AMATEUR FINALS WITH SAM ADAMS
PROFESSIONAL SEMIFINALS FEATURING RYAN HAMILTON AND JAKE JOHANNSEN
PROFESSIONAL FINALS WITH HEADLINER PAULA POUNDSTONE. JOHNNY CARSON COMEDY LEGEND AWARD TO JIMMIE “JJ” WALKER
FAMILY SHOW WITH DICK CAVETT & MAGICIANS JOHNNY THOMPSON, DEREK HUGHES & MAC KING
THURSDAY & FRIDAY AT DIVOTS Thursday, May 31, 2012 85526
TEEN NIGHT FRIDAY AT DIVOTS
NORFOLK DAILY NEWS, Thursday, May 31, 2012
What’s happening on Wednesday and Thursday
What’s happening on Friday and Sunday
Amateur Night Wednesday, June 13, 7 p.m.
Comedy Competition Semifinals, Round 2 Friday, June 15, 7 p.m.
Where: Johnny Carson Theatre. Ticket prices: $10, including taxes, in advance; $15, including taxes, day of performance. Why go? The 12 amateur comedians who will take to the stage already have won the support of audiences at preliminary competitions. Audience members get to determine who wins the crown. The show’s host is Sam Adams of Denver, who won the amateur competition at the festival in 2009. Get autographs. The performing comedians will be available for autographs in the lobby of the Johnny Carson Theatre after the show concludes. Comedy Competition Semifinals, Round 1 Thursday, June 14, 7 p.m. Where: Johnny Carson Theatre. Ticket prices: $15 including taxes, in advance; $20, including taxes, day of performance. Why go? Ten of the nation’s best up-and-coming professional comedians — as determined by auditions across the United States — will take to the stage. The top four, as determined by a panel of expert judges, will advance to Saturday evening’s finals. Who else will perform? Ryan Hamilton, who won last year’s stand-up competition, will serve as the host, and Jake Johannsen, who has appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman” more than 30 times, will also perform. After-Hours Comedy Club Thursday, June 14, 10:30 p.m. Where: Divots Conference Center. Ticket prices: $15, including taxes, in advance; $17, including taxes, day of performance. Why go? If you’re looking for edgy, adult comedy, this is the place to unwind. The comedians participating in the festival competition will be performing different material at the after-hours club.
Comedy festival attracts national interest The Viaero Great American Comedy Festival is celebrating its fifth anniversary in 2012 — bigger and better than ever. “It’s hard to imagine how far the festival has come in those years,” said Lori Williams, the festival’s executive director. This year, the festival continues with its original mission of paying tribute to the legacy of the late Johnny Carson, who grew up in Norfolk and went on to host “The Tonight Show” on NBC for 30 years. Along with bringing in talented professional and amateur comedians, some of the biggest names in comedy and magicians, the festival this year is spreading its wings. RFD TV — a nationwide cable television channel — is filming this year’s festival for a 60-minute special that will be aired later this summer. A partnership with the Omaha Performing Arts organization is allowing the 20 professional comedians participating in the 2012 festival to also perform in Omaha while in Nebraska. And a partnership with the Comedy Works club in Denver added a new element to the festival’s amateur competition. A separate competition in Denver produced one of the amateur finalists for this year’s festival. “This festival will always be Norfolk-based, but it’s becoming clear that what we have created is something that is of regional
Saturday, June 16, 7 p.m. n Where: Johnny Carson Theatre. n Ticket prices: $30, including taxes, in advance; $35, including taxes, day of the performance. n Why go? This is where the competition comes to a head and the winner of the stand-up competition earns the top prize. But that’s not all. You’ll be entertained by the comedic genius of Paula Poundstone, who will serve as the host for the performance; and you’ll have the chance to see Jimmie “JJ” Walker perform and receive this year’s Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award. and national interest,” Williams said. The festival kicks off with the amateur comedian finals on Wednesday, June 13, at 7 p.m., hosted by Sam Adams of Denver, who won the festival’s amateur competition in 2009. The 12 comedians who will take to the stage will be performing to garner audience support because those in attendance will choose the winner. They qualified by advancing from preliminary competitions held earlier this year in Norfolk, O’Neill, West Point and Denver.
