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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.