Join Us June 11-14, 2014

Steinberg honored with Legend award; Los Angeles wins stand-up competition

June 16, 2014
June 16, 2014

The seventh annual Great American Comedy Festival’s final performance Saturday night began as it should — with a video tribute to Johnny Carson.

After all, the festival was created to pay tribute to the legacy of Carson, who grew up in Norfolk and went on to host NBC’s “The Tonight Show” for 30 years.

That’s why the rainbow-colored lights created stripes on the Johnny Carson Theatre’s normally red curtain — just like the multi-colored curtain on “The Tonight Show” when Carson hosted it. Several large photographs of Carson lined the stage, and the set of the show was re-created on the theater stage.

Memories of Carson were a frequent theme throughout the 2½ hour performance that attracted a crowd of more than 1,000 despite the evening’s threatening weather.

David Steinberg, for example, entertained the audience with stories of his association with Carson.

“My career, to me, was the ‘Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,’ ” Steinberg said. “Once you made Johnny laugh, it was everything.”

But the recipient of this year’s Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award made more than Carson laugh in his career — entertaining audiences as a stand-up comedian, writer, actor and, more recently, an acclaimed director and producer.

He made 140 appearances on “The Tonight Show,” which is second only to Bob Hope, and also was the youngest person to serve as a guest host on the show.

When he came on the stage and again as he exited it, he was honored with a standing ovation. In between, he was interviewed by Eddie Brill, the festival’s artistic director. Steinberg’s award was presented by Dirk Petersen, general manager of Nucor Steel, the festival’s presenting sponsor.

Brian KileyAnother highlight of the evening was the finals of the festival’s stand-up competition. Eight comedians advanced from shows earlier in the week to compete for the top prize that was won by Brian Kiley of Las Angeles, who is a writer for the Conan O’Brien late-night show.

“I’m just blown away that I won because this was such an impressive group of comedians,” Kiley said.

While on stage, Kiley’s routine involved jokes about his baldness, his wife and the pool boy for a pool he doesn’t have.

Joe Zimmerman of New York City, who tied for third with Mark Pitta of San Francisco, said he was excited to see Kiley win.

“It was a great show and a lot of fun,” Zimmerman said. “I felt good about my routine when I left the stage.”

Michael Somerville of New York City finished second.

Earlier Saturday, the festival hosted the finals of an amateur stand-up competition, which was won by Kris Covi, an attorney from Omaha.

The evening show was topped off by a final stand-up performance from Jim Breuer, who first came to fame as a member of the cast of “Saturday Night Live.”

Breuer said he enjoyed being part of the festival and that it was a great way to honor Carson.

“I watch Johnny Carson reruns almost every night with my parents,” he said. “This festival was awesome, and I would love to come back if they ask me to.”

Robot not coming

June 12, 2014
June 12, 2014
“Sartran” may be a $6 million robot, but that evidently doesn’t mean it’s indestructible.
The comicbot that was scheduled to be part of the children’s festival Saturday in downtown Norfolk will not be making its two scheduled appearances.
Ron Davis, the owner of the robot, had sent the robot in for repairs and upgrades earlier this spring, with the assurance that it would be completed in time for Saturday’s Norfolk appearance. But earlier this week, he found out that the work that needed to be done was more extensive than originally thought, making it impossible for him to keep the Norfolk commitment.
The children’s festival, however, is still a go for Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a variety of activities planned for children ages 11 and under.

Dana Carvey to pay tribute to Carson in video

June 9, 2014
June 9, 2014

CARVEY, Dana 05

Longtime comedian and movie actor Dana Carvey will be featured in a video filmed especially for the Norfolk festival in which he pays tribute to the late Johnny Carson.

Carvey — who was a longtime cast member of “Saturday Night Live” and starred in, among others, the “Wayne’s World” movies — was also known for his impersonation of Carson. It was created out of his fondness for the longtime host of “The Tonight Show.”

The video was produced by Mark Pitta, one of the 20 comedians who will be participating in this week’s comedy festival, presented by Nucor Steel.

The Thursday and Friday performances also will feature host Phil Palisoul and headliner Caroline Rhea, along with 10 of the comedians competing in the festival’s professional stand-up competition.

