Organizers behind two of the largest festivals in Traverse City – the National Cherry Festival (NCF) and Traverse City Film Festival (TCFF) – have released the schedule of events for the Traverse City Winter Comedy Arts Festival, coming to Traverse City February 14-17.
The first-year festival, which merges NCF's Cherry Capital Winter Wow! Fest and TCFF's Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival, will take place at various venues in and around downtown. The 200 block of Front Street – in front of the State Theatre – will be closed to traffic the entire weekend, hosting instead a sledding hill, Ferris wheel, ice skating rink, warming tents and winter sports arena from 4-9 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday.
In addition to previously announced guests like “Curb Your Enthusiasm” stars Jeff Garlin and Susie Essman and stand-up comics including Todd Barry, Kathleen Madigan, Pete Holmes and Neal Brennan, festival organizers tell The Ticker about additional talent appearing at this year's event. Dick Gregory, Doug Benson, John Fugelsang, Eddie Pepitone and Sheng Wang have joined the performers scheduled to take the stage during the festival. Organizers are expected to announce a major festival headliner (who will kick off the event) soon.
Dick Gregory, legendary Civil Rights activist and stand-up comedian, will appear Saturday, February 16 at 6:00 p.m. at the City Opera House. The performer's groundbreaking act on racial prejudice, segregation and poverty in the 1960s paved the way for African-American comedians to perform in front of mainstream audiences. President Bill Clinton called Gregory “one of the funniest people on the planet,” and he's been named “one of the 100 greatest standups of all time” by Comedy Central.
“There are few living legends in the field of comedy. Dick Gregory is one of them. We're thrilled and honored that he's coming to Traverse City,” says TCFF executive director Deb Lake, who notes that Gregory will receive the TC Comedy Fest Legends Award at the event (past recipients include John Waters and Roseanne Barr).
Stand-up comic and Best Week Ever commentator Doug Benson will perform with Todd Barry on Friday, February 15 at 8:15 p.m. at the State Theatre and on Saturday, February 16 with T.J. Miller at 8:15 p.m. at the Old Town Playhouse. Benson is host of the popular podcast Doug Loves Movies and has appeared on such programs as The Sarah Silverman Program, How I Met Your Mother and Comedy Central Presents.
Eddie Pepitone, who will join “E-trade baby” voice and stand-up comic Pete Holmes February 16 at 8:15 p.m. at the City Opera House, is a veteran of such shows as Last Comic Standing, Chapelle's Show and Community. Fellow TV actor John Fugelsang (CSI, Politically Incorrect) will appear with Comedy Central talk show host Allan Havey (Night After Night with Allan Havey) on Saturday as well, at 6:00 p.m. at the Old Town Playhouse. Sheng Wang, a Taiwanese-American comic who's been a featured performer on Comedy Central and at the Montreal Comedy Festival, will appear both Friday and Saturday night.
In addition to national headliners, TC audiences might recognize some other familiar faces on stage this year: their neighbors. Organizers have added a new venue – the InsideOut Gallery – and have scheduled local improv performances and open mic slots for area comics to get a shot at the spotlight.
"InsideOut Gallery is a really cool space and we're excited to expand our venues this year to the Warehouse District," says Lake. We added (local performers) because we wanted some acts without jokes about how small the town is."
Tickets for all Traverse City Winter Comedy Festival events – including a number of family-friendly and non-comedy events – go on sale this Saturday at noon. Tickets for most main stage comedy acts range from $25-$35. Click here for more information.