Find out how the Great American Comedy Festival started in Norfolk | Comment


When Norfolk’s previous community festival – LaVitsef (festival spelled backwards) – ended, a Daily News editorial in that space proposed creating a new festival in honor of Johnny Carson. With that, the Great American Comedy Festival was finally born, and it’s been a mid-June tradition ever since.

After a two-year absence due to COVID, the event has now entered its teenage years. So we thought it would be a good idea to pull out the baby book and take a trip down memory lane. Here is a preview of selected excerpts from the editorial that started it all on September 23, 2006.

What better way to capitalize on Norfolk’s fame than by playing on the laughter?

The Daily News first suggested the following concept in the mid-1990s. For various reasons, the timing was not right. That still may not be the case, but at the very least it gives the Norfolkans something to consider.

We would propose the creation of a Johnny Carson Comedy Festival. Because he grew up here, Norfolk is already closely associated with the late “king of late-night television”. It would be a logical way to build on that and honor Johnny’s legacy.

We could envision the festival’s focus being the creation of a young comedian competition that would attract participants from across the Midwest. Maybe it wouldn’t even be too much of a stretch to see if the contest winner would get an appearance on the Jay Leno show, Mr. Carson’s successor on NBC.

There could be classes, workshops or seminars on acting.

A special guest each year could be someone associated with Johnny – Ed McMahon, Doc Severinson, Tommy Newsome or one of the countless guests who have appeared on “The Tonight Show” and owe much of their success to Johnny’s support. .

Highlights of Johnny’s career could be streamed on the big screen at Norfolk High School’s Johnny Carson Theater or other venues. The Johnny Carson exhibit at the Elkhorn Valley Museum might be another highlight of the festival – maybe even result in more memorabilia on display.

In many ways, it’s natural. Norfolk is known as the birthplace of Johnny Carson. And what better way to have a good time at a festival than by laughing? It’s no exaggeration to imagine Johnny relishing the idea of ​​seeing talented young actors see their work performed in his hometown.

Norfolk seems to be at a crossroads in terms of what it wants to have as a community festival. Could this work? Maybe that’s right.

Nearly 16 years after those words appeared, we would modify the answer to that question to a resounding yes. Thanks to countless volunteers and sponsors over the years, the festival continues to bring laughs.

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