On Thursday and Friday evenings at 7, the semifinals of the professional stand-up competition will take place. Each night, 10 up-and-coming comedians — who auditioned in front of Eddie Brill, the festival’s executive producer and warmup comic for David Letterman — will take to the stage in hopes of impressing a panel of expert judges so they can advance to Saturday’s finals. The stand-up finals will take place Saturday, June 16, and also feature Paula Poundstone as the host and headliner. Jimmie “JJ” Walker will be presented the festival’s Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award and also perform. The festival wraps up with a Sunday, June 17, family magic show at 5 p.m. at the Johnny Carson Theatre hosted by Nebraska native Dick Cavett, who was presented the inaugural Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award at the first festival in 2008. Those attending will be entertained and amazed by the magical talents of Johnny Thompson, Derek Hughes and Mac King. Late-night shows will again be held on Thursday and Friday at 10:30 p.m. at Divots in Norfolk, as well as a teen comedy show Friday at 9:30 p.m., that will not only feature some of the festival’s stand-up comedians, but also the teenagers who participated in the festival’s comedy camp.
How and Where to Buy Tickets Tickets to the 2012 Viaero Great American Comedy Festival events are easy to obtain — just go to www.greatamericancomedyfestival.com and click on the button that says “ticket info.” If you don’t have access to the Internet, call the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce at 371-4862, or stop at the chamber office in downtown Norfolk, and staff members will assist you. Tickets also can be purchased in person at Insurance Associates, 1900
W. Pasewalk Ave. All tickets, except the after-hours performances, are reserved seating. Tickets to all events are also available at the door, but at 12:01 a.m. on the day of the show, the price will increase. “There’s good reason to buy tickets ahead of time — lower prices and you get to pick your seat,” said Lori Williams, executive director of the festival.
Where: Johnny Carson Theatre. Ticket prices: $15, including taxes, in advance; $20, including taxes, day of performance. Why go? Another 10 of the nation’s best up-and-coming professional comedians — as determined by auditions in cities across the United States — will take to the stage. The top four, as determined by a panel of judges, will advance to Saturday evening’s finals. Who else will perform? Like Thursday night but with different comedy routines, Ryan Hamilton, who won last year’s stand-up competition, will serve as the host, and Jake Johannsen, who performed in 2009 in Norfolk as part of the “Comics of Letterman” show, will also perform. Teen comedy show Friday, June 15, 9:30 p.m. Where: Divots Conference Center. Ticket prices: $5, including taxes. Why go? This year, the teen show will give the participants of the comedy camp the chance to show what they’ve learned. The show also will feature some of the stand-up comedians. After-Hours Comedy Club Friday, June 15, 10:30 p.m. Where: Divots Conference Center. Ticket prices: $15, including taxes, in advance; $17, including taxes, day of performance. Why go? Like the set on Thursday night, if you’re looking for edgy comedy, this is the place to unwind. The comedians in the festival competition will showcase new material. Family magic show Sunday, June 17, 5 p.m. Where: Johnny Carson Theatre. Ticket prices: $12.50 for adults and $5 for children up to the age of 12, including taxes, in advance; $15 for adults and $7.50 for children, including taxes, at the door. Why go? Dick Cavett will host a magic show featuring Johnny Thompson, Derek Hughes and Mac King.
NORFOLK DAILY NEWS, Thursday, May 31, 2012
Johnny Carson inspires generations of comedians
“We want to produce the best comedy festival in the world . . . as a way to honor Johnny.”
The Nebraska native will return after receiving the comedy legend award in 2008.
His full-time job is serving as the warm-up comic for David Letterman. On many weekends throughout the year, he’s performing at comedy clubs and festivals throughout the nation. But for the past five years, Eddie Brill has always found time for the Viaero Great American Comedy Festival. Brill came on board as the festival’s executive producer while plans for the inaugural event were still being formed. And he’s been with the festival ever since — auditioning comedians before inviting them to participate, lining up the festival’s headlining talent and working with the festival planning committee on most every detail. It’s his way of paying tribute to and honoring the legacy of the late Johnny Carson. This year, Brill traveled to more than 10 cities to conduct festival auditions over two different weeks. The goal at each audition is to find the most clever, intelligent and outstanding comedians — like the ones Johnny Carson welcomed on “The Tonight Show” stage for decades. Brill describes the festival’s comedians as “on the cusp of stardom.” This year at the festival, Brill also will help welcome audiences to the festival performances and will pose questions to Jimmie “JJ” Walker when he is presented the 2012 Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award. He knows a good comedian when he sees one. In addition to his work with David Letterman, Brill has been honored on several occasions with the prestigious MAC Award for best stand-up comedian in New York City.
JIMMIE ‘JJ’ Walker
An appearance on “The Tonight Show” led to a guest role on “Laugh In” and eventually to being named “Comedian of the Decade.”
“ ‘The Tonight Show’ is part of the reason why I’m a stand-up comic. For my generation, it was the brass ring to be on the show.”
