DeGeneres, Short, Lopez & More Set For TBS' A Very Funny Festival Thru 6/21

Two of the biggest names in comedy - TBS and Just For Laughs - have lined up a roster of extraordinary comedians for the premiere edition of TBS PRESENTS A "VERY FUNNY" FESTIVAL: JUST FOR LAUGHS in Chicago, which will run Wednesday, June 17 - Sunday, June 21. Among the many top-name talents scheduled to appear are Ellen DeGeneres, Martin Short, George Lopez, Bill Engvall, David Alan Grier, Tim Meadows, Lisa Lampanelli, Jimmy Fallon, Russell Peters, Louis CK, Jim Jefferies, Bob Odenkirk and Mike Epps, to name a few.

In addition to live performances by comedy headliners, the five-day Festival will feature a showcase of alternative comedy at the Lakeshore Theater, a series of performances by local Chicago talent and a film festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. A special kickoff event on Tuesday, June 16, at the Music Box Theatre, will honor the Chicago-born filmmaker/actor Harold Ramis with a Lifetime Achievement Award, followed by a special screening of Ramis' eagerly anticipated comedy Year One, starring Jack Black (School of Rock) and Michael Cera (Juno).

Several of the shows presented during the Festival will be taped for presentation on TBS. Ellen DeGeneres is on hand to present her third variety special for the network, Ellen's Bigger Longer & Wider Show, featuring an exciting slate of performers that includes Grammy(R) winner Kanye West and famed illusionist/endurance artist David Blaine. Let Freedom Hum - An Evening of Comedy Hosted by Martin Short will feature an outstanding slate of comedians, including Martin Short, John Pinette, Kathleen Madigan, Greg Giraldo, Tom Papa and Jeremy Hotz. And Comedy You Can Believe In with David Alan Grier will feature Grier performing and introducing an all-star roster that includes Bruce Bruce, Jo Koy, Mark Curry, Aries Spears, Ralph Harris and Marina Franklin. TBS will present the three specials June 24-26.

In addition, TBS has ordered 10 episodes of a new series entitled THE VERY FUNNY SHOW, hosted by Tim Meadows. The show, which is slated to premiere in November, will feature stand-up performances taped at Zanies comedy club during the Festival.

TBS PRESENTS A "VERY FUNNY" FESTIVAL: JUST FOR LAUGHS marks the first Just For Laughs comedy festival in the United States. TBS and Just For Laughs are also collaborating with the largest independent promoter in the United States, Chicago-based Jam Productions, LTD and Outback Concerts.

Ticket Information

Tickets for performances at The Chicago Theatre, The Vic Theatre and the Rosemont Theatre, as well as for the film showcase at the Gene Siskel Film Center, are available at all Ticketmaster locations, online at or by phone at 800/745-3000. Tickets are also available at respective venue box offices. Tickets for the Lakeshore Theater performances are available at or by phone at 773/472-3492. Tickets for THE VERY FUNNY SHOW at Zanies are available through the Zanies box office at 1548 N. Wells St., by phone at 312-337-4027 or online at Additional Festival information is available at


Wednesday, June 17 - Sunday, June 21
Talent and Show Lineup


Lifetime Achievement Award Presentation to Harold Ramis & Screening Year One - Tuesday, June 16

Serving as a special kickoff event, Just For Laughs will honor the Chicago-born filmmaker/actor Harold Ramis with a Lifetime Achievement Award, followed by a special screening of Ramis' eagerly anticipated comedy Year One, starring Jack Black (School of Rock) and Michael Cera (Juno). Year One will be released by Columbia Pictures in theaters nationwide June 19, 2009.


TBS Special: Ellen's Bigger Longer & Wider Show - Wednesday, June 17; Premieres on TBS Saturday, June 27

With a spectacular collection of hand-picked performers lined up, Emmy(R)-winning host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres is ready to blow into Chicago with her third variety special for TBS. The extraordinary showcase will feature comedy, music, magic, dancing and unique specialty acts. The special is being produced by Telepictures Productions, with Mary Connelly, Ed Glavin and Andy Lassner, whose credits include Ellen's Emmy-winning talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, serving as executive producers. Below are highlights of the segments and performers slated for the special. Additional performers will be announced later.

