Celebrating its ninth year, the nation’s first-ever community-wide festival of laughter, Gilda’s LaughFest returns to Grand Rapids this month with a stellar line-up of talent and shows from March 7-17.
Headliners announced include Brian Regan, performing during Gilda’s LaughFest Signature Event; Ed Asner; Ali Wong; Loni Love; Brad Upton; Jo Koy; Nate Bargatze; and Matt Bellassai. In addition to headliners, LaughFest officials also announced artists performing during the Best of the Midwest competition, the National Stand-up Comedy Showcase, and the Clean Comedy Showcase.
Other shows announced include Pop Scholars, River City Improv, LaughFest’s Best and the Rockin’ Homegrown Jam, and some of Michigan’s best comedians.
This year’s Signature Event will be held Tuesday, March 12 at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, features Regan, an award-winning, touring stand-up comedian. Regan’s 30-year career has included theater tours; seven hour-long comedy releases, an appearance on “Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” “The David Letterman Show” and even made a cameo in Chris Rock’s film, “Top Five.”
Ed Asner will perform, “A Man and His Prostate” on Sunday, March 10, at Wealthy Theatre. Known for his presence in television, film and stage, Asner has appeared in roles on “The Mary Tylor Moore show,” “The Outer Limits,” “Gunsmoke,” “The Wild Wild West,” “Mission Impossible,” and more. “A Man and His Prostate” was created and written by award-winning Ed Weinberger, and is based on his true life experience while vacationing in Italy and being rushed to a hospital for prostate cancer surgery.
Ali Wong, of Los Angeles, will perform at DeVos Performance Hall. Wong has appeared on her own Netflix Stand-Up Specials “Baby Cobra” and “Hard Knock Wife.” Currently, her movie “Always Be My Maybe,” is set to debut on Netflix next year. Wong will take the stage Sunday, March 17.
Loni Love is returning after her previously sold out LaughFest shows in 2013. Love is known for her stand-up and movie roles. Recently, Love starred in the film “Mothers Day.” Love currently co-hosts talk show “The Real”, the Café Mocha radio show with rapper MC Lyte and is the subject of a documentary about her life. Love will be performing on Friday, March 15 at Wealthy Theatre.
Brad Upton, a winner of the Las Vegas Comedy Festival and stand-up comic, will be performing Thursday, March 14 at Gun Lake Casino and Friday, March 15 at Larkin’s in Lowell. Upton has been an opening act for the legendary Johnny Mathis and has done multiple shows with the late Joan Rivers. Currently his new CD, “Brad Uptonogood” is available and he just released his first DVD called “Brad Upton, Live from the 509.”
Also taking the stage is Jo Koy, performing on Sunday, March 10 at DeVos Performance Hall. Koy has sold out clubs across the nation throughout the years and has had two Comedy Central specials called, “Don’t Make Him Angry” and “Lights Out.” He has appeared in over 100 episodes of “Chelsea Lately” and has made appearances with Jimmy Kimmel, Carson Daly, Jamie Foxx, and more. Koy recently started his own podcast, “The Koy Pond with Jo Koy,” and is a weekly guest on “The Adam Carolla Show” podcast.
Nate Bargatze will perform March 9 at Vander Mill Grand Rapids. Bargatze has toured with Chris Rock and appeared in multiple TV specials including his own Netflix special, “The Standups.” He has appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and currently has a deal with 20th Century Fox to develop his own TV show.
Finally, Matt Bellassai a comedian, writer and social media personality will take the stage Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9 at the Pyramid Scheme. Bellassai currently is the host of the weekly show, “To Be Honest” on Facebook, which has over 500 thousand followers. He also just wrapped up his sold-out nationwide comedy tour, “The Drunk and Alone Tour.” Previously, Bellassai has won the fan-voted Peoples Choice Award for “Social Media Star” and has attended multiple award shows serving as a social media correspondent.
“We’re thrilled to bring such diverse talent to LaughFest 2019,” said Joanne Roehm, director of strategic initiatives at Gilda’s Club and LaughFest.
The 10-day festival will feature the Clean Comedy Showcase, March 7–9, with two showcases.
Artists announced for Clean Comedy Showcases include Emmy Blotnick, Rob Haze, John Novosad, Kira Soltanovich, Corey Rodrigues, Dusty Slay, Andrew Sleighter and Taylor Tomlinson.
The National Stand-Up Comedy Showcase will be held, March 15–16, featuring Kate Willett, a comedian actress and writer who has starred in her own Netflix special; and Andy Sandford, who has performed on “Conan,” his TV special “Shameful Information” and made Splitsider’s “9 Best Standup Specials of The Year”. Six other nationally known comics featured are Marcella Arguello, Langston Kerman, Matteo Lane, Caitlin Peluffo, Jessa Reed and Ron Taylor.
The Best of the Midwest competition will feature eight Midwestern comics battling to be crowned as the region’s best comic in 2019. Competitors are Vince Carone, Greg Coleman, Kelly Collette, DJ Dangler, Adam Degi, Chelsea Hood, T. Murph and Sam Rager.
Other seriously funny shows announced include Pop Scholars, River City Improv, the Rockin’ Homegrown Jam, LaughFest’s Best and the Dirty Show.
During the 10-day festival, LaughFest 2019 will include more than 200 free and ticketed shows featuring over 100 artists at more than 40 venues in Grand Rapids, Lowell and Wayland’s Gun Lake Casino.
Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids is again seeking to raise funds to support its programs through the High Five campaign. Money raised during LaughFest through this campaign will support the free cancer, grief and emotional health support programs offered through Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids. DTE Energy will be providing a $50-thousand community match for all “High Five” donations. Individuals interested in donating to the “High Five” campaign may do so by purchasing a button for a $5 donation at LaughFest events or through laughfestgr.org.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to partner with DTE Energy to increase individuals’ donations to the High Five campaign,” said Wendy Wigger, president of Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids and LaughFest.
“The High Five campaign during LaughFest has allowed us to help raise awareness and funds for people in our community navigating some of life’s toughest chapters.”