News from the Lucy-Desi Center for Comedy – The star of the hit show Mike & Molly, CBS’s #1 new series in 2011, comedian Billy Gardell will headline an event that last year had a direct impact of $3.6 million to the Chautauqua County economy: the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival August 1-5 in Jamestown NY. The Pittsburgh native is known to more than 12 million TV viewers each week, appeared in his own hour-long Comedy Central Special in 2011, and will be performing to a house of 1,260 seats in Jamestown Saturday, August 4. Tickets go on sale April 17 at www.LucyComedyFest.com.
According to an economic impact study conducted by Buffalo firm Paradigm Economics and commissioned by the Lucy Desi Center for Comedy and the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, the 2011 five-day festival saw 13,000 attendees and had a direct impact of $3.6 million on the city of Jamestown and Chautauqua County. 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 Thursday, August 2 evening.
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, named by USA Today as one of the top 10 comedy clubs in the nation. 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 the show 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 troupe-mates 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.”
Friday, August 3 features a showcase of some of the hottest rising comics in the country, co-produced by San Francisco-based Rooftop Comedy, the world’s largest producer of interactive comedy programming. 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, broadcast last year on SiriusXM and produced by Gregg Oppenheimer, son of I Love Lucy creator Jess Oppenheimer. Also returning is the critically-acclaimed kids comedy troupe, Story Pirates. This non-profit creative writing organization will visit to do in-classroom story-writing workshops in the spring. The stories from these Jamestown public school students will become the basis for the show Saturday, August 4. 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 newly-formatted, largest, and most comprehensive “I Love Lucy” trivia contest ever believed to have been held. This preliminary schedule will be updated as new events are confirmed at www.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, August 6. Lucy Fest 2011 commemorated Lucille Ball’s 100th birthday, set an attendance high at 13,000 attendees, featured more than ten comedians from NYC, Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco and Los Angeles performing over five days, and made international news with the setting of a Guinness World Record for “Most People Dressed as Lucy Ricardo” with 916.
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. The mission of the Lucy Desi Center for Comedy, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is to preserve the legacy of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and enrich the world through the healing powers of love and laughter through its commitment to the development of the comedic arts.