Actor to receive comedy legend award at festival
Comedian looking forward to sharing laughs in Norfolk
When this year’s Johnny Carson Comedy Legend Award is presented at the 2012 Viaero Great American Comedy Festival in Norfolk, it would be appropriate if the reaction might be, “Dyn-o-mite!” Jimmie “JJ” Walker — who rose to fame in the 1970s and ’80s as a television actor and comedian — will be in Norfolk on Saturday, June 16, to receive the fifth annual festival award. He will join previous recipients Dick Cavett, Bill Dana, Ed Asner and Cloris Leachman. But not only will he receive the award, he’ll also take to the stage of the Johnny Carson Theatre and perform some of the stand-up comedy that helped make him famous. Rising from the streets of New York’s ghettos to television superstardom, Jimmie Walker personifies the great American success story. His catch phrase “Dyn-o-mite!” is part of the modern vernacular, and he became such a major celebrity in the 1970s that Time magazine named him “Comedian of the Decade.” At age 22, Jimmie was on stage at the African Room in Manhattan along with a few other up-andcoming talents, including Bette Midler and David Brenner. In those early days, doing “The Tonight Show” was a direct line to fame. Walker’s first guest shot was when Jack Paar still was the host. That appearance led to a guest role on “Laugh In” and even more work. Spotted by the casting director for Norman Lear of “All in the Family” fame, Walker accepted a part in Lear’s new urban-styled comedy series, “Good Times.” The role of the broadly strutting, wisecracking J.J. Evans would launch him into television superstardom. “Dyn-o-mite!” was the phrase that made him famous nationwide. When “Good Times” ended in 1979, Aaron Spelling offered Walker a starring role in the short-lived “B.A.D. Cats” and returned to cast him again in 1983 in “At Ease,” an ABC series about a bunch of U.S. Army misfits. He also landed choice roles in such films as “Airplane!” and “Airport ’79” and was a regular on television shows like “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island.”
Paula Poundstone is a comedian who was heavily influenced by Johnny Carson, and she’s excited to pay tribute to his legacy by being part of the 2012 Viaero Great American Comedy Festival. Poundstone, a resident of Santa Monica, Calif., is making the trip to Norfolk to host the performance Saturday, June 16, when the finals of the festival’s stand-up competition will take place. “I’m looking forward to it. I love telling my little jokes, and I love comedy. And I think having a comedy festival is just the best thing to do. I’m very proud to be a member of the endorphin production industry,” Poundstone said. She also has a dear place in her heart for the comedy festival’s inspiration, Johnny Carson. Poundstone said she had the honor of being a guest on “The Tonight Show” with Carson several times, and the comedy legend played a role in her decision to do stand-up. “Johnny Carson was for years and years and years the sole place to see stand-up comedy on television . . . . I started watching ‘The Tonight Show,’ and it’s part of the reason why I’m a stand-up comic. It was, for my generation of comics, it was the brass ring to be on ‘The Tonight Show,’ ” Poundstone said. The idea for the festival began with an idea posed in the fall of 2006 by Kent Warneke, editor of the Norfolk Daily News. When one of Norfolk’s long-running festivals ceased, Warneke suggested the community create a comedy festival to honor Carson. A committee was formed, and the first festival was held in June 2008. Poundstone said she’s “unbelievably busy” with TV specials, a new comedy album “I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Maine” and as a regular panelist on NPR’s hit weekly news quiz show “Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me.” “I do a lot of different things, but I am first and foremost a stand-up comic. I love talking to an audience, I just love it. . . . We are pack animals. Enjoying laughing together and having that connection, having that kind of full-circle thing is really healthy. It’s a great thing,” Poundstone said.
Dick Cavett said it wasn’t hard for Eddie Brill to talk him into returning to Norfolk. After the Nebraska native was honored at the inaugural Great American Comedy Festival in Norfolk with its Johnny Carson Comedy Legend Award in 2008, he and Eddie Brill — the festival’s executive producer — became friends. So when it was decided to have magic as the focus of this year’s family show at the festival, Brill invited Cavett to make a return trip. Not only were Cavett and Carson fellow Nebraskans, friends and individuals who worked together, they both shared a lifelong interest in magic. As a result, Cavett will serve as the host of the family magic show on Sunday, June 17, at 5 p.m. to wrap up the 2012 festival. The show will feature magicians Johnny Thompson, Mac King and Derek Hughes. Brill said he’s excited about having Cavett as part of the 2012 festival. “Dick Cavett still stands today as one of the greatest interviewers of any generation. He is a ‘Dick of all trades’ — a stand-up comic, TV host, writer for Jack Paar, Johnny Carson and many other luminaries. He was also a favorite of Groucho Marx,” Brill said. Cavett said he enjoyed his time in Norfolk in 2008 at the festival and the hospitality shown to him, but a trip to Norfolk also provides an opportunity to conduct another “ghost of the Sandhills” trip. “I’d like to get back at least once a year, but it hasn’t worked out that way,” Cavett said. Cavett said the tranquil beauty of the Sandhills is unlike any other place.
