Join Us June 17-20, 2015!

Magic classes, Red Carpet Premiere, ‘Tonight Show’ clips and more!

May 29, 2015
May 29, 2015

There’s going to be plenty of magic taking place in conjunction with this summer’s Great  American Comedy Festival. And a different kind, too.

Sponsored by Nucor Steel, the comedy festival will again be offering magic and card  trick classes on its opening day — Wednesday, June 17 — and again on Friday, June 19. Taught by Derek Hughes, the professional magician who will host the Wednesday  evening “Magic & More” performance at the Johnny Carson Theatre, there are three classes  planned. On Wednesday, from 1 to 2:30 p.m., a “grab bag of magic” class for ages 9­13 will take  place at the Elkhorn Valley Museum auditorium in Norfolk. From 3 to 4:30 p.m., a “card tricks  with Derek” class for ages 14 and up will be held at the same location.

All magic class materials will be provided for those registering to take home with them.  The registration cost is $25 and there is a limit of 20 participants in each class.

Then on Friday from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce, an “Up  Close with Derek Hughes” class will be offered for adults 21 and older. It will focus on “up  close” magic and card tricks. The cost to register for that class also is $25. To register, go to www.greatamericancomedyfestival.com. For more information, contact  Susan Warneke at 860­2500.

While those classes will feature actual magic, other parts of the festival will feature  events that will be magical, or special, in their own way.

Thursday: Red Carpet Premiere The festival will, literally, “roll out the red carpet” on Thursday, June 18, from 5:30 p.m.  to 7 p.m. in front of the Johnny Carson Theatre prior to that evening’s performance. Designed to have the feel of a Hollywood red­carpet event, all of the comedians and  talent participating in the festival, as well as local and area dignitaries, have been invited to  participate. They’ll be dropped off by limousines and town cars in front of the theater where local  media personalities will be on hand to interview them, take photos and broadcast live. Paige Pflueger, Miss Nebraska Teen USA, and radio personality Austen Hagood will host  the event and interview guests as they arrive. In case of inclement weather, the activities will take place inside the theater lobby. Members of Norfolk High School’s Panther Posse will be on hand to assist the public with taking and posting “selfies” to the festival’s social media outlets for a chance to win festival tickets to the Saturday, June 20, performance featuring Brian Regan, as well as the festival’s  private post­show gathering.

Friday: Johnny Under the Stars For those seeking to laugh along with Johnny Carson, the festival and the Norfolk Arts  Center is planning a free “Johnny Under the Stars” outdoor showing of video highlights from  “The Tonight Show” on Friday, June 19. The event will take place in the arts center’s outdoor garden and begin at 10 p.m. after the  festival performance at the nearby Johnny Carson Theatre concludes. In case of inclement  weather, the showing will take place inside the arts center. Saturday: Mingle with the comedians Following the Saturday, June 20, festival performance at the Johnny Carson Theatre,  Divots in Norfolk will host a post­show gathering starting at 9 p.m. Many of the comedians who performed at the festival are expected to attend, giving  Norfolk and area residents a chance to visit with them and relive that evening’s show.

Kevin Pollak to receive the 2015 Johnny Carson Comedy Legend Award

April 28, 2015
April 28, 2015

KEVIN POLLAK TO RECEIVE 2015 JOHNNY CARSON COMEDY LEGEND AWARD

Kevin Pollack

Comedian, actor, impressionist and filmmaker Kevin Pollak will be this year’s recipient of the Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award — and Eddie Brill couldn’t be more pleased. “Not only does he have his hands in so many creative pies … he does them all well,” said Brill, the creative director of the Great American Comedy Festival. “His resume is chock full of amazing accomplishments, and he was one of Johnny Carson’s favorite guests.”

Pollak will be on hand to receive the award during the Saturday, June 20, finale of this summer’s Great American Comedy Festival, presented by Nucor Steel. He’ll interrupt his work on a new movie to make the trip to Norfolk for the eighth annual festival that began in 2008 to pay tribute to Carson.

“We are extremely excited to have him in Norfolk,” Brill said. Pollak joins an impressive list of previous comedy legend award winners, including David Steinberg, Stephen Wright, Ed Asner and Cloris Leachman. It is one of only two awards in existence today that bear the Carson name.

