When Jay Leno takes the stage for Lucy Fest at the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena it will be a first for the annual event.
It will be the first time the headliner for the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival will performing at the arena. Leno is scheduled to perform on Saturday, Aug. 9. The reason for the new venue is the need for more seats.
“The demand for this show, the magnitude of it, necessitates that we move to a larger venue,” said Journey Gunderson, Lucy-Desi Center for Comedy executive director. “We can present the show with 2,200 seats as opposed to the Reg Lenna with 1,270 seats.”
The Reg Lenna Center for the Arts will still be a vital part of Lucy Fest as it will host Tom Cotter on Friday, Aug. 8. Cotter finished in second place and was the first comedian to reach the finals of “America’s Got Talent” in 2012. In addition to his television appearances, Cotter is also winner of the annual Seattle International Comedy Competition, grand-prize winner of the Boston Comedy Festival and was voted “Best Stand-Up” at the Las Vegas Comedy Festival. Cotter will appear at 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 8, at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts, located at 116 E. Third St.
Gunderson said the arena, located at 319 E. Third St., with more seats can also provide more ticket pricing options for those interested in seeing the former host of “The Tonight Show.”
“More seats help us present a broader range of ticket prices,” Gunderson said. “We’re so excited Jamestown has the capability to do big shows because we have this fantastic arena. Not every city has the variation in venues like we do.”
Gunderson said staff from the Lucy-Desi Center for Comedy approached officials from the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena when Leno was a possible headliner for the annual comedy festival.
“Once we knew we had the possibility of getting this artist, and the deal became more real, we met with Brian (Cersosimo, arena’s general manager). We had a great meeting. He talked about how to position the stage for a really nice ambiance,” Gunderson said. “I’m looking forward to working with Brian on it. I think he has shown that he is committed to doing everything they can to help things go smoothly.”
Cersosimo said arena officials didn’t even know who the headliner would be when they were first approached about being the host.
“We didn’t know who the headliner was going to be until the announcement was made on Wednesday. So we are even more excited now that we know who will be here,” he said. “We are very grateful that the arena was considered to host the headliner.”
Cersosimo said hopefully being able to host a comedian of Leno’s stature will lead to more gigs with well-known comedians to perform at the arena. The venue already is a hotspot for up-and-coming comedians who perform the first Friday of each month in the arena club as part of the Wits n’ Giggles Stand-Up Comedy series. The next show in the series will feature comedian Bill Boronkay on Friday, May 2.
“We think the size of the arena is a very good fit. It is a little bit bigger than some other venues, but not as large as others. So there is an intimate setting,” he said. “I think it is wonderful that we’re able to help support the Lucy-Desi Center for Comedy in their efforts and what they are doing in the community.”
Gunderson said, even with the long list of famous comedians who have headlined the festival, Leno might be the most well-known of them all. Past performers include Lewis Black, Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Engvall, Kathleen Madigan, Paula Poundstone, Joan Rivers and Ray Romano.
“Leno is inarguably a household name because he was on everyone’s TV each night for two decades,” she said. “He has a household name status few comedians enjoy.”
Gunderson said the success of past festivals has led to being able to attract the retired talk-show host and new member of the National Television Hall of Fame.
“If we hadn’t presented, and presented well, shows with Joan Rivers, Martin Short and Bill Engvall, it would make it more difficult to send a performer like Leno to Jamestown,” she said. “We have a good track record of filling the seats with ticket buyers. I would imagine that helped win our ability to book someone like Leno.”
The 2014 Lucille Ball Comedy Festival is scheduled for Aug. 6-10 in downtown Jamestown. Presale tickets for Leno are on sale for Lucy-Desi Center for Comedy members and supporters. On Friday, they will go on sale for the general public. Tickets can be purchased at www.lucycomedyfest.com and by calling 484-0800. Tickets start at $47.50.