliner was Billy Gardell, from CBS's hit show Mike & Molly. By curtain, the Pittsburgh native had filled all but a few seats in Jamestown's 1270-seat Reg Lenna Civic Center Theater, and finished his act to a thunderous, standing ovation that even included audience members delivering gifts to his feet at the stage.
Lucie Arnaz made a rare trip to Jamestown to host the Stand-Up Showcase and give her endorsement of creating the first National Comedy Center and Hall of Fame in Lucille Ball's hometown. The showcase was headlined by crowd-favorite comic Tammy Pescatelli, winner of Comedy Central's 2010 Stand-Up Showdown and a finalist on NBC's Last Comic Standing 2. Tony Deyo and Baron Vaughn also performed, and Lucie Arnaz's third and closing musical number - backed by an 11-piece band capped off the evening and drew a standing ovation for a unique show produced for this festival by the Lucy Desi Center for Comedy.
Paula Poundstone, one of Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Comedians of All-Time and panelist on NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me headlined Thursday evening, with hers kicking off what would be a trifecta of standing ovations for evening shows.
Kid's comedy included the critically-acclaimed comedy troupe, Story Pirates, seen on CNN's Larry King, NBC's Today, and recently live on stage with Conan O'Brien.
This non-profit creative writing organization made up of professional actors and comedians performs a show based on stories written by children. As a special treat, four stories written by local children were selected and performed at the show, with story authors brought on stage by the Story Pirates for a round of applause at the end. More than 50 local children submitted stories for the Aug. 4 matinee.
Gregg Oppenheimer, son of I Love Lucy creator Jess Oppenheimer, returned to Jamestown to direct a Live "Lucy" Radio Show on Saturday. This year's show featured the world premiere of Finding Fred and Ethel, a side-splitting episode of Jess Oppenheimer's first sitcom Baby Snooks, and another hilarious episode of Lucille Ball's radio sitcom, My Favorite Husband: Valentine's Day.
Late Night Comedy was held in the Tropicana Room at the Lucy Desi Center on Aug. 3 and 4 featuring comics from New York City, Boston, Cleveland, Jersey City and Buffalo. These rising comedians converged in Jamestown for two nights of new, and specific to this time slot, blue, material. Comedians who performed included Mark Normand, Adam Newman, Kyle Grooms, Harrison Greenbaum, Bethany Van Delft, Mike Brown, Phoebe Robinson, Joe Machi, and Chet Wild. Joe Machi and Harrison Greenbaum, in particular, delivered stand-out, crowd-favorite performances.