NORFOLK DAILY NEWS, Thursday, May 31, 2012
Autographs, film crew and T-shirts
For those attending performances of the 2012 Viaero Great American Comedy Festival at the Johnny Carson Theatre in Norfolk, there will be opportunities to get autographs from the 20 professional comedians competing at the festival. A special autograph and photo table will be set up in the lobby of the theater. That’s where the comedians will be available shortly after each performance ends. Colorful comedy festival banners will provide an appropriate backdrop for photos. Official comedy festival Tshirts also will be available for the first time since the festival began in 2008. Emblazoned with the festival logo on the front and a special artistic creation on the back, the T-shirts will be available for sale for $15 before and after festival performances in the theater lobby. A film crew from RFD TV also will be on hand to film this year’s festival. The cable television channel will be producing a documentary on the festival to air later this summer.
Who helped make festival possible
Viaero Wireless is again serving as the title sponsor of this year’s comedy festival in Norfolk. It’s the third year of its partnership with the festival. “We’re very pleased to be able to continue to work with Viaero,” said Kent Warneke, festival chairman. “In addition to Viaero, we’re grateful to those companies and individuals who have financially supported the festival this year. It wouldn’t be possible without them.” Also playing an instrumental role is Lori Williams, who serves as the festival’s executive director; and executive committee members Paula Pflueger, Kathy Jedlicka, Dennis Collins, Sarah Pinkelman and Jared Stiek. Eddie Brill serves as the festival’s executive producer, and Rik Cannon of St. Louis is the festival’s producer. Cannon is an award-winning producer who has been the producer of CBS local affiliate television specials in St. Louis and special programs for channels like HGTV. Other members of the festival’s planning committee are Ruthie Galitz, LuAnn Schindler, Michael and Stephanie Brogan, Lonn Atwood, Linda Libengood, Deb Potts, Donna Herrick, Anne Ausdemore, Jim Curry, Eric McKay, Susan Staub, Pam Carlson and Melinda Kozel.
Half-marathon, airfest among events planned
The 2012 Viaero Great American Comedy Festival will be more than just evening performances at the Johnny Carson Theatre and Divots. Here’s a look at what’s planned:
The Carson Connection
Festival honors Norfolk’s late-night legend If there ever were any questions about how family members of Johnny Carson felt about the efforts in Norfolk to stage an annual festival to honor his comedic legacy, there aren’t now. In 2010, Johnny’s younger brother, Dick, was on hand with his wife, Karlyn, to accept a lifetime achievement award at the festival. Several other Carson family members have shared complimentary words about the festival, too. Last year, the festival’s comedy legend award was officially renamed — with Carson family permission — the Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award. And this year, there’s an even more tangible show of support and endorsement. Earlier this year, the John W. Carson Foundation made a $1 million donation to the Nebraska Cultural Endowment to promote the arts throughout the state. Foundation representatives, including Jeff Sotzing, Johnny’s nephew, stipulated that at least part of the annual interest earnings from the donation be earmarked to support the Viaero Great American Comedy Festival in Norfolk. “You’ve proven yourselves. We want to do something to help the festival,” Sotzing said during a visit to Norfolk last December.
The festival was first held in 2008 to honor the legacy of one of America’s greatest comedians ever — as well as to rememb with gratitude the fondness Carson had for the community he called home. Longtime Norfolkans are well aware of the connection between this Northeast Nebraska community and Johnny and Dick Carson, but newcomers and visitors might appreciate a brief history lesson. Although the brothers were born in Iowa, Homer “Kit” and Ruth Carson moved the family to Norfolk in 1933 when Johnny Carson was 8 years old. Six years later, Carson began his life as an entertainer, doing magic shows for organizations, clubs and birthday parties. He first took to the stage at what is now Norfolk Junior High School and was billed as “The Great Carsoni.” In 1943, he graduated from Norfolk High School and that same year, he was hired by Orson Welles to be his assistant for a magic show. Carson served in the U.S. Navy until 1945. After his military service, Carson attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in speech and drama in 1949. He worked part time at radio station
KFAB while in college. He worked in Los Angeles and New York City on television shows for several years before, in 1962, he took over hosting “The Tonight Show” after Jack Paar retired. He’d remain forever associated with the show, hosting it until retiring in 1992. In 1981, Carson returned to Norfolk to tape “Johnny Goes Home,” a documentary on his life, and to celebrate his 56th birthday. After Carson’s death on Jan. 23, 2005, Norfolkans and area residents turned out in droves to attend a special tribute to him. And this month, a two-hour American Masters television special on PBS chronicled Carson’s life and career, putting him once again in the forefront of Americans across the nation who fondly remember watching Carson nightly on NBC. His talent and career were hailed by many, but two quotes echo the sentiment of many: “No single individual has had as great an impact on television as Johnny. He was the gold standard,” said Jay Leno, Carson’s successor on “The Tonight Show.” And David Letterman, a longtime friend of Carson’s, said, “All of us who came after are pretenders. We will not see the likes of him again.”
