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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 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 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.

Cory Kahaney returns to Norfolk as opening act

March 10, 2014
March 10, 2014

December 12, 2013

Great American Comedy FestivalCory Kahaney can’t help but crack a joke.

When asked about her upcoming gig as the opening act for Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood’s two-man improv show, she said she was so excited that she Googled them.

Her sense of humor is fitting for what she loves to do — comedy.

Kahaney will bring her stand-up routine to Norfolk on Saturday, Dec. 14, when she warms up the audience for “An Evening with Colin and Brad” at the Divots DeVent Center.

“Ordinarily I’d say (the audience could expect) juggling fire, but TSA makes it so complicated to bring my torches,” Kahaney said. “So I’d say mainly lots of laughs to get the energy going and setting the tone for a stellar evening of comedy.”

Since overcoming stage fright at the age of 29, Kahaney made it to the season one finale of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” and also has appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.”

At the 2013 Great American Comedy Festival in Norfolk, she was one of the finalists featured in the stand-up competition.

“It was such a fun festival,” Kahaney said. “Norfolk really rocks.”

The thought of returning to Johnny Carson’s childhood town to perform has had an impact on Kahaney.

“Well, it’s bittersweet because I am the generation of comics who grew up watching Carson, but by the time I was ready to even try out for the show, he was long gone from television,” she said. “So you have enormous respect, certainly, but you also feel sad that that ship sailed without you.”


Omaha comic first to advance to Amateur Finals in June

March 10, 2014
March 10, 2014

Monday, January 20, 2014

Kris Covi, an attorney from Omaha, was voted the winner of the Great American Comedy Festival’s preliminary amateur stand-up competition Saturday night here.

About 150 people were in attendance at the Majestic Theater to be entertained by 10 amateur comedians hoping to advance to the finals of the amateur competition in Norfolk when the comedy festival takes place in June. The finals are set for Saturday, June 14.

Covi topped the field of comedians at the performance hosted by Michael Issac of Chicago, one of the professional finalists at last year’s comedy festival in Norfolk. Issac recently appeared in an episode of “Chicago Fire.”

The next preliminary amateur competition is set for Saturday, Feb. 22, at Divots in Norfolk, where Eddie Brill, warm-up comic for David Letterman, will host.

The final one will be part of O’Neill’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration in March.

Large crowd watches Phoenix comic advance to Amateur Finals in June

March 10, 2014
March 10, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

Tom Sims of Phoenix proved to be the audience favorite Saturday night when the Great American Comedy Festival hosted a preliminary amateur competition at Divots in Norfolk.

Close to 250 people were in attendance when nine aspiring stand-up comics competed for the audience’s support at the show hosted by Eddie Brill, the festival’s artistic director from New York City.

Sims will now advance to the finals of the amateur competition set for Saturday, June 14, in Norfolk. He will compete against winners of earlier shows in Omaha and Wayne, along with separate competitions taking place in Denver and Chicago.

The next amateur competition is set for Saturday, March 22, in O’Neill as part of that community’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities.