Attendees from 41 states come to Jamestown during 5-day festival
JAMESTOWN – The 2019 annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, presented by the National Comedy Center from August 7 through 11, is being estimated to be the biggest festival in its 28-year history, with attendees from 41 states across the country, twice the number of headliner shows, and significantly more tickets sold to its 50+ events than for any prior festival.
The 2019 festival was highlighted by four headliner shows – two each for Sebastian Maniscalco and John Mulaney. With Maniscalco and Mulaney among comedy’s biggest stars, they packed the Northwest Arena for each performance. The festival also increased the number of late night comedy shows it presented from four to six – many of which sold-out.
Throughout the festival, rising stand-up comedians from across the nation were showcased, including Mark Normand, Mathew Broussard, Zainab Johnson, Lachlan Patterson, and many more, along with comedy dialogues, kids comedy, block parties and Lucy legacy events held in eleven venues throughout Jamestown across the five-day festival. The Friday and Saturday evening block parties had record attendance as did the kids comedy show on Saturday morning.
Most festival attendees also experienced the 50 state-of-the-art, immersive exhibits within the NCC, taking an interactive journey through comedy history, from early vaudeville to the latest viral memes.
“We are so proud that our Lucille Ball Comedy Festival broke records this year – with what we estimate to be the most attendees and the most event tickets sold since our festival began 28 years ago,” stated Journey Gunderson, NCC Executive Director. “Clearly comedy fans from across the country love coming to Jamestown for great comedy performances and events — and to visit our state-of-the-art National Comedy Center. We’re pleased that festival attendees filled local hotels, restaurants and retail establishments, and look forward to the festival’s continued growth in the coming years.”
The festival had tremendous support from over 350 local volunteers and over 80 live production crew members.
The NCC says both Maniscalco and Mulaney also toured the facility during the festival.
“I didn’t know what to expect, I just didn’t expect the National Comedy Center to be this grand, this detailed, and in-depth and interactive,” stated Maniscalco. “The National Comedy Center is definitely inspiring, even for a comedian. The first thing when I walked in, I thought of my kids. It would be cool to bring them here to give them a sense of what comedy is all about. It’s just fun and it’s a cool way to learn. And it’s definitely worth coming to.”
“I like that it takes comedy very seriously,” Mulaney. “This is really about the actual craft of comedy, and that’s what is amazing about it.”
As a lead-up to this year’s festival, the National Comedy Center once again partnered with the world-renowned Chautauqua Institution for a comedy-themed week, highlighted by comedy dialogues in its 4,000-seat amphitheater featuring the legendary Smothers Brothers reunited on stage, acclaimed director/producer Frank Oz, comedian Maria Bamford, and a discussion on Robin Williams with comedian Lewis Black and long-time Robin Williams manager David Steinberg.
During the festival, the NCC opened its new exhibit on legendary comedy innovator Ernie Kovac as his centennial year is celebrated, featuring never-before-exhibited creative papers, rare audiovisual content and original, screen-used artifacts from Kovacs’ influential 1950s and early 1960s television shows and specials. A panel discussion on Kovacs’ legacy and influence preceded the exhibit opening, featuring Black, original SNL writer Alan Zweibel, NPR TV critic David Bianculli and SiriusXM host Ron Bennington.
A ribbon-cutting with the Smothers Brothers was also held, unveiling a new display featuring archival material they donated to the NCC, including their iconic red suit jackets, Tom’s guitar and Dick’s bass, scripts and creative papers, a letter from President Lyndon Johnson which was read by the Smothers Brothers on their TV show, as well as legal documents from their landmark 1970s litigation against CBS in defense of their First Amendment rights.
“This year’s festival truly offered something for everyone – from today’s biggest comedy stars, to up-and-coming stand-up talent, to the legends of comedy – all of whom we were pleased to feature within the National Comedy Center and throughout Jamestown” stated Malachi Livermore, National Comedy Center’s Director of Programming and Guest Experiences.
New displays featuring iconic artifacts and costumes from Eddie Murphy’s Nutty Professor, Bridesmaids, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Happy Gilmore and The Office were also unveiled during the festival week.
The expansion of this year’s festival lineup was made possible, in part, by a grant from the Jamestown’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative for Programming.
In a media release sent out following the conclusion of the Festival, NCC officials said, “The NCC would like to thank the City of Jamestown, the Jamestown Local Development Corporation, New York State Homes and Community Renewal and Governor Andrew Cuomo for this supplemental funding which activates stages and venues, bringing increased economic impact to Western New York.”
The Lucille Ball Comedy Festival is presented annually by the NCC and embodies Lucille Ball’s vision for her hometown of Jamestown to be a destination for the celebration of the comedic arts and to showcase new comedic talent from around the country. The festival attracts attendees annually from nearly every state in the country, who come together to share laughter while honoring the craft and contributors on stage at dozens of venues throughout Jamestown, including the National Comedy Center and the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum.