Thursday, 21 February 2013 09:35

Revue LaughFest Picks

Written by  Lauren Longo, Kari Norton and Carly Plank
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For the past three years, Gilda’s LaughFest has given us a healthy dose of laughter for 10 straight days a year. It’s brought us giant stars like Bill Cosby and Betty White, up-and-comers like Anthony Jeselnik and Hannibal Buress and reminded us of the wealth of comedy we have at home, such as River City Improv, The Don’t We Boys and many others that contribute the funny to our community. Oh, and how can we forget? It’s raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, a cancer grief and support organization. To say we’re excited for round three is an understatement. Tickets to all events are available at
LaughFest's Best
The Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids
March 8, 11:59 p.m.
Wealthy Theatre, Grand Rapids
March 16, 11:59 p.m.

$10This new event gives audiences a sampling of the best LaughFest comedians for two nights. The secret lineup – which includes national and local comedians – will not be announced ahead of time. It's like one of those mystery bags you can buy at the dollar store – but actually worth your money.

Shaquille O'Neal Presents ... All-Star Comedy Jam

GRCC Ford Fieldhouse, Grand Rapids
March 8, 8 p.m.
You'd think 'comedy' and 'Shaquille O'Neal' wouldn't go together. But from a guy who got a Doctor of Education, launched a basketball-themed jewelry line and recently premiered the television show "Upload with Shaquille O'Neal" since his 2011 retirement, the combination shouldn't be a surprise. Don't get too excited though. The big guy himself is not set to visit our little city. Instead, he's assembled a group of well-known comedians and slapped his name on the bill. Businessman, indeed. Enjoy a night with D.L. Hughley, Bruce Bruce, Finesse Mitchell and Gary Owen.

Bill Burr

Fountain Street Church, Grand Rapids
March 9, 8 p.m.
If you don't know who Bill Burr is now, you will very soon. "Breaking Bad" fans know Burr as Saul Goodman's hired hand, Kuby, but Burr is jumping from the small to big screen in upcoming months. In April, he appears next to some of Hollywood's hottest ladies, Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in The Heat. Currently, he's filming Walk of Shame with the charismatic Elizabeth Banks.

Joel McHale

Grand Rapids Community College Ford Fieldhouse
March 9, 8 p.m.
Joel McHale has been a solid source of our laughter within the past few years. His big break came when he took over hosting duties at "The Soup" on the E! network. His fame got an extra boost when, in 2009, he signed on to play master-of-sarcasm Jeff Winger on NBC's "Community." (If you've ever been on the Internet, you've probably heard of it.) In between, he makes digs at Ryan Seacrest, films a couple movies here and there, stops by the Home Shopping Channel and entertains us at LaughFest.

Seriously Funny Adventure Challenge

Sunday March 10, 12:30 p.m., Central District Cyclery
Early registration: $40 for a team of two/$80 for a team of four
Regular price: $50 for a team of two/$100 for a team of four
For two hours, teams race through downtown Grand Rapids to compete in challenges and battle for prizes. In true LaughFest fashion, the final stage involves a joke showdown where competitors will wring every last bit of laughter from the crowd.

Wayne Brady

Devos Place, Grand Rapids
March 12, 5:30 p.m.
Some people know Wayne Brady as Barney Stinson's gay wingman brother on "How I Met Your Mother." Some may know him as being maybe, possibly (yes, he was) the star cast member on "Whose Line is it Anyway?" And a great number of people not only know, but idolize him from this line alone: "Is Wayne Brady gonna have to choke a bitch?" So, to say Wayne Brady is a versatile performer is an understatement. His performance at LaughFest is just as eclectic as the man himself, with dinner and a show tied into a night where all proceeds go toward Gilda's Club Grand Rapids.

Natasha Leggero & Neal Brennan

The Orbit Room, Grand Rapids
March 12, 8 p.m.
Free!, 21+
Don't write Natasha Leggero off as just another pretty face. The gal has a biting wit and isn't afraid to get dirty with her words. A pal of fellow dirty gal Chelsea Handler, Leggero was a judge on "Last Comic Standing" and co-hosted The Lavender Hour podcast with her ex, Dustin Trussell, until, you guessed it, they broke up. In March 2011, she released her comedy album, Coke Money, which cracked the iTunes top 10.
All you need to know about Neal Brennan is that he co-wrote Half Baked and co-created "Chappelle's Show." That's it. The brilliant work speaks for itself. But if you need more proof, look no further than his gig writing The Whitehouse Correspondents Dinner and his millions-downloaded podcast, The Champs. There. Now we're really done.

Best of the Midwest Competition

Dr. Grins, Grand Rapids
March 14, 7 p.m.
Show your Midwest pride and support these homegrown comedians as they compete for a $2,500 prize. These funny guys and gals ain't small potatoes, either. They've performed in some of the biggest comedy clubs across the country and have appeared on "The Last Comic Standing," "The Late Show with David Letterman," "The Bob and Tom Show" and "Live at Gotham."

Lewis Black

DeVos Performance Hall, Grand Rapids
March 14, 8 p.m.
Lewis Black is angry. He yells, he vents, he comments on his issues with this country and audiences love him for it. He says all the things we wish we could say, but are too afraid to. And that's why Mr. Black is an important part of our lives – he says what we need to hear. Think America is the greatest country on Earth? Spend an hour with Lewis Black and he'll convince you otherwise.

Nerdist Podcast Live! With Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray and Matt Mira

Fountain Street Church, Grand Rapids
March 15, 8 p.m.
Once upon a time, Chris Hardwick sat in the shadow of '90s bombshells Jenny McCarthy and Carmen Electra while hosting MTV's hit game show, "Singled Out." People may remember his penis-shaped haircut or oversized button-up shirts, but chances are, they were too busy looking at other things. (Specifically, a pair of "other things.") But years later, Hardwick got a sexy new haircut and found his place in the world, right smack dab in the middle of nerd culture. He got nerd-centric gigs such as host of "Wired Science" on PBS and a writer for Wired magazine and slots on various G4 shows. In 2010, he brought nerd culture to the masses with his weekly Nerdist podcast, which he hosts with Jonah Ray and Matt Mira. The podcast combines comedy, popular culture and all things nerdy. Watch a live taping of The Nerdist during LaughFest.

Stand-Up Competition

Dr. Grins, Grand Rapids
March 15-16, show times at 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
$32.50 dinner and show, $17.50 show only
In this event, $10,000 is on the table for the comic who can best win over the audience. On Friday night, all competitors take the stage, but only five continue to the final round, based on audience votes. On Saturday, the remaining five will perform with one taking home the $10,000 prize. Competitors include up and comers, as well as familiar faces like Andrew Schulz, Al Jackson and Michigan native Mary Lynn Rajskub, who you may know as the brainy and loyal Chloe O'Brien from "24."

Brian Regan

DeVos Performance Hall, Grand Rapids
March 16, show times at 7 and 9:30 p.m.
Brian Regan has successfully proven that you don't need to be crude to be funny. But if you need proof, please note that Regan sold out his 7 p.m. LaughFest showcase so fast, that a 9 p.m. show had to be added. He's just that good. And what's best about Regan is his ability to connect with his audience through universal topics such as food serving sizes, the guy who only talks about himself at dinner parties and UPS stress.

River City Improv
Ladies Literary Club, Grand Rapids
March 16, 7:33 p.m.
The best part about River City Improv's LaughFest performance is that you don't have to wait a year to see this Calvin College-alumni improv group perform again. River City Improv is not only performing at LaughFest, but West Michigan natives can catch their clean wit, songs, skits and games throughout the year, as they host at least one show every month.
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