Twenty festival comedians participate in NBC’s “Last Comic Standing”

May 28, 2014
May 28, 2014
If Norfolk and area residents turn in to episodes of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” this spring and find themselves thinking, “I’ve seen a lot of these comedians before” — it’s because they have.
The eighth season of “Last Comic Standing” kicks off Thursday night at 8 p.m., featuring 100 stand-up comedians who were handpicked for invitations to participate in the show.
Of those 100, 20 of them have either appeared in Norfolk at the Great American Comedy Festival in past years or will be part of this year’s festival next month.
This year’s festival, which is presented by Nucor, is set for Wednesday, June 11, through Saturday, June 14. Twenty stand-up comedians will participate in the festival’s two preliminary competition shows on Thursday, June 12, and Friday, June 13, with eight advancing to Saturday’s finals.
Of the 20 scheduled to be in Norfolk, six are part of the “Last Comic Standing” lineup this season — Alingon Mitra, Adrienne Iapalucci, Adam Newman, Tracey Ashley, Michael Somerville and Joe Zimmerman.
Those part of “Last Comic Standing” that have previously appeared in Norfolk for the comedy festival are:
2008 festival: Erin Jackson and Shane Mauss,
2009 festival: Mike Vechhione, Tim Harmston, Andy Woodhull, Mike Palascak and Keith Alberstedt.
2010 festival: Tommy Ryman and Aparna Narcherla.
2011 festival: Carmen Lynch
2012 festival: Andrew Sleighter, Dave Waite and Pete Lee
2013 festival: Joe Macchi.

2014 Festival T-shirts on Sale

May 12, 2014
May 12, 2014

Norfolk-Comedy-Festival-T-ShirtFestival t-shirts are on sale for $15 per shirt at the theatre during the festival or at the following locations:

  • Elkhorn Valley Museum
  • KEXL
  • Dayco
  • Insurance Associates

2014 Great American Comedy Festival lineup set

April 28, 2014
April 28, 2014

With the announcement of David Steinberg as this year’s recipient of the Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award, the lineup of entertainers for the 2014 Great American Comedy Festival is now set.

“We’re so pleased to be able to bring to Norfolk and assemble this group of extremely funny, talented people,” said Lori Williams, the festival’s executive director. “You won’t want to miss it.”

Here’s a quick look at some of what’s planned at the festival set for Wednesday, June 11, through Saturday, June 14:

— Wednesday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m.: Comedy magic show for all ages featuring Dana Daniels, Joel Ward and John Cassidy.

— Thursday, June 12, and Friday, June 13, at 7:30 p.m.: Comedian Caroline Rhea — of television’s “Biggest Loser” and Sabrina: The Teenage Witch” — will headline the two preliminary stand-up competition performances. Phil Palisoul, the winner of last year’s competition, will host.

— Saturday, June 14, at 7:30 p.m.: Festival gala featuring Jim Breuer — a “Saturday Night Live” former cast member — as host and headliner. The finals of the stand-up competition will take place and Steinberg will be presented the comedy legend award.

“But there’s also the late-night shows Thursday and Friday at Divots, a free children’s festival Saturday in downtown Norfolk and our amateur competition finals at 1 p.m. Saturday at J’s Steakhouse,” Williams said.

David Steinberg to receive 2014 Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award

April 28, 2014
April 28, 2014

david_appears_on_the_tonight_show_with_johnny_carsonThe New York Times has called David Steinberg “a comic institution.”

This summer in Norfolk, Neb., the comedian, author, actor and director will be described in another way: comedy legend.

Steinberg will be this year’s recipient of the Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award at the 2014 Great American Comedy Festival presented by Nucor Steel.

Eddie Brill, the festival’s artistic director, said, “I’m over the moon to have David Steinberg as this year’s legend. I’ve been trying to get him to our festival for years and because of his incredibly busy schedule, he wasn’t able to come until this year.”

Brill said he has worked with Steinberg in the past.

“It turns out that not only is David an amazing talent, but also a down-to-earth and incredible soul,” Brill said.

Steinberg and his wife, Robyn, will be on hand to receive the award at the Saturday, June 14, festival performance at the Johnny Carson Theatre. His name will be added to a list of previous legend award recipients that include, among others, Dick Cavett, and Stephen Wright.

His connection to Johnny Carson, who grew up in Norfolk, is strong.  After his first appearance on the “The Tonight Show,” he became one of Carson’s most popular guests and guest hosts, with 140 appearances — second only to Bob Hope. Steinberg was the youngest person ever to guest host “The Tonight Show.”

“The Great American Comedy Festival was created to pay tribute to Johnny’s legacy. So to have someone like David Steinberg — who Johnny thought so much of — as part of our festival is so fitting,” said Paula Pflueger, vice chairwoman of the festival.

Steinberg is in his third season of hosting the popular “Inside Comedy,” which he also Executive Produces with Steve Carell for Showtime. Among the comedians interviewed by Steinberg on “Inside Comedy” are Jerry Seinfeld, Don Rickles, Ellen DeGeneres, Robin Williams, Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman and Larry David.

He is a legendary comedian who began entertaining audiences in the late 1960s at Second City and then New York City’s Bitter End and whom the New York Times referred to as a “. . . cross between Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce.” His controversial sermons were responsible for throwing the Smothers Brothers off the air. He has three comedy albums all nominated for Grammys.

