This week I was out in Norfolk, NE for The Great American Comedy Festival. The festival ran Tuesday thru Sunday and there was a comedy competition featuring 24 comics from all over the country, a youth comedy camp, and closing nite gala show where Dick Cavett received The Legend Award. There was also some big prize money up for grabs!
Norfolk was the childhood home of Johnny Carson and he was apparently very kind to the town and all its people throughout his life. The majority of the shows took place in the beautiful, state-of-the-art Johnny Carson Theatre. The theatre seats 1,234 and I don’t think there was one show the whole week where there weren’t at least 700 – 800 people in attendance. Turnout was great.
The whole festival was put together by a crew of volunteers in Nebraska in coordination with Eddie Brill, the booker for Letterman — who hand picked all the comics participating in the contest portion of the festival. I’m going to attempt to list the names of all the comics that were there: Tapan Trevedi, Chuck Bartell, Dan Boulger, Matt Braunger, Chris Coccia, Joe Derosa, Deacon Gray, ME, Jesse Joyce, Myq Kaplan, Joe Klocek, Darryl Lenox, Jamie Lissow, Robert Mac, Vince Maranto, Shane Mauss, Jim McDonald, David Powell, Micah Sherman, Marianne Sierk, James Smith, Paul Varghese, Drake Witham, and Roy Wood, Jr. Also performing/hosting were Jeff Caldwell, Nick Griffin and Eddie Brill.
Think I got everyone…
All 24 of the comics flew into Omaha on Tuesday. And once all the flights were in, we hopped a bus to Norfolk, The first nite most of us just settled in and watched the Celtics kick Laker butt. On Wednesday morning, we had a field trip to the Johnny Carson Museum. On Thursday there was a trip to this place where you could see fossils and stuff — I didn’t go on that trip but I heard it was cool. And on Friday we had a trip to a ranch where we ate well, bottle fed calves and took a hayride through fields where marijuana grew in stalks! Word.
Because the purpose of the festival was to honor the legacy of Johnny Carson all material had to be TV clean and “family-friendly.” Really cuts down on the material that you have to choose from. It was definitely a challenge. There were four semifinal rounds with six comics each. Two from each semi advanced to the finals. And the top three finishers earned cash prizes. My semifinal was on Thursday. I had a pretty good 8-minute set and advanced to the finals.
The finals on Friday were judged by Robert Klein, Dick Cavett, and Wende Curtis (owner of Denver’s Comedy Works) and hosted by Eddie Brill. It was pretty nerve racking being brought out by the guy who books Letterman only to see Robert Klein and Dick Cavett in the front row with judging sheets in front of them. But I had another good set and felt pretty good about it when I got off stage. When the winners were announced later that evening, I ended up taking second place — HOORAY!!!