Pollak has captured the attention of audiences worldwide with his range of both dramatic and comedic roles. He has appeared in more than 70 films, as well as countless television projects, and has established himself as one of the few stand-up comedians to have a successful dramatic film career. In addition to his acting talents, he has also proven himself as both a writer, producer and, more recently, a director and a talk show host. Pollak first started performing stand-up comedy at the age of 10. He became a touring professional stand-up at age 20. In 1988, he was featured in his first HBO stand-up special.

Kevin Pollack 2

It was Pollak’s role in Rob Reiner’s “A Few Good Men” that proved his ability to stand out while sharing the big screen with dramatic heavyweights Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and Jack Nicholson. Soon after, he was co-starring with icons Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in ”Grumpy Old Men” and its sequel, “Grumpier Old Men.” In 1994, he had a major role in “The Usual Suspects,” which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and won two Academy Awards. In more recent years, while continuing to co-star in more than 45 films since 2000, he has returned to stand-up comedy. He hosts his own Internet talk show — called Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show — and does a comedy podcast called Talkin Walkin, which features him speaking only in the voice of actor Christopher Walken.

Pollak starred in two of his own HBO stand-up comedy specials and was named by Comedy Central as one of the Top 100 comedians of all time. “Having Kevin in Norfolk to be part of the Great American Comedy Festival will be a true honor,” said Paula Pflueger, chairwoman of this year’s festival. ”Along with Brian Regan,Louie Anderson and all the other entertainers, it’s going to be a fantastic festival.”

Buy-Tickets-Now

Want to learn more? For more information or to buy tickets, go to www.greatamericancomedyfestival.com. Tickets can also be purchased locally at Insurance Associates in Norfolk.

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The Bob Stromberg Comedy Show at Johnny Carson Theatre

April 15, 2015
April 15, 2015

Bob Stromberg is a story teller. A physical comic with a background as a mime.  “Making people laugh is all I’ve done for 40 years.”  says Stromberg  ”And I’m so looking forward to performing in Norfolk.”

Stromberg is set to take to the stage of the Johnny Carson Theatre in Norfolk on Sunday, June 14, at 7 p.m., as a prelude to the opening of the 2015 Great American Comedy Festival.

Being able to perform in Carson’s hometown will be a special treat, Stromberg said. “That person we saw on TV — his Midwest sensibility — I loved that guy. I would have loved to have sat down with him,” he said.

Stromberg said he grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. “I’ve always had this natural inclination to make people laugh. I would have been the class clown in school, but my father was the principal,” he said.

He’s turned his interest in comedy into a career that has spanned about four decades of stand-up comedy performances, as well as writing books and appearing on TV shows as well as theatrical productions.

The Los Angeles Times has described him as a “triple jolt of inspired craziness,” while the Chicago Sun-Times called him a “mesmerizing physical comedian.”

But for those attending his 90-minute performance in Norfolk, it won’t be just stand-up comedy. Stromberg’s show also features segments involving shadow puppets. Stromberg said making shadows on a screen may sound a bit corny to some, but he uses the medium to tell funny stories that delight the audience.

“They’re pretty amazing shadows, and it’s been one of the things in my career that I get requested to do all the time. In fact, sometimes I get requested to do shows where I just do the shadows,” Stromberg said.

His act is appropriate for and comfortable with all audiences, he said, from school-age children to grandmas and grandpas. “I always tell people, if you’re coming as a family, bring your children along. They will have a ball,” Stromberg said. “People ask me if it’s hard to do clean comedy. It’s easy to be clean, but you have to be good to be funny.”

His performance is being sponsored by the Norfolk Daily News and Norfolk radio stations WJAG, 106 Kix and Lite Rock 97.5. Part of the proceeds from ticket sales will go to the Norfolk Area Good Neighbors program.

General admission tickets for adults and children are available online at www.greatamericancomedyfestival.com or at The Abbey and Insurance Associates in Norfolk.

“I’m thankful for every single booking I have. I’m so looking forward to being in Norfolk,” he said.

