Comedy festival headliners announced

April 4, 2018 GMT

Two comedians with a combined stage experience of several decades will grace the stage of the 11th annual Great American Comedy Festival in Norfolk in June.

The festival is set for Thursday through Saturday, June 14-16, at the Johnny Carson Theatre in Norfolk with shows at 7 p.m.

Serving as the headliner for the festival’s Saturday Gala will be Joel McHale, while comedian/impressionist Rich Little will precede him on the stage as the Friday evening headliner. Both of those performances also will feature professional stand-up comedians from around the country.

The festival’s magic show for the entire family kicks off the festival Thursday evening. There also will be an adults-only Late Show Friday at Divots featuring the comedians who will also perform Friday and Saturday evening at the Johnny Carson Theatre.

The 2018 festival is presented by Nucor Vulcraft Nebraska, Cold Finish Nebraska, Nucor Steel Nebraska, and Nucor Detailing Center.

Joel McHale is best known for his role on the TV comedy series “Community,” where he played fast-talking lawyer Jeff Winger who was forced to return to college when his law degree was revoked. The show aired on NBC for five seasons and one season on Yahoo.

He is currently starring in a weekly Netflix show, “The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale.” In 2015, McHale wrapped the 12th and final season of E!s “The Soup,” a satirical look at pop culture and current events.

Rich Little is described as a master mimic of more than 200 voices, including Johnny Carson. He has perfected the voices of numerous U.S. presidents and has made countless appearances on network talk/variety shows. He was the guest host on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” 12 times.

Some of his favorite current impressions are of stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jack Nicholson and Clint Eastwood.

The Great American Comedy Festival was created in 2008 to pay tribute to the Johnny Carson’s legacy. Festival organizers said they believe the Little-McHale headliner combination will be enjoyed by a wide spectrum of comedy lovers.

“Both comedians bring a long history of comedic brilliance to our Johnny Carson Theatre stage,” said Lisa Wattier, 2018 festival chairperson. “Netflix, NBC and E! fans are very familiar with the works of Joel McHale while Rich Little has entertained for decades on many different network talk/variety shows.”

Talent bookers for this year’s festival are Austen Hagood and Chase Pflueger.

“They have devoted countless hours to their pursuit of quality talent for this year’s festival. We are thrilled with the results of that hard work and know that the talent they have lined up will make for three evenings of great entertainment,” said festival co-chair Becky Wacker.

The annual Great American Comedy Festival began in 2008 when Norfolk’s annual fall festival, LaVitsef, was discontinued. The festival was the brainchild of Kent Warneke, editor of the Norfolk Daily News. He served on the festival’s board of directors since its beginning through last year.

Another key contributor for many years was Lori Williams, who served as the festival’s volunteer executive director. She also stepped down from her position last year after the conclusion of the festival’s 10th year.

“Both Kent and Lori led the festival to new heights,” Wattier said. “What started as a small, local event has evolved in to a festival with a stellar reputation throughout the comedy industry. The comedians we have brought in over the years are second to none and many are thrilled when we ask them to return.”

Wacker said the comedy festival is no longer a competition as it was for the first nine festivals.

“The talent was so outstanding it was nearly impossible for our judges to determine the best, so we have abandoned the competition format. Now, each featured comedian will perform his or her timed sketch without the pressure of a competition,” she said.

The festival’s board is currently led by Wattier, Wacker, treasurer Linda Libengood and secretary Jean Hopkins.

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Want to learn more?

For more information or to buy tickets, visit greatamericancomedyfestival.com.