Behind the scenes look A guest at this summer’s comedy festival will be Dave Berg, a writerproducer from Valencia, Calif., and a longtime producer of “The Tonight Show.” Berg, who is writing a book about “The Tonight Show,” worked for 18 years as a producer on that show and “The Jay Leno Show.” He also has worked for NBC News and “The O’Reilly Factor.” Berg will be the featured guest at a free question-and-answer session on Saturday, June 16, at 2 p.m. at the Norfolk Arts Center, where he will share his experiences with “The Tonight Show” and give audience members a glimpse of what it’s like behind the scenes at a late-night television show. Comedy camp From Wednesday through Friday, June 13-15, a comedy camp for high school students will be at Northeast Community College. Instructors will be Megan Grano from Second City in Los Angeles, as well as LuAnn Schindler and Julie Harley, both longtime speech instructors at high schools in Northeast Nebraska. A special appearance will be made by Eddie Brill, the festival’s executive director and the warm-up comic for David Letterman The students will be instructed in the art of sketch writing and improv comedy along with a special focus on high school speech events that had a humorous element, such as duet acting, humorous prose, entertainment and original interpretation of drama. They’ll have a chance to show what they’ve learned at a teen show set for Friday, June 15, at 9:30 p.m. at Divots. Tickets are $5. Downtown barbecue If you’re interested in a tasty meal and a chance to mingle with some of the comedians, plan on attending a free community barbecue at noon until 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 16. It will be at J’s Steakhouse and Wine Bar outdoor patio, and downtown merchants are also planning other activities. Norfolk Airfest The Norfolk Regional Airport will be the focal point for the weekend Norfolk Airfest and state fly-in. Activities are planned involving aerobatics, stunts, hot air balloons and more. For more information, go to www.nebraskaairfest.com. Laugh and a Half Marathon Saturday morning will see Norfolk High School as the focal point of a half-marathon — and other runs — planned by US92 and 94 Rock. Participants will make several laps of the course laid out near downtown Norfolk and elsewhere. Carson video tribute The Elkhorn Valley Museum & Research Center will be showing during its normal hours of operation a special 19-minute video tribute to Johnny Carson. The tribute features David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno and others. It has only been shown in public once before — at the recent dedication of the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Who ARE THESE GUYS?
NORFOLK DAILY NEWS, Thursday, May 31, 2012
Gary Petersen, Boston His unique brand of comedy draws in crowds, guiding them through the ridiculousness of life, highlighting the humor in ordinary situations and imagining even funnier ones.
Here’s a snapshot of the 20 stand-up comedians
Johnny Beehner, Waukesha, Wis. Bringing his stories of an awkward childhood, awkward romances and awkward Taco Bell encounters, the former Omahan can be heard on Sirius XM satellite radio and the syndicated “Bob and Tom” radio show.
Ben Bizuneh, Bloomington, Ind. A young comic from the Midwest, he got his start at the Comedy Attic in Bloomington and has since worked with comedians such as John Roy, Kyle Grooms and Ryan Stout. Janine Brito, San Francisco Called “one of San Francisco’s more daring voices,” she is the recipient of Rooftop Comedy’s 2010 Silver Nail Award and was named the 2011 “Best Comedian with a Message” by the East Bay Express. Ryan Dalton, Cleveland A regular on the syndicated “Bob and Tom” radio show,” Dalton can be heard on Sirius XM’s “RawDog” comedy channel. Ryan made his TV debut on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham.” Brian Hocker, Denver Hocker has opened for the likes of Craig Robinson, Eddie Brill and Bill Burr. He offers a unique view on relationships with his quick-witted, fast-paced style of comedy. Tom Keller, Raleigh, N.C. Winner of the Carolina’s Funniest Comic competition in 2010, he has been a featured performer at the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival, the Laugh Your Asheville Off Festival, the Laugh Detroit Comedy Festival, the Charleston Comedy Festival and the Laughing Skull Festival in Atlanta. Pete Lee, New York City He has appeared on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” on a half-hour Comedy Central special and on the hit FUSE TV show “Video on Trial.” In Nebraska, however, he’s best known for running on a treadmill for four hours on the “Todd and Tyler” radio show. Kevin McCaffrey, New York City He has been a contributing writer for “The Late Show” with David Letterman, and he can be seen each week on truTV Presents: World’s Dumbest providing insightful commentary.
