It's not easy to make people laugh.
That's perhaps why recent lineups for Lucy Fest, organized each year by the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center for Comedy, are so impressive. Early performers in the festival's history include Ray Romano, Ellen DeGeneres and Lewis Black. In recent years, the festival has brought Billy Gardell, Joan Rivers, Paula Poundstone and Tammy Pescatelli.
This year brings Jay Leno, the most notable Lucy Fest headliner yet. Leno will be in Jamestown fresh off 21 years hosting "The Tonight Show" on NBC. In addition to his well-regarded stand-up performances, Leno is notable in comedy history as the late-night standard bearer tasked with replacing legend Johnny Carson. Such an appearance, coming so soon after Leno retires from "The Tonight Show," is the sort of timely booking necessary for an area trying to brand itself as a national center for comedy.
It is also nice to see Lucy Fest events spread throughout downtown. Leno's Aug. 9 show will be held at the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena while Tom Cotter, a past runner-up for "America's Got Talent," will appear Friday, Aug. 8, while the Comics to Watch showcase hosted by Caroline Rhea, former co-star of "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" and a noted stand-up comic in her own right, will be Aug. 7. Both events will be in the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts. Other events will take place in the Tropicana Room at the Lucy-Desi Center on Third Street, comedy workshops at Infinity Visual and Performing Arts and exhibit unveilings at the Lucy-Desi Center.
It is indeed difficult to make people laugh. It's also difficult to continue making an event bigger and better each year.
Lucy Fest organizers are succeeding on both counts.