Comedy Festival A Big Success For Officials, Local Businesses

Backstage at the National Comedy Center’s Lucille Ball Comedy Festival. Pictured, from left, are: Jim Gaffigan, Ted Alexandro, Lewis Black, Alan Zweibel and W. Kamau Bell.
Photos courtesy of the National Comedy Center

Backstage at the National Comedy Center’s Lucille Ball Comedy Festival. Pictured, from left, are: Jim Gaffigan, Ted Alexandro, Lewis Black, Alan Zweibel and W. Kamau Bell. Photos courtesy of the National Comedy Center

With another Lucille Ball Comedy Festival in the books, the annual week of downtown performances has everyone involved both directly and otherwise satisfied with the end result.

From July 31 to Aug. 6, the National Comedy Center presented a week of comedy performances during its annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival along with a series of conversations titled “Comedy and the Human Condition” in partnership with the nearby, world-renowned Chautauqua Institution.

In addition to success expected by the coordinators, promoters and performers in this year’s festival, a number of downtown businesses also experienced ancillary benefits in the form of increased patronage and revenues.

“Lucy Fest has been absolutely amazing for us, and it seems to be getting bigger and better every year,” said Sam Lisciandro, owner of The Pub at 209 N. Main St. “Every year we always see new faces and lately we’ve been seeing repeat out-of-town customers during the Lucy Fest weekend, and they have nothing but great things to say about it. It’s definitely in our top three weekends of the year. I’m not saying it’s better than the holidays, but it’s getting close.”

Tom Constantine, owner of The Cherry Lounge shared a similar experience from the standpoint of his 326 Cherry St. restaurant.

“It was absolutely wonderful; business over this past weekend was double what we usually have,” he said. “It’s been that way for the past couple of years, and so we always look forward to Lucy Fest weekend.”

The 2017 incarnation of of downtown Jamestown’s biggest tourism weeks of the year saw appearances by Jim Gaffigan, Kevin James, Robert Klein, Lisa Lampanelli and more than 20 others in various sold-out performances throughout Jamestown and the newly constructed 4,000-seat institution amphitheater.

On the first day of the festival, Jamestown was even paid a visit by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a press conference that invited community members inside the still-under-construction National Comedy Center for the first time.

“The National Comedy Center is quickly becoming a world-renowned cultural institution, while putting a spotlight on some of today’s greatest performers,” Cuomo said. “And with this week’s Lucille Ball Festival, we welcome thousands of visitors to Jamestown to experience the fun and laughter that’s in store.

“By investing in comedy and the arts, New York has shown the nation that Jamestown is the place to visit with family and friends. I look forward to the completion of the National Comedy Center as it supports the creation of new jobs, fosters economic growth, and establishes Upstate New York as a top-notch cultural hub for generations to come.”

One of the highlights of the weeklong festivities was the sneak preview of The George Carlin Archives, which were recently donated by his daughter, Kelly Carlin, and will be showcased in the National Comedy Center. The collection contains over 25,000 artifacts meticulously saved by the comedian over the course of his 50-year career, including 10,000 handwritten joke files, annotated set lists, personal scrapbooks, stage-worn costumes and thousands of hours of rare audiovisual content.

The Carlin Archives were also previewed at Chautauqua Institution where it was the highest attended exhibit on its grounds, according to staff.

The week’s programming also included 50 events at a dozen venues throughout Jamestown including: five stand-up showcases featuring Michelle Buteau, Matteo Lane, Rondell Sheridan, Emma Willmann and more; the critically-acclaimed kids comedy troupe known as “The Story Pirates” and a Desi Arnaz 100th-birthday celebration.

The National Comedy Center is scheduled to open in summer of 2018, and will be the first non-profit cultural institution and national-scale visitor experience dedicated to comedy, featuring more than 70 exhibits on comedy. The center will celebrate comedy in all of its forms, educating and engendering in visitors an appreciation for the art form and its artists.

For more information on the National Comedy Center and the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, visit nationalcomedycenter.org and lucycomedyfest.com.

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