Lucille Ball Comedy Festival Goes Virtual
Further proof that laughter is the best telemedicine
"Lucy! I'm home!" As was so often the case with Ricky Ricardo during the seven-season run of I Love Lucy, so too is it with actress and comedian Lucille Ball's admirers nearly 70 years later. We're home, but we didn't just get here — we've been here for the better part of five agonizing months.
While comedy can't cure COVID-19, it can help alleviate many of our angst-related aches and pains. To that end, the National Comedy Center in Ball's historic hometown of Jamestown, N.Y. has prescribed us a three-weekend dose of laugh therapy in the form of the first-ever Virtual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival. Laughter is the best telemedicine, and this lineup of live-streamed conversations with over 30 comedic artists should not be hard to swallow during a year marked by such hardship.
Interviewees spanning the worlds of stand-up, theater, television, and film will talk about their current work, look back at their careers, celebrate their influences, and share insights about the craft and art of comedy. Their interviewers, by the way, are often pretty accomplished in their own right — for example, Jimmy Fallon (The Tonight Show) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) interviewing "Weird Al" Yankovic or Lewis Black interviewing political satirist Mark Russell. Therefore, matching wits with these comedic titans should not be an issue, resulting in some genuinely hilarious and fascinating conversations.
Each hour-long program will debut simultaneously on the National Comedy Center's online streaming platform (National Comedy Center Anywhere), on their website, and on Facebook Live. Following each premiere, the interviews will remain accessible free and on-demand on National Comedy Center Anywhere.
Now, without further ado, here's the lineup:
- Late-night host Jay Leno's conversation with Stephen J. Morrison, the executive producer of exhibit media at the National Comedy Center
- Daily Show correspondent Roy Wood Jr.'s conversation with comedian Wayne Federman
- Stand-up comedian, actress, fashion designer, and author Margaret Cho's conversation with comedian Judy Gold on comedy's role in social justice and equality
- Stand-up comedian and Saturday Night Live writer Sam Jay's conversation on creative process and recent Netflix specials with comedian Harrison Greenbaum
- Greenbaum's group discussion with former members of the Mad Magazine creative team (editor-in-chief John Ficcara, senior editor Joe Raiola, and art director Sam Viviano) on the subjects of the comedy as a print medium, and their transition to a digital magazine
DEBUTING THIS WEEKEND
Friday, Aug. 21
- 8 p.m. Comedian Bill Engvall discusses finding his voice and the Blue Collar Comedy Tour with Rutledge Wood, host of the Netflix gameshow Floor Is Lava.
- 9 p.m. Comedian, host, and producer Howie Mandel chats with Greenbaum about his career and his "say yes" approach to opportunities.
- 10 p.m. Stand-up comedian, actress, and writer Dulcé Sloan talks about her career and the importance of Black artistry with former collaborator Charles McBee.
Saturday, Aug. 22
- 8 p.m. African-American actress, comedian, author, and Emmy Award winner Tiffany Haddish discusses her work and process with "comedian that happens to be transgender" Flame Monroe
- 9 p.m. All-time longest-tenured SNL cast member Kenan Thompson joins Morrison in a talk about comedy
- 10 p.m. Previous interviewer Judy Gold becomes comedian/author Frank DeCaro's interviewee, as the stand-up comedian and two-time Daytime Emmy winner (writer/producer for The Rosie O'Donnell Show) addresses the craft and importance of comedy during these stressful times.
Saturday, Aug. 23
- 8 p.m. Original SNL writer Alan Zweibel discusses his nearly five decades of comedy writing, along with his new memoir, Laugh Lines: My Life Helping Funny People Be Funnier. His interviewer? None other than the daughter of the legendary George Carlin, Kelly Carlin — herself a writer, producer, actress, and radio host
DEBUTING NEXT WEEKEND
Friday, Aug. 28
- 8 p.m. One of the all-time greats of political satire in Mark Russell meets one of today's finest in the same arena in Lewis Black. Along with an interview on Russell's career and legacy, a musical parody of current events will ensue.
- 9 p.m. Actress, comedian, and SNL cast member Aidy Bryant and her Shrill co-star Lolly Adefope chat with comedian, actress and SNL writer Anna Drezen
- 10 p.m. The always dulcet-toned Gilbert Gottfried speaks with Greenbaum about his unique voice, using crude humor, and the art of telling a joke. With special guest Penn Jilette, one half of the esteemed comedy-magician duo Penn and Teller.
Saturday. Aug. 29
- 8 p.m. Musical parodist extraordinaire "Weird Al" Yankovic joins Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon and composer, lyricist, producer, playwright, and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) to pick his brain about his creative process and influences.
- 9 p.m. Kate Flannery, known to most as Meredith Palmer from The Office, reflects on her career and the beloved sitcom, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Comedian and NPR host Ophira Eisenberg guides.
Sunday, Aug. 30
- 8 p.m. A posthumous long-form interview with comedy legend and founding National Comedy Center board member Carl Reiner, featuring previously unreleased archival footage. Comedian Paula Poundstone and producer Morrison comment and curate.
That should be more than enough to tide us over until the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival returns in the flesh for its 30th anniversary Aug. 4-8, 2021, with headliner Jeff Foxworthy and "Legends of SNL" David Spade, Kevin Nealon, and Rob Schneider.
We can't just laugh this pandemic off, but we can certainly approach next year in better spirits.
Matt Swanseger can be reached at email@example.com