Though 13,000 people trekked to Jamestown for last year's Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, organizers are hoping for more this year and, with the big names set to appear, it may be able to achieve that goal.
Paula Poundstone takes the stage Thursday at the Reg Lenna Civic Center. Named one of Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Comics of All Time, Poundstone, not surprisingly, admires the legendary work of Lucille Ball. It's a passion she shares with her kids, though they were never allowed to watch Lucy on television.
"They could watch videos or DVD's on non-school nights. I had 'I Love Lucy's' on video," Poundstone said in an interview with WBFO and AM970.
"My middle daughter grew up loving it so to this day, it's the only thing we all agree on."
Like Poundstone, Billy Gardell, who headlines this year's festival, shares an equal appreciation for Lucille Ball.
" I was listening to an interview on NPR, ironically enough, because it's the only radio I can listen to where I don't scream when I'm driving down the road," Gardell said.
"It was with Santana and he said look, Everybody has to play in 'E,' but you can tell the difference between my E, Eric Clapton's E and Pete Townsend's E. That stuck with me and resonated because there's a lot of truth to that. There's only so many notes, but it's how you play your notes. You have to really pay respect to the first people who played those notes and I think 'I Love Lucy' was in that category."
The star of the CBS sitcom "Mike and Molly" made his name through standup success. And like Paula Poundstone, Gardell isn't the type of comedian who ponders his material while sweating over a keyboard.
"My process is, I kind of get an idea, write it on a cocktail napkin and take up on stage and make it into a story," Gardell told WBFO and AM970.
"The comics I admire most, Bob Newhart, Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby talk about their own experiences."
Gardell brings those stories with the advisory that they may contain "adult material" to the stage Saturday night. But kids events are also part of the packed lineup for The Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, August 1st through the 5th.
On Saturday afternoon, Story Pirates will perform material adapted from area children, ages five through 12. Lucy Town Bus Tours run each day, teams will compete in the Lucy World Games, and on Friday night the Stand-Up Showcase will place the spotlight on rising comic stars. Lucie Arnaz will host comedic talents hoping to follow a path similar to Billy Gardell, who transferred three decades as a touring comic into a role on the hit sitcom "Mike and Molly."
"I wish I could take credit for that (the show's dialogue). But I cannot. Mark Roberts, the creator of our show who is a Chicago playwright. I don't have to change any of my words. If a joke isn't working, they fix it. The art they write for my character each week is just spectacular."
NPR listeners know Paula Poundstone for her work on the show "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, " which has become a huge hit. But Poundstone downplays her role, saying that it's her job to sit in a chair and play a game.
"I'm sure they hate it when I say this, but I had never heard of it. But from the very start they said, 'Just jump in,anytime you think of something , just jump in,' which is the polar opposite of what I've been told my entire life in almost every setting. And I'm a 'jumper-inner.'"
According to the promotion material, Paula Poundstone is "back by overwhelming popular demand" to this year's Lucille Ball Comedy Festival. And it seems for Poundstone, the feeling is mutual.
"There was a great spark about that crowd last year. I really had a fantastic time. Whether or not a similar crowd assembles, for all I know this year they could be rock throwers, but I wouldn't think so."
Paula Poundstone appears Thursday at the Reg Lenna Civic Center, Billy Gardell Saturday, all part of the 2012 Lucille Ball Comedy Festival , running Tuesday through Sunday in Jamestown.