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