Comedy Fest Brings Fans From Across Country

One of several block parties held, this one in front of the National Comedy Center, during the 2019 Lucille Ball Comedy Festival. Submitted photo

National Comedy Center officials said residents from 41 states attended this year’s Lucille Ball Comedy Festival — estimated to be the “biggest” in its 28-year history in downtown Jamestown.

Those who attended from out of state said they were impressed with the local flair.

Maryann Colon from Parsippany, N.J., said she had attended the festival once before and “loved the experience.” Asked what she would like to see in the future, she said, “There needs to be a lot more Lucy decorations. More festivities, more tents and more interactive things to do.”

Debbie and Don Sockett of Binbrook, Ontario, were in town for the first time. The pair stayed at the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel in Celoron and tried some of the local restaurants. They also toured the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Museum and went on the Lucille Ball Cemetery tour.

Neither knew what to expect in visiting the comedy center, but both came away with a positive experience.

John Mulaney tours the National Comedy Center during his visit of this year's Lucille Ball Comedy Festival. Submitted photo

“It has been fantastic. I love Jamestown,” Debbie Sockett said. “I think the people are so friendly — I haven’t found any problems. We will be coming back.”

This year’s success, festival organizers said, was highlighted by two performances each by headliners John Mulaney and Sebastian Maniscalco, also a first for the comedy festival dedicated to the native-born Ball.

“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,” said Journey Gunderson, National Comedy Center 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.”

More than 50 events were held over the five-day festival. NCC officials also increased the number of late night comedy shows it presented from four to six, many of which officials said sold-out.

Gunderson said the festival had “tremendous support” from more than 350 local volunteers and over 80 production crew members.

Sebastian Maniscalco at the National Comedy Center in Jamestown. Submitted photo

Both of this year’s headliners toured the comedy center while in Jamestown.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Maniscalco said. “I just didn’t expect the National Comedy Center to be this grand, this detailed, and in-depth and interactive. 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.”

Added Mulaney: “I like that it takes comedy very seriously. This is really about the actual craft of comedy, and that’s what is amazing about it.”

The NCC partnered with Chautauqua Institution with a comedy-themed week as a lead-up to this year’s festival. Part of the programming included the Smothers Brothers reuniting on stage. Later, a ribbon-cutting with the Smothers Brothers was also held, unveiling a new display featuring archival material they donated to the comedy center, 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,” said Malachi Livermore, National Comedy Center’s director of programming and guest experiences.