JAMESTOWN – One of the top names in television entertainment the past two decades will be coming to Jamestown this summer.
Officials with the Lucy Desi Center for Comedy in Jamestown announced Wednesday afternoon that long-time late night television host and comedian Jay Leno will be appearing in Jamestown as part of the 2014 Lucille Ball Festival of Comedy. Leno will appear at the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena on Saturday, Aug. 9. In addition, the evening will feature a musical performance by Emmy Award-winning Lucie Arnaz, the daughter of the late Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
Following the announcement, Lucy Desi Center Executive Director Journey Gunderson said it was a lot of hard work and effort by her organization to land Leno, but they are thrilled that it paid off.
“In the context of our larger vision to establish Jamestown as the home of the national comedy center, the timing is perfect to have a legend who dominated the ratings in the late-night spot for more than two decades,” Gunderson explained. “He’s already cemented his place in our culture’s history and nothing he does from this day forward will change than. He’ll be a Carson-esque figure that’s celebrated forever and we intend to celebrate him here.”
Gunderson said that the idea to book Leno began during a Lucy Desi Center board meeting when the discussion turned to late night TV and the announcement by Leno that he would be retiring in February 2014.
“We talk a lot about comedy and we talked about Jimmy Falon taking over [The Tonight Show] and Jay Leno stepping down and that’s was the moment when we all looked at each other and said ‘Wait a minute. I wonder what Jay Leno will be doing in August now?’ And the rest was just a whole lot of fun calls, waiting and history.”
Leno’s Saturday night show is only part of the five-day festival that begins Aug. 6 and continues through Aug. 10. Other attractions for the festival include comedian Tom Cotter (Past runer-up for America’s Got Talent), who will appear Friday, Aug. 8 and also a Comics to Watch showcase hosted by Caroline Rhea, taking place on Aug. 7. Both events will take place at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts. In Keeping with past tradition, the Thursday night show will also be free to all veterans and currently serving military service men and women.
The festival will also have a variety of other events and attractions throughout the downtown focusing on comedy as well as celebrating the legacy of Jamestown native Lucille Ball. Gunderson said that many of the activities will be done in concert with local organizations, businesses and residents, adding that she wanted to make sure that as much of the community as possible is involved with the Comedy Festival.
“This festival and our work at the Lucy Desi Center, we’re just stewards of this legacy,” Gunderson said. “The whole idea is to benefit this community and honor our mission. So if we were just to try and operate in a silo, that would never go either.”
COMEDY CENTER UPDATE
Prior to the announcement of who this year’s headliners would be, Gunderson and Lucy-Desi Center board president Tom Benson spent some time discussing the proposed National Comedy Center. The center will be located on W. 2nd St. just to the west of Washington St.
According to Benson, the facility portion of the comedy center is still in the design phases, but development of a public park, which will connect the center to the adjacent river walk area, will begin in the next few weeks with a ribbon cutting tentatively scheduled to take place during the Comedy Festival in August.
Benson says much of the comedy center and connecting riverwalk project is being funded by local and regional foundations, including the Gebbie Foundation and the Oishei Foundation, based out of Buffalo.
Pre-sale tickets for the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival will begin going on sale to museum members, sponsors and supporters on Friday, April 11 at noon EST and can be purchased by visiting www.lucycomedyfest.com. Tickets for the general public will go on sale on April 18 at noon EST.