The ‘Funny Twenty’ to perform at Great American Comedy Festival in Norfolk

April 15, 2015
April 15, 2015

John Fugelsang co-hosted “America’s Funniest Home Videos” for two years and has acted on numerous television shows, including “CSI.” As a comedian, he’s made more than 20 appearances on HBO’s “Politically Incorrect” and has performed the U.S. Comedy Festival in Aspen and the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal.

And where’s he going to be this June? In Norfolk for the 2015 Great American Comedy Festival presented by Nucor Steel. Fugelsang is one of the 20 stand-up comedians invited to take part in the eighth-annual festival set for Wednesday, June 17, through Saturday, June 20.

While the festival’s headliners bring name recognition and star power to the annual comedy event, it’s the 20 comedians who are the heart and soul of the festival, said Eddie Brill, the festival’s artistic director. That’s because the festival was created to pay tribute to the legacy of Johnny Carson, and Carson liked nothing more than to give comedians on the cusp of stardom a chance to perform on “The Tonight Show.”

In its own way, the festival seeks to do the same thing by auditioning and inviting 20 comedians to perform in Norfolk at the Johnny Carson Theatre, Brill said. This year, Brill said, was, once again, extremely challenging to narrow the list of invitees to 20. He conducted auditions in cities across the nation and reviewed video clips submitted by hundreds more wanting to be part of the Norfolk event.

In the end, he selected a group that he simply describes as “the funny 20.”

In addition to Fugelsang, here are the other 19 comedians who will be part of the festival:  Rob Haze, Costaki Economopoulos, Ryan Donahue, Jim McCue, Negin Farsad, Jim Short, Lary Reeb, Ryan Noack, Ed Driscoll, “Tony V”, Keith Lowell Jensen, Tony Deyo, Gregg Rogell, Sarah Tiana, Ben Gleib, Jackie Kashian, Brad Wenzel, Andy Sandford and Maggie Maye.

Ten will take to the stage of the Johnny Carson Theatre on Thursday, June 18, and the other 10 on Friday, June 19. The top four from each night — as selected by a panel of comedy professional judges — will advance to the finals of the festival’s stand-up competition on Saturday, June 14.

Comedian Louie Anderson will serve as the headliner for the Thursday and Friday performances. Brian Kiley of Los Angeles — who won the professional stand-up competition at last year’s festival — will be the host for both evenings.

Want to learn more?

For more information or to purchase tickets, go to www.greatamericancomedyfestival.com or locally at Insurance Associates, 1900 W. Pasewalk Avenue

The Passing Zone to add variety-show element to festival’s comedy magic show

April 6, 2015
April 6, 2015

This year’s comedy-magic show at the 2015 Great American Comedy Festival promises to entertain and astound, hearkening back to the days of variety shows.

The festival kicks off Wednesday, June 17, with its annual comedy-magic show as a tribute to Johnny Carson’s lifelong interest in magic.

Richard Barrett, manager of the famed Comedy and Magic Shop in Los Angeles, again selected the lineup of performers for this year’s show.

“I’m thrilled to have so many world-class performers on this bill. We’ve got a really cool blend of magic and variety this year with The Passing Zone bringing something to the show that we haven’t presented before,” he said.

Scheduled to perform are The Passing Zone — made up of Owen Morse and Jon Wee — along with magicians Christopher Hart, Tina Lenert and Derek Hughes.

The Passing Zone is a top-notch comedy act that is enhanced by their juggling skills and other extraordinary feats, Barrett said.

“Jon and Owen are two headlining comedians that also happen to do things that you and I can’t do — their many Guinness world records prove that,” Barrett said. “They’re just an amazing act that will leave you with a giant smile on your face.”

The two were performing at the Comedy and Magic Club in Los Angeles when they were asked to perform on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” in 1990. They became one of Carson’s favorites and were asked back to perform again.

Barrett said Hart is everything anyone can want in a magician.

“He’s funny, a little mysterious, charismatic and makes you ask, ‘How did he do that?’  He’s won just about every meaningful award for magicians,” he said.

Movie fans also may be interested in knowing that he played the disembodied hand known as Thing in the Addams Family movies.

“That’s a pretty cool credit,” Barrett said.

Lenert is revered in the magic community. She combines mime and magic in her “Maid in Heaven” act that has won countless awards including stage magician of the year from the Academy of Magical Arts.

“She’s a great storyteller and puts on a performance that is beautiful, heartwarming, and funny all at the same time,” Barrett said.