Comedians auditioned across the country Every winter for the past five years, Eddie Brill has piled up the frequent flyer miles. The executive producer of the Viaero Great American Comedy Festival spends about two weeks each year to audition comedians from across the nation to decide who to invite to the upcoming festival. This year, he found himself in Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Austin, Texas, and Atlanta. He made trips to Washington, D.C., Raleigh, N.C., Indianapolis, Seattle, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco. He conducted auditions in New York City, too. At each stop, the goal is the same — to find stand-up come-
dians “on the cusp of stardom” who would relish the chance to perform at a festival created to honor the legacy of Johnny Carson. They have the chance to be heard and seen by the likes of Brill and the panel of judges that he assembles each year for the festival — talent agents or comedy club owners. They like being part of a festival that, while only five years old, has gained a favorable reputation in the world of comedy. They like the opportunity to learn more about the late Johnny Carson, and they even like the idea of spending a few days in a rural community in Northeast Nebraska.
They also don’t mind the idea of possible winning the festival stand-up competition and the prize money that comes with it. The 20 comedians selected for this year’s festival will take to the stage on Thursday, June 14, and Friday, June 15, at 7 p.m. at the Johnny Carson Theatre. Ten comedians will perform each night. Judges will select the top four from each preliminary performance and they’ll advance to the stand-up finals on Saturday, June 16, at 7 p.m. at the Carson theater. The comedians also will perform at the late-night comedy performances Thursday and Friday at 10:30 p.m. at Divots.
Amber Preston, Minneapolis Recently named one of “5 Comedians to Watch” in New York Magazine, her saucy, mischievous charm captivates diehard and casual comedy fans alike. Denise Ramsden, Chicago She has been a guest on the “Bob and Tom” syndicated radio show as well as their TV show. In 2011, she was invited to perform at Laugh Fest in Grand Rapids, Mich., and was a finalist in the World Series of Comedy in Las Vegas. Andrew Sleighter, Los Angeles You can see him regularly on the new MTV series “Money From Strangers.” Andrew most recently wrote and blogged for “Sports Show” with Norm Macdonald on Comedy Central. Owen Smith, New York City He’s appeared on the Chris Rock hit “Everybody Hates Chris” and the TBS series “Glory Days.” This year, Owen added two new titles to his belt: Writer/producer for the new hit TBS series, “Are We There Yet?” Harry Terjanian, New York City He started his career at 18, doing stand-up in the comedy clubs of New York City, developing a smart yet intensely funny perspective fueled by everything from social conscience to personal struggles. He has appeared regularly on Sirius radio and on MTV. Amber Tozer, New York City She is a writer for Laughspin.com and is developing an animated series. Tozer co-created #nitTWITS, a web series based on funny tweets. Dave Waite, Ludlow, Ky. A darkly-funny everyman whose shows are nonstop fun, Dave Waite has captured the hearts of comedy fans everywhere. Dave’s swagger, his honesty, and his endless supply of bizarre catch phrases have earned him a reputation as a comic’s comic with broad crossover appeal. He currently lives in New York City but regularly tours comedy clubs and universities around the country.
Stephanie McHugh, Denver A single mom of two whose wit and charm have made her a regular at the prestigious Comedy Works in her hometown of Denver.
Reese Waters, Brooklyn One of New York Magazine’s Ten Comedians To Watch, he has gone from nightly co-hosting “The Daily Line” on what is now NBC Sports to back-to-back appearances on “The Late Late Show” with Craig Ferguson and “The Late Show” with David Letterman.
Andrew Orvedahl, Denver He has been featured on Comedy Central’s website and Sirius XM radio, and he has performed at the Aspen and Seattle comedy festivals.
Sasheer Zamata, New York City She is a regular performer at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and performs at colleges and clubs around the city.
