LaughFest names headliners


Gilda’s LaughFest 2013 resulted in 20,000 additional visits to Grand Rapids and generated $4 million in spending in the city. Photo via

A late-night comedy icon is one of the headliners LaughFest named this morning for its fourth-annual festival of laughter.


Jay Leno, Lily Tomlin and Chris Tucker are just a few of the comedians who will visit Grand Rapids in March for Gilda’s LaughFest.

The “first-round” lineup for the March 6-16 comedy festival was announced this morning during a public reception at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

Leno will serve as the Signature Event headliner, performing at DeVos Place on March 12.

Tomlin brings her one-woman show to the festival, thanks to a partnership with Broadway Grand Rapids, and will perform on March 10 at DeVos Performance Hall.

Tucker will take the stage at Grand Rapids Community College’s Ford Fieldhouse on March 14.

Returning for LaughFest 2014 are Sinbad, on March 16 at Fountain Street Church, and Jim Gaffigan, on March 7 at GRCC’s Ford Fieldhouse. Both will be performing brand-new material.

LaughFest 2014 will include more than 200 free and ticketed shows, which feature more than 60 artists at more than 40 venues in Grand Rapids, Lowell and Holland.

LaughFest has been a significant fundraiser for Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, with proceeds from the festival going towards the organizations free cancer, grief and emotional health programs.

First-round lineup

In addition to the headliners, LaughFest named several comedians who will come to the stage next spring: Netflix’s “Arrested Development” Maria Bamford; YouTube sensation Miranda Sings, with special guest Colleen Ballinger; comedy trio Todd Barry, Rory Scovel and Nick Thune and stars of TruTV’s “Impractical Jokers,” The Tenderloins, made up of Sal Vulcano, Joe Gatto, James Murray and Brian Quinn.

LaughFest officials also announced the Gun Lake Casino Presents National Stand-Up Comedy Showcase, which features two showcases with 10 comics: Cameron Esposito, Aparna Nancherla, Johnny Pemberton, Baron Vaughn, Joe Zimmerman, Tone Bell, Kurt Braunohler, Carmen Lynch, Barry Rothbart and Hampton Yount.

Ten comedians will also be featured in the Best of the Midwest Competition, duking it out for a cash prize of $2,500.

Once again, the festival will include a Clean Comedy Showcase, the Family Friendly Series, The Blue and Late Night Comedy Series and LaughFest’s Best, which features late-night shows with a sampling of comedians from across the festival.

Additional talent announcements and details will be provided closer to the festival.

High Five campaign

This year will also see the return of the High Five fundraising campaign.

“Last year, we saw phenomenal success with our High Five campaign,” said Wendy Wigger, president of Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids and LaughFest. “This year, a stellar group of local companies has generously given us another matching grant for this campaign.”

Wigger said LaughFest’s goal is to secure $50,000 worth of five-dollar gifts from the community, and then the High Five companies will match each gift, up to $50,000 worth.

The money generated from the campaign will directly benefit the club’s children’s programs.

The companies providing the matching grant funds are Terryberry, Feyen Zylstra, Pioneer Construction, Eenhoorn and American International Foods.

The High Five campaign is already underway, with many of the people at this morning’s reception making their $5 donations.

Economic impact

LaughFest was first held in 2011 and quickly became a Grand Rapids showcase event, putting the city on the map as a comedy destination.

“The impact that LaughFest has made on our community in just three years is truly amazing,” said Janet Korn, Experience Grand Rapids vice president of marketing.

Korn said the festival “brings lots of people to West Michigan — even in the middle of March,” with tickets purchased from 33 different states and Canada and an average of 55,000 attendees every year.

Korn added that an economic impact study conducted last year by Grand Valley State University found that LaughFest 2013 resulted in 20,000 additional visits to Grand Rapids and generated $4 million in spending in the city.

“It also helps put us on the map, because it’s truly a distinct event,” Korn said. “This festival is good for our economy, it’s good for our local businesses, other nonprofits and, importantly, it’s good for Gilda’s.”


Festival ticket packages range from $60-$175 and will be available beginning Nov. 15 at 9 a.m. at or by phone at 616-735-HAHA (4242).

Individual tickets are priced at $7-$60, excluding the Signature Event. Individual tickets can be purchased beginning Jan. 10 at the Van Andel Arena Box Office or at Ticketmaster outlets through the closing day of the festival.

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