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“Jamestown has a great reputation for putting great audiences in the seats for America’s funniest comedians,” Journey Gunderson said. “America’s comics love Jamestown.” It’s the 2016 Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, the 25th Anniversary edition. Lucy Desi promises it will be the best ever. Journey should know.
As Executive Director at the Center for Comedy, it is she and her team who pick the comedians that come to Jamestown every year. “Nobody ever turns us down,” Journey said, “unless they already have something booked when we call. This is America’s town for comedy.”
In this edition, the Jamestown Gazette invites our readers to come along with us to enjoy some candid chats and off-the-cuff conversations with a few of Lucy Fest-25’s biggest stars.
First, the Facts
The Lucille Ball Comedy Festival will run from Wednesday, August 3 through Saturday, August 6. Times for the festival’s nearly 75 live shows and events and tours, the complete festival schedule, ticket sales and venues, are all available on line at lucycomedyfest.com.
Everything starts on Wednesday, August 3 with the 65th Anniversary Gala – a red carpet event including h’orderves, drinks, the annual Lucy birthday cake, and 50’s tunes – will celebrate the very first groundbreaking season of Lucille Ball’s I Love Lucy TV show. Festivities begin at 7:00 p.m. at the Dykeman-Young Gallery and Vintage Emporium, 100 E. Second St., Jamestown.
On Thursday, Lewis Black returns to the The Reg Lenna Center for the Arts after a 25 year absence, having delighted Jamestown audiences many times before, including Lucy Fest 1, and he is delighted to be coming back.
The Daily Show’s popular TV host, Trevor Noah, will take to the stage at The Reg on Friday, August 5. On Saturday, August 6, Brian Regan, who recently earned the honor of the first ever live broadcast of a stand-up special in Comedy Central’s history, will fill the house with laughter at the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena.
A Talk with the Stars
JG: Welcome back to Jamestown, Lewis Black.
Lewis: Thank you. I love coming up there.
JG: What’s the best thing about performing at Lucy Fest?
Lewis: Well, I know almost everybody performing there and it’s nice to see friends on the road. But I like your audiences, too. It’s like they want to see you. You’re not just another show. This is actually my fourth visit. I performed there two times before Lucy Fest-1 I didn’t have much of a name yet. Probably nobody remembers. (Laughs). But I liked it there. Now, at least, they call me back.
JG: Was Lucille Ball an influence in your comedy?
Lewis: I watched her. Everybody did. But she was more into physical comedy. That’s not the way I went. She was a genius at it. It’s too bad we don’t see that kind of comedy any more on TV. It’s a loss.
JG: Is there a female comedian you like today?
Lewis: Lots of them, but I really like Kathleen Madigan. She was in Jamestown last year. She’s my favorite.
JG: Are small town audiences like Jamestown different from big city audiences?
Lewis: That ended with cable. There are no small towns any more. Everybody can see everything, all the time. But when you go to a small town in person, as my manager says, people with tickets are already asking each other on Tuesday, ‘What are you going to wear?’”
JG: Are those houses more fun to play to?
Lewis: They sure are. That’s why I like Jamestown so much. I think I’ll spend some time just wandering about and seeing the town.
JG: But you’re the King of Rant. You love to tell people, “Quit your whining!” Is it safe to say hello if somebody sees you?
Lewis: (Laughing). You bet! Who has the energy to be like that all the time? Not me. I’m a sweetheart, like Don Rickles.
Lewis Black – The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Naked Truth Tour. Thursday, August 4 at 7:30 p.m. The Reg Lenna Center for the Arts. Show contains adult content.
JG: Hi Brian. We hope you like coming to Jamestown.
Brian: I’ve never been there before, but I like doing comedy anywhere. It’s a craft I’ve enjoyed for a long time.
JG: Do you think there’s a certain kind of comedy that works best at an event like Lucy Fest or in a city like Jamestown?
Brian: As long as it’s truthful and organic – it has to come from the heart – it’s all fair game. Like the time when I got sick and went to the Emergency Room. All I did the next night on stage was tell the story. It was the easiest comedy I ever did.
JG: Who were the comedians that influenced you the most in your early days?
Brian: I loved Lucy’s brand of physical comedy, it never ages, but comics do. You can’t keep doing that as you get older. George Carlin was very different, but I was a big fan ever since I read his book as a kid, “Napalm and Silly Putty”. It had a lot of his stand-up material in it. Then there was Red Skelton…I still remember some of his routines. He could be funny even when he didn’t say anything.
JG: You have a word-play routine on teaching kids English. It’s about, why are a bunch of ox called oxen but a bunch of boxes aren’t boxen? That sounds a little like a Carlin rant on the stupid way we all use words.