Steinberg is also now regarded as one of the best and most creative directors working in television. He has earned several Emmy Awards and nominations for directing episodes of “Friends,” “Seinfeld,” “Mad About You,” “Newhart” and “Designing Women,” which he also executive produced. More recently, Steinberg has been directing the hit series “Curb Your Enthusiasm”.

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Want to learn more?

For more information on the comedy festival or to purchase tickets, go to www.greatamericancomedyfestival.com or at Insurance Associates, 1900 W. Pasewalk Ave., in Norfolk.

For more on David Steinberg, go to www.thedavidsteinberg.com or follow him on Twitter – @david_steinberg

New features planned for 2014 Great American Comedy Festival

April 2, 2014
April 2, 2014

‘Johnny Under the Stars,’ 8-foot robot, live recording and more

The comedians, headliners and magicians scheduled to be part of this summer’s Great American Comedy Festival in June aren’t the only thing that’s new about the 2014 event.

“We’re always looking for ways to make the festival even more fun and appealing,” said Lori Williams, the festival’s executive director.

Here’s a quick look at some of the new features for 2014:

— This year’s free children’s festival in downtown Norfolk on Saturday, June 14, will feature two performances by an 8-foot-tall “Comicbot.” Named Sartron, the robot tells jokes, plays music and entertains audiences of all ages. Children will also be able to have their photographs taken with Sartron.

— “Johnny Under the Stars” will take place for the first time at 10 p.m. in Norfolk’s Central Park after the Wednesday, June 11, comedy-magic show. Organized by the Norfolk Arts Center, the free outdoor showing of Johnny Carson highlights is designed to be a way for those attending to better appreciate the comedic talent of Carson.

— A live recording of many of the comedians participating in the 2014 festival will take place during the evening performances at the Johnny Carson Theatre. Stand Up! Records — a Minneapolis-based record label owned by Nebraska native Dan Schlissel — will be on hand to record performances and turn them the comedy performances into a CD and digital downloads. Stand Up! Records has worked with some of the biggest names in comedy, including Lewis Black.

— “Carson Connections” is a new transportable, educational display that shares information about Johnny Carson’s years growing up in Norfolk, his early career and his remarkable philanthropic endeavors. The display will be unveiled for the first time during this summer’s festival.

— An expanded set of magic classes will again be organized by the festival on Wednesday, June 11, and will feature appearances by some of the magicians scheduled to appear that evening at the Johnny Carson Theatre.

— Eddie Brill, the festival’s artistic director, is hoping to lead a workshop for adults on the topic of making effective use of humor in public-speaking situations. The date and time of that session are still to be finalized.

— Following the Saturday, June 14, gala performance at the Johnny Carson Theatre to wrap up this year’s festival, those in attendance will be invited to attend a nearby outdoor party. Several of the festival’s comedians will be on hand.

— The finals of the festival’s amateur stand-up competition will be at a new place and time this year — 1 p.m. at J’s Steakhouse in downtown Norfolk.

— The festival will not be sponsoring a performance by a Christian comedian as part of the summer festival, but plans are in the works to organize a Christian comedy show this fall in Norfolk.

“As you can tell, there’s a lot new taking place in 2014 with the comedy festival,” Williams said.

Great American Comedy Festival announces 2014 lineup

March 21, 2014
March 21, 2014

‘Saturday Night Live’ alum and TV star Caroline Rhea to headline festival

     Jim-Breuer     Caroline-Rhea

 Another laughter-filled lineup is set for the 2014 Great American Comedy Festival in Norfolk.

A “Saturday Night Live” alum; a stand-up comic who also has starred on television and in movies; three world-class comedy-magicians; the winner of last year’s festival stand-up competition and, of course, another funny, talented group of 20 comedians who will vie for the festival’s top prize — they’ll all be in Norfolk this summer.

“It’s a fantastic group of comics,” said Eddie Brill, the festival’s artistic director.

The festival is set for Wednesday, June 11, through Saturday, June 14, and will feature Nucor Steel as its new presenting sponsor this year. In this its seventh year, the festival — which was voted in 2012 as Nebraska’s top tourism event — continues its mission of paying tribute to the legacy of Johnny Carson, who grew up in Norfolk.

Serving as the headliner for the Saturday, June 14, gala performance will be Jim Breuer, a former cast member of “Saturday Night Live” and on the list of Comedy Central’s 100 greatest stand-up comics of all time.

“Jim is one of the most versatile comics in the country,” Brill said. “He’s hilarious, energetic and passionate.”

Breuer is one of the most recognizable comedians in the business — known for his charismatic stage antics, dead-on impressions, and family-friendly stand-up. He’s been cast in several movies, appeared on numerous TV shows, and hosts a weekly satellite radio show.