NORFOLK DAILY NEWS, Thursday, May 31, 2012
Jake Johannsen He has appeared on “The Late Show” with David Letterman more than 40 times. After witnessing Robin Williams’ meteoric rise to comedic fame on TV in the 1970s, Jake Johannsen formed a skewed perception of a successful comedian. The Iowa native’s dreams drew him to San Francisco in his early 20s after reading that Williams got his start in a comedy club there. “I think what I thought I was going to do was go to San Francisco, go on stage a few times, get some laughs and be in a TV show, and I would become a superstar,” Johannsen said. Johannsen said he made his living as a waiter and did stand-up shows at night. Now one of the top performers in stand-up, Johannsen has appeared on “The Late Show” with David Letterman more than 40 times, and his HBO special was named one of TV Guide’s “50 Funniest Moments on Television.” He appeared on “The Tonight Show” more than 10 times. He’s scheduled to close out the Thursday, June 14, and Friday, June 15, shows of the Viaero Great American Comedy Festival. Although his audiences have included the president of the United States and members of Congress, Johannsen insists the highlight of his career was the day he quit his day job. “I realized that I could make a living as a comedian and my restaurant job realized I didn’t have enough time to work another shift,” he said. “So at the same time I was asking to be excused, they were asking me to leave.”
Call them amateurs if you like, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t funny. The 12 individuals scheduled to perform Wednesday, June 13, at 7 p.m. at the Johnny Carson Theatre in the finals of the 2012 Viaero Great American Comedy Festival’s amateur competition have already proven that. They advanced from preliminary competitions that took place earlier this year in Norfolk, West Point, O’Neill and Denver. That means audience members voted them their favorites because of how funny they were on stage.
Stephen Agyei, Denver Miles Busby, Omaha Leif Cedar, Denver Sean David, Denver Stephanie Hillier, Omaha Mike Maxwell, Chicago
This year’s performance will be hosted by Sam Adams of Denver, who won the amateur competition at the Norfolk festival in 2009 and also advanced to win second place in the professional compeAdams tition. Since then, he’s immersed himself full time into the world of comedy, and has made several return appearances in Nebraska.
Who ARE THESE GUYS? Here’s a look at the 12 amateur comedians
Audience members have a key role in the amateur competition finals because it will be their votes that determine the winner, who receives a trophy, a $500 prize and a consultation with Eddie Brill, the festival’s executive producer and warm-up comic for David Letterman. In addition to audience members determining — through their votes — who wins the amateur title, those who also want to tell a joke will have the opportunity to do so. In addition to hosting the show, Adams will perform while the audience votes are being tabulated.
Vinnie Montez, Boulder, Colo. Tom Sims, Omaha Chris Tyler, Colorado Springs Garrett Waller, Denver Will White, Denver Steve Young, Evergreen, Colo.
Headlining the 2012 Viaero Great American Comedy Festival’s family show this year will be three magicians who are regular entertainers in Las Vegas and across the nation. As part of the festival, Dick Cavett will host the magic show on Sunday, June 17, at 5 p.m. at the Johnny Carson Theatre.
a Masters Fellowship with the Academy of Magical Arts.
He is currently starring in the long running Mac King Comedy Magic Show at Harrah’s Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas.
Johnny Thompson is a Las Vegas illusionist who performs under the stage name The Great Tomsoni with his wife, Pamela Hayes. They have a comedic slapstick act with the well-dressed Thompson and his gum-popping assistant, Pam, performing illusions while enduring a series of mishaps. Within the magician community, Tomsoni is widely known as a mentor and teacher of magic, and a creator of tricks, as opposed to simply a performer. He has worked behind the scenes with magicians such as Penn and Teller, Lance Burton and Criss Angel. In 1999, he was awarded one of the highest honors in the magician community,
Mac King has been touted by Magic Magazine as the premier comedy magician in the world today. He was recently named “Magician of the Year” by the Magic Castle in Hollywood, just appeared on his seventh TV special for NBC and has appeared on “The Late Show” with David Letterman.
Derek Hughes grew up in Minnesota and studied acting at the University of Minnesota. In 1997, Hughes and his collaborator were awarded first place in Stage Magic by the International Brotherhood of Magicians for their performance “Express Train.” He has performed at the Aspen, Colo., Comedy Festival and has an extensive theater résumé and travels the country performing his magic. He also works in Hollywood as an actor in both film and television.