Brian: He was a big influence. But he worked blue and I usually don’t. Nothing wrong with it, but you just have to do what feels natural. And clean feels most natural for me.
JG: Do you think you will ever change your style?
Brian: Well, George switched from the Hippy Dippy Weatherman to something politically and socially darker but still very funny after he got kicked out of Vegas and went through a few other weird things. That hasn’t happened to me yet, so I guess not…yet.
JG: What’s your plan for Jamestown?
Brian: Well, people used to come to see my shows just because I did “comedy” like everybody else. Now I hope they are coming to see me because they’ve gotten to know Brian Regan.
JG: Welcome to Jamestown.
Brian Regan – Saturday, August 6, 2016. 8:30 p.m. Jamestown Savings Bank Arena.
JG: Hello, I’d like to speak to Trevor Noah, please.
Brian Abraham (Trevor’s publicist): Sorry, can’t do that. He’s at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions right now getting the funniest free comedy material in the Western World and he can’t come to the phone.
JG: Who is funny at the DNC and the RNC?
BA: Maybe everybody?
JG: Thanks. Welcome to Jamestown.
Trevor Noah, now the host of “The Daily Show,” a spot he took over after host Steven Colbert moved to his own late night talk show, has hosted numerous television shows in his native country, including South Africa’s music, television and film awards, the South African Comedy Festival and two seasons of his own late night talk show. A frequent guest on Leno, Letterman and Kimmel, his Showtime comedy special, “Trevor Noah: African American” premiered in 2013.
Friday, August 5, 2016 at 8:30 p.m. The Reg Lenna Center for the Arts. Show contains adult content.
Comedy Legacies: Bruce, Carlin, Pryor
This only-in-Jamestown event, presents Kitty Bruce, Kelly Carlin and Rain Pryor, together on stage discussing the people the world knew as comedy legends, but they knew as fathers.
JG: Kelly, you were here last year for Lucy Fest and you’re back this year with your friends, Kitty and Rain. Welcome back.
Kelly (Carlin): I’m always excited to come back to Jamestown. It’s beginning to feel like a second home to me.
JG: You’ve stayed in touch.
Kelly: I thought Jamestown would be the perfect place for my Father’s archives. It’s about 10 steamer trunks of his notes, routines, artifacts and awards. They are still at my house, but the Lucy Desi organization is preparing a special place for them in Jamestown. They will be coming there soon.
JG: What do you want to happen here with your father’s whole lifetime of material?
Kelly: I want people to be able to read them and study them; comedians, scholars and people who just love comedy.
JG: What is it like creating your own career in such a big shadow? Do you think what you accomplish might change how people feel about your father?
Kelly: It is hard to pass your parents on the highway of life. You have to find your own lane. Just listen to your own voice.
Kitty (Bruce): I want to honor my father in a way that will change people’s lives. I didn’t want a generation to go by without knowing Lenny Bruce.
JG: What is special about coming to Jamestown for you, Kitty?
Kitty: August 3 is the 50th anniversary of my father’s death and we’ll be on stage in Jamestown just two days later, on August 5. I am so excited to be there. The idea of a National Comedy Center is an amazing thing. Thank God for Lucy’s idea.
JG: What will your panel discussion be about for Lucy Fest?
Kelly: In addition to honoring our fathers and helping people get to know them as we did, we want to talk about Censorship in Comedy and something we call “The Dangers of the American Evolution.” Our fathers rebelled against what we call today “political correctness” and got in trouble for it. That has to stop.
Kitty: Our country is turning beige today. The bright colors are disappearing. Comics are supposed to be our social doctors, to provide a greater purpose. They can help people hear what they are thinking but can’t say. Our world tends to exclude people but comedy includes people. When you laugh with a comedian you are never alone.
JG: Plan on never being alone in Jamestown. Enjoy your visit.
Comedy Legacies: Bruce, Carlin, Pryor. Friday, August 5, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. The Reg Lenna Center for the Arts.
One More Lucy
A special Friend of Fest event, the Celoron Statue Unveiling, will take place at high noon on Saturday, August 8 in Celoron’s Lucille Ball Memorial Park. A new statue created by New York sculptor, Carolyn Palmer, will be unveiled as a companion piece to the previous bronze (also remaining at Celoron Park) along with the musical accompaniment of Jamestown’s Junior Guilders and the sharing of Lucille Ball’s 105th Birthday cupcakes all around. This event will also be part of the first annual Dragon Boat race on Chautauqua Lake, launching from Celoron’s lakeside docks.
To learn more about all of the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival events, locations and tickets, go to lucycomedyfest.com.