His latest one-hour comedy special titled “And Laughter for All” is currently the top-requested comedy special on Netflix.

Brill said he hopes the Saturday festival performance also will include a special video presentation by comedian and actor Dana Carvey, whose impersonation of Johnny Carson was one of his most famous characters while a cast member of “Saturday Night Live.” It’s tentative for now, he said.

The recipient of this year’s Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award has not yet been finalized, Brill said.

For the Thursday, June 12, and Friday, June 13, performances at the Johnny Carson Theatre, movie and TV star Caroline Rhea will serve as the headliner.

“We’ve had great headliners for our Thursday and Friday shows in the past, but this year, we’re stepping it up a notch in terms of name recognition,” said Lori Williams, the festival’s executive director.

In addition to her stand-up career, Rhea started as Aunt Hlda on the television sitcom “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch.” She also served as a host for NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” and has hosted her own daytime television talk show.

It’s all that, plus her talent as a stand-up comic, that has Brill excited about her being in Norfolk for this summer’s festival.

“Caroline Rhea is one of my favorite stand-ups. Her ability to mix great writing, playful banter and skillful ad-libbing talent makes her stand above the rest,” he said.

Hosting the Thursday and Friday shows will be Phil Palisoul, the stand-up comic who won the stand-up competition at last summer’s festival in Norfolk.

A comedian for more than 20 years, Palisoul recently toured Afghanistan to perform for the troops with “Comics on Duty.”  He’s worked with some of the biggest names in comedy, including Jerry Seinfeld, Drew Carey and George Lopez.

The 2014 festival kicks off with the Wednesday, June 11, comedy-magic show, paying tribute to Johnny Carson’s lifelong interest in magic.

Richard Barrett, manager of the Comedy and Magic Shop in Los Angeles, again helped to secure this year’s performers — Dana Daniels, John Cassidy and Joel Ward.

It’s a lineup he’s excited about, and thinks will be fun for audience members of all ages.

“Dana Daniels is a two time winner of Stage Magician of the Year awarded by the Magic Castle,” he said. “Dana is a really strong comedy/magic act and is joined onstage by his psychic parrot, Luigi.”

Barrett said Cassidy is “a crazy mix of energy, comedy, magic and balloons! He’s similar to David Williamson in the frenzy he can create on stage.” Williamson was one of the magicians who performed at the 2014 festival.

Ward is a younger performer and will bring “something a little different to the show — bigger illusions,” Barrett said. “He’s a really great guy.”

“All of these guys are world-class performers,” he added.

This week, Brill is on his final round of auditions — in places like Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis and Atlanta — of stand-up comedians to determine the 20 who will be invited to participate in the 2014 festival.

Already after the first round of auditions earlier this year Brill said the quality of those wanting to be part of the Norfolk festival continues to impress him.

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Want to learn more?

More information is available at www.greatamericancomedyfestival.com. Tickets for festival performances go on sale online April 1 or at Insurance Associates in Norfolk.

Nucor Steel is new presenting sponsor of comedy festival; WOWT in Omaha on board, too

March 21, 2014
March 21, 2014

Norfolk company comes on board as key festival sponsor

nucor

Nucor Steel is the new presenting sponsor of the Great American Comedy Festival — and not just for this year.

Earlier this year, Nucor agreed to serve in that capacity in 2014 and for the next three years.

“We’re very pleased to have Nucor support the comedy festival in this way,” said Paula Pflueger, the festival’s vice chairwoman. “Nucor does so much for Norfolk and the surrounding area. To have them come on board as the festival’s presenting sponsor is just one more example of how much Nucor cares about the community.”

Nucor Steel has about 480 teammates at the steel mill located northeast of Norfolk. Other Nucor divisions in Norfolk are Vulcraft, Cold Finish and the Nucor Detailing Center. In all, the company employs about 1,000 Norfolkans and area residents.

WOWT in Omaha is a new media partner with the festival in 2014, and appropriately so since the late Johnny Carson – who serves as the inspiration for the comedy festival – worked at the Omaha NBC affiliate after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“This is a great fit for the festival,” said Kent Warneke, festival chairman. “We’ve very pleased to be working with WOWT this year.”

The comedy festival benefits greatly from a large number of sponsors each year. Their financial support helps keep ticket prices affordable and allows festival organizers to keep bringing to Norfolk world-class comedy talent.

But the presenting sponsor tops the list in terms of its importance to the festival, Pflueger said.

Viaero Wireless previously served for four years as the festival’s presenting sponsor.

“We can’t say enough about how much we appreciate all the support offered by the festival’s sponsors. We couldn’t keep doing this without their involvement,” she said.