Lenert is married to magician Mike Caveney, who was part of the festival’s 2013 comedy-magic show.

Hughes, who will serve as the show’s host, is another familiar name. He performed in Norfolk at the 2012 festival.

“Derek is one of the rising stars in the world of magic. He is the guy that you will be discussing during your car ride home from the show — he’ll leave you in a state of wonder and disbelief,” Barrett said.

Hughes will also be leading magic classes, including card tricks, for students and adults while in Norfolk. More details on the dates and times for those classes will be available in the coming weeks.

festival plans ‘red carpet night’

April 6, 2015
April 6, 2015

Looking for a taste of Hollywood? The Thursday, June 18, performance of the Great American Comedy Festival may be for you.​

Prior to the 7 p.m. festival show in the Johnny Carson Theatre, the grounds of Norfolk High school will take on the appearance of a red-carpet event — literally.

From 5:30 to 7:00 p.m., local personalities will host the premiere, welcoming and interviewing those attending as they make their way to the theater. Car doors will be opened for guests as they arrive and paparazzi will be on hand taking photos — all to add to the glamour of the evening.

The first 100 people who arrive with tickets to the Thursday show and post a red-carpet selfie to the comedy festival’s Facebook page or Twitter account will be entered into a drawing for two free tickets to the Saturday festival show and an invitation to a post-show party to meet the comedians.

Louie Anderson to return for 2015 Festival

April 6, 2015
April 6, 2015

He liked Norfolk so much the first time that he’s decided to come back.

Comedian, author and actor Louie Anderson — who was a featured performer at the 2011 Great American Comedy in Norfolk — will be making a return trip this summer for the 2015 festival.

“He was so funny and great to have with us back in 2011. We’re very excited to have him again be part of the festival,” said Paula Pflueger, chairwoman of the 2015 event set for Wednesday, June 17, through Sunday, June 20.

Anderson will be the headliner for the festival performances at the Johnny Carson Theatre on Thursday, June 18, and Friday, June 19. Tickets for all the festival performances now are available.

Hosting the June 18 and 19 shows will be Brian Kiley, the winner of the 2014 professional stand-up competition at the festival.

Kiley, who, in addition to performing, also serves as a writer for Conan O’Brien, topped the field of 20 comedians last June. He also performed in Norfolk in December to open for Bill Engvall.

Comedian Brian Regan was previously announced as the headliner for the Saturday, June 20, festival performance.

Anderson has been described as one of the most versatile and successful comedians working in Hollywood today.

His big break came in 1984 with his debut performance for Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show.”

“Every comic, especially from my era and before needed to be on Johnny Carson to be relevant. That’s the HBO. That’s the Comedy Central. That’s the YouTube of that time. Johnny was it,” Anderson said during his first appearance in Norfolk.

He went on to perform at standing-room-only crowds in Las Vegas, hosted for several years the “Family Feud” television series and is the author of several best-selling children’s books.

In 1995, Anderson put his creative energies to work on the Saturday morning animated series “Life with Louie.” The long-running series based on his own childhood and his life with his father won three Humanitas Prizes for writing on a children’s’ animated series, making him the only three-time recipient of this award.

Anderson said his comedy routine these days reminds him of his roots when he appeared on “The Tonight Show” that first time.

“I have a chance to cheer people up and have them forget about their troubles,” he said. “In this current world, that’s a great honor and a blessing.”

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Want to learn more?

For more information about the festival, go to www.greatamericancomedyfestival.com. Tickets for festival performances will be available for purchase online at the website or at Insurance Associates in Norfolk as of the afternoon of Monday, April 6.

Brian Regan to headline 2015 Great American Comedy Festival

March 24, 2015
March 24, 2015

One of the best and most respected comics performing today will be coming to Norfolk in June to headline the 2015 Great American Comedy Festival.

Brian Regan

Brian Regan

“Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock look up to him as a hero,” said Eddie Brill, the festival’s artistic director.

One of the ways Regan has made his mark has been by blazing a trail of laughter without the need to be shocking to get a laugh. One reviewer wrote, “What’s interesting is that most people won’t even realize this until the end of the show when they think, ‘Wait a minute. There isn’t one joke of his that I couldn’t tell my boss or my kids.’ ”

Paula Pflueger, festival chairwoman, said festival organizers are thrilled that Regan will be performing for a Norfolk audience. “People are going to love him,” she said.

