by Megan Sarnacki
Returning for its 10th season, Gilda’s LaughFest features some “seriously funny” stuff with festival favorite alums, new faces and the best in up-and-coming comedy. Taking place from March 5 to 15, this 10-day comedy festival not only aims to bring laughter to audiences but also hopes to create conversations about how those dealing with grief can navigate everyday life.
“Since the inaugural festival in 2011, LaughFest has provided vital funding to support Gilda’s Club operations, helping to ensure our services remain free to the more than 10,000 served annually through our Grand Rapids and Lowell Clubhouses and community-based programs,” said Joanne Roehm, LaughFest festival director. “Most importantly, it has informed and engaged the community about the importance of emotional health in a way that removes barriers and creates accessibility to the services of Gilda’s Club, empowering even more who need the support Gilda’s Club offers to walk through our signature red door.”
Featuring headliners Jim Gaffigan, Jeff Foxworthy, Justin Willman and Maria Bamford, LaughFest 2020 includes over 100 artists at more than 40 venues across West Michigan. With more than 150 free shows, the festival also hosts a variety of improv troupes, comedy showcases and family-friendly programming, such as Kids Super Saturday Kids Fun Zone, Kids Hip Hop Dance Party and the People and Pets Expo. For those who have always wanted to give stand-up a shot, LaughFest even sets up the stage for community members with its “Bucket-List” Experiences.
According to Roehm, offering the public both local and national levels of talent has always been a mission for LaughFest because it gives the community unique opportunities to see accomplished performers while also cultivating talent right in our backyard. “As the festival has found its footing in West Michigan it’s made Grand Rapids a more prominent comedy market and gained trust from our community audience that our shows are well produced and curated – whether you are familiar with the artist or not.”
While you give your lungs an extra workout from laughing, Roehm encourages the community to not only think about why you laughed but also the benefits of laughter itself.
“LaughFest is more than a comedy festival,” Roehm said. “It is designed to focus on laughter as a part of good emotional health and to increase the dialogue around emotional healthcare. While we may not all agree on what is funny, we can agree that laughter is good for all of us.”
For more information, visit laughfestgr.org.