The laughs will have to wait another year.
The Great American Comedy Festival, which had been scheduled for June 18-20 at Johnny Carson Theatre in Norfolk, has been postponed until June 2021 because of uncertainties over the COVID-19 pandemic.
The scheduled headliners for this year’s festival both have agreed to come to Norfolk next year. Actor, writer and producer David Koechner is scheduled to headline the 2021 comedy showcase, and six-time Emmy Award-winner Wayne Brady will take the stage as the 2021 gala headliner.
The postponement includes the family comedy magic show, the comedy showcase, the late-night adults-only show at Divots and the concluding festival gala.
Executive director Lisa Wattier said the comedy festival’s board of directors made its decision recently in a unanimous vote.
“While no one knows for sure how long this pandemic will last, some in the public health industry believe it could last for several months,” Wattier said. “Because of that, we had to take a very serious, long look at continuing our festival planning and fundraising.”
Beyond that, the uncertainty on several fronts played a role in the decision.
“We feel it would be irresponsible to put our audiences at risk of becoming ill because they attended one of our festival shows,” she said. “It is irresponsible for us to proceed with fundraising, spending those sponsor donations and then end up having to cancel the festival at the very last minute.
“It is also possible the booked comedians may be unable to get here.”
Wattier said all sponsorship money donated to date could either be returned or put toward the 2021 festival.
“It really is disappointing to have to take this action,” said Austen Hagood, president of the Great American Comedy Festival board of directors. “But we, like countless other organizations planning large events across the country, have to be responsible and put public health and safety first.”
“Because there are just too many uncertainties about where this virus will be in June, we reluctantly have to take this action,” he said.
Nucor Steel Nebraska, Nucor Cold Finish Nebraska, Nucor Detailing Center and Vulcraft Nebraska have been the presenting sponsors of the festival for several years.
The annual festival opened in 2008 to honor the legacy of Norfolk’s favorite son, Johnny Carson, who was host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” for more than 25 years.