Ryan Hamilton “A lot of doors have been opened for me” after being crowned as champion last year. Comedian Ryan Hamilton believes Norfolk hits closer to home. Hamilton — the 2011 Viaero Great American Comedy Festival professional stand-up champion — was raised in a small potato farming community in Idaho. So when he arrived in Johnny Carson’s hometown last summer, Hamilton was pleasantly surprised. “I appreciated being in Norfolk because it was such a unique location in that it wasn’t a New York or L.A.,” Hamilton said. “I grew up in a town of 1,000 people so I was comfortable in Norfolk because it felt like home.” Hamilton will be returning to that comfort Thursday and Friday, June 14 and 15, to host a portion of this year’s comedy festival. “The festival’s audiences are very generous and make it a lot of fun for those who are involved,” Hamilton said. Hamilton knows the benefits that can come from participating in the event. “Because of the recognition, a lot of doors have been opened for me,” he said. “Some of the doors I was aware of, and some of the doors I wasn’t aware of. Positive words definitely travel around about the festival.” Hamilton will host the preliminary rounds of the standup competition on Thursday and Friday of the festival, performing some of his comedy material. Then he’ll have the important job of announcing who will advance to the finals of the stand-up competition on Saturday, June 16.
NORFOLK DAILY NEWS, Thursday, May 31, 2012
The following companies, individuals, organizations and agencies provided valuable financial and in-kind support to the 2012 Viaero Great American Comedy Festival in Norfolk. Without their help, the festival would not have been possible. Thanks to all those who contributed. Their support is truly appreciated.
Title sponsor: Viaero Wireless Champions of Comedy ($5,000 or more donation) Affiliated Foods Midwest Advance Services Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau Nucor – Vulcraft Group, Bar Mill Group, Cold Finish Group, Nucor Detailing Center TransCanada
Punch Line Patron ($1,000 or more donation)
Boisterous Backer ($2,500 or more donation) Faith Regional Health Services Nebraska Department of Travel & Tourism Nebraska Humanities Council Norfolk Iron & Metal Supertel Hospitality, Inc.
Duane and Phyllis Acklie Appeara BankFirst Cornhusker Auto The Day Companies Divots Conference Center – Donna Herrick Edward Jones – Paula Pflueger
Elkhorn Valley Bank Henn House Dairy Insurance Associates J’s Steakhouse & Wine Bar Lutt Trucking US92 and 94 Rock Kent and Susan Warneke Tom and Gwen Weihe Western Office Technologies
Knee Slapping Sponsor ($500 or more donation) Allied Securities Clayton Andrews Beckenhauer Construction Jim Bradford Jr. Brogan & Stafford P.C. CenturyLink Connecting Point Computer Center Copple, Rockey, McKeever & Schlect P.C.
Custom Heating Air Conditioning & Sheet Metal Dinkel Implement Downtown Coffee Company/DEG Doug and Ginge Dudley Employment Works Flooring Solutions Frontier Bank
Gaines & Associates GV Kustom Kitchens Jewell and Collins Langan Dental Health Center, PC Louis Dreyfus Commodities Love Signs Marathon Press Earl and Marilyn Mitchell
Model Electric Nebraska Harvestore Bob Pollack and Diane Brennan Sterling Computers US Bank Wattier’s Auto Body Wells Fargo Wetzel & Truex Jewelers
Comedy Lover ($250 or more donation) Dr. Gordon and Gloria Adams Canham Maytag Dover Realtors Edward Jones – Steve Flaherty Joe and Bev Ferguson
Hemmer & Langholz CPA’s P.C. Mike and Kathy Jedlicka Dr. Bradley J. Krivohlavek DDS McIntosh Enterprises J.E. Meuret Grain
MP Global Products Mike Nolan Northeast Nebraska Federal Credit Union Jack Sobotka
U-Save Pharmacy US92 and 94 Rock Wacker Home Improvement Wal-Mart Women’s Health of Northeast Nebraska
Comic’s Relief (Other donation amount) Authier, Miller, Pape Eye Care Consultants Barnstormers Blackburn Manufacturing
Media sponsors CableOne Media Production Group LLC Norfolk Daily News RFD TV US92 and 94 Rock WJAG, 106 KIX and Lite Rock 97.5
Citizens National Bank Jim and Julie Curry First National Bank
Hofmann Plumbing Lloyd’s Drug Mart Madison County Bank
Jerry Peterson Power Computing Tielke Enterprise
With special thanks to (for in-kind donations or other assistance) Bailey’s Bistro Don Brenden - QBS Copycraft Deets HomeStore Divots Downtown Norfolk Association Downtown Norfolk Vehicle Parking District Elkhorn Valley Museum
Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce Norfolk Arts Center Norfolk Country Inn & Suites Norfolk Public Schools Northeast Community College Subway/Rosberg Management Time Square Event Center Bruce and Connie Zimmerman
NORFOLK DAILY NEWS, Thursday, May 31, 2012