This year’s festival is set for Wednesday, June 17, through Saturday, June 20, with a performance by Christian comedian Bob Stromberg preceding the actual festival on Sunday, June 14.

In its eighth year, the festival – which has been voted in the past as Nebraska’s top tourism event – continues its mission of paying tribute to the legacy of Johnny Carson, who grew up in Norfolk.

Brian Regan

Brian Regan

The Saturday finale also will feature the presentation of the annual Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award.

Growing up, Regan said his comedy influences were Johnny Carson, Steve Martin and the Smothers Brothers. Regan – whose older brother, Dennis, was part of the 2013 Great American Comedy Festival, finishing second in the professional stand-up competition – made his first appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman” in 1995 and has performed on the show about 30 times.

He has released two critically acclaimed comedy DVDs and set a record for five sold-out shows at a performance hall in Salt Lake City, Utah, eclipsing the previous record of four straight sold-out shows by Jerry Seinfeld. He typically tours and performs in theaters in 80 cities each year.

He’s best known for turning mundane situations – like going to the eye doctor to get fitted for glasses, or trying to decide how many Fig Newtons to eat in one setting – into side-splitting stand-up material.

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Want to learn more?

For more information about the 2015 festival, go to www.greatamericancomedyfestival.com. Tickets are expected to be available for purchase online as of Monday, April 6.

Norfolk’s comedy festival is ‘home of the good laugh’

March 24, 2015
March 24, 2015

Organizers of the Great American Comedy Festival in Norfolk, Neb., were looking for a new way to describe the annual event that pays tribute to the legacy of Norfolk native Johnny Carson.

They found it via a team of eight talented and creative advertising and public relations students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Thanks to the students’ ideas, the festival now is now to be known as the “home of the good laugh.”

Festival organizers worked last year with Prof. Stacy James at UNL in having one of her senior-level classes work with the festival to develop an integrated marketing communications plan for the festival. They did research on other festivals, conducted a survey of festival attendees, created advertising ideas for print, radio and digital, studied social media possibilities and more.

The end result was a comprehensive package of marketing and public relations ideas and strategies for festival organizers to consider – including creating the theme of “The Good Laugh” that plays off Nebraska’s theme of “The Good Life.”

“We couldn’t be happier with what Stacy and the students came up,” said Lori Williams, the festival’s executive director. “We’ll be making extensive use of their ideas for the 2015 festival and in years to come.”

Iconic candy brand Chuckles adds a sweet touch to Festival

March 24, 2015
March 24, 2015

Chuckles named the official candy of the comedy festival created in honor of Johnny Carson.

You can’t have a comedy festival without comedians. Or laughter. Or funny material.

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Chuckles Candy

Organizers of the 2015 Great American Comedy Festival – which is based in Johnny Carson’s hometown of Norfolk, Neb. – say they think a comedy festival needs an official candy, too.

Especially when it has a name like Chuckles.

“We think it’s going to be great fun to pair up the Great American Comedy Festival with Chuckles candy,” said Kent Warneke, founder and past chairman of the festival. “It seems like a natural.”

Chuckles is produced by the Ferrara Candy Co., of Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. First arriving on the sweet scene in 1921, Chuckles has been making kids (and more than a few parents!) happy for nearly a century. With five flavors in each pack, Chuckles puts a smile on the face of a wide range of tried-and-true fans with its multi-flavored sugar-coated jelly rectangles.

“We are thrilled to be participating as the official candy for the Great American Comedy Festival,” said Dawn Sykora, marketing director of Iconic Brands for Ferrara Candy Co. “We can’t think of a better fit for the Chuckles brand and are honored to help celebrate comedy and this long-loved brand together in honor of the legendary Johnny Carson.”

Warneke approached Ferrara this past fall about being a new part of the Great American Comedy Festival in 2015. It is set for Wednesday, June 17, through Saturday, June 20, in Norfolk, primarily at the Johnny Carson Theatre.

The festival annually features 20 up-and-coming professional comedians who compete for the festival’s top prize. The Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award is also annually presented.

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