-- Kanye West - As a centerpiece of this year's show, Ellen will welcome her friend, Atlanta-born, Chicago-raised, Grammy-winning performer, songwriter and producer Kanye West. West's critically acclaimed 808s & Heartbreak topped the charts as his third consecutive #1 album.
-- Ellen at the Ballgame - Ellen will head to Wrigley Field, where Chicago's cross-town rivals, the Cubs and the White Sox, will face off against each other Tuesday, June 16. She is scheduled to lead fans in singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning
-- Street Magic with David Blaine - Ellen will take to the streets of Chicago with David Blaine as he shows off his trademark street magic skills. Blaine, who holds severAl Guinness World Records, has been featured on numerous television shows and specials performing his unique brand of illusion and endurance.

-- Nick Cannon - Cannon, who will provide the DJ entertainment for Ellen, has been cited by People as one of the Top 10 Most Successful Young People in Hollywood and was featured on the cover of Black Enterprises' 40 Under 40 issue. At 28, Cannon is a successful, multi-faceted entertainer, known as a film star, comedian, musician, writer and executive producer of his very own TV shows.

Comedy Blowout Hits Chi-Town Hosted by Mike Epps and Featuring Special Guests Kevin Hart, Damon Wayans Jr. and More - Thursday, June 18

Mike Epps has generated a lot of buzz among his peers and within the industry for being one of the funniest comedic actors to emerge in Hollywood. His films include Talk to Me, The Fighting Temptations, Next Friday, How High, Bait and Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins. Epps' comedic talent first hit the big time in 1995, when he appeared on the Def Comedy Jam tour and HBO's Def Comedy Jam broadcasts. His most recent movie is Janky Promoters, with Ice Cube.

-- Kevin Hart is the star of BET's One Mic Stand and has appeared in numerous feature films, including Soul Plane, 40-Year-Old Virgin and Meet Dave, as well as Scary Movie 3 and Scary Movie 4.
-- Damon Wayans Jr. has followed in his father's comedic footsteps to be featured on HBO's Def Comedy Jam and will be starring in his first major film, Dance Flick, now in theaters.

-- Earthquake (aka Nathaniel Stroman) has headlined the Crown Royal Comedy Soul Fest, the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival and the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, and he toured with the Latham Entertainment Presents Comedy Tour. His credits include the DVD It's About Got Damm Time and numerous television appearances. He also opened Atlanta's Uptown Comedy Corner and Earthquake's Comedy Corner II.

An All-Star Comedy Show hosted by Russell Peters - Friday, June 19

Canadian comedian Peters, whose rise to fame has been unprecedented, will welcome a pair extremely popular comedians to the stage for this special showcase:

-- John Pinette, a Chicago favorite and American Comedy Awards Comedian of the Year, has kept audiences in stitches with his weight-loss tales, spot-on impersonations and impressive singing voice. Among his credits are a successful Broadway run as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray.

-- Maz Jobrani is an Iranian-born, California-raised comedian who took part in the popular Axis of Evil Comedy Tour and Comedy Central special. His film credits include The Interpreter, Friday After Next and Dragonfly.

Lisa Lampanelli - Saturday, June 20

Coming off her smash hit and first-ever HBO Special, Long Live the Queen, Lampanelli will bring her abrasively funny stand-up to the Festival for two performances in one night at 7 and 9:30 p.m..


TBS Special: Let Freedom Hum - An Evening of Comedy Hosted by Martin Short - Thursday, June 18; Premieres on TBS Friday, June 26

Martin Short, who became a household name after successful runs on SCTV and Saturday Night Live, will perform his own comedy, as well as introduce an outstanding slate of comedians:

-- John Pinette, a Just For Laughs favorite, has played at Just For Laughs Festivals and toured with the company across Canada. He also scored acclaim for his Broadway run as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray.
-- Kathleen Madigan, an American Comedy Award recipient for Best Female Stand-Up, has been featured on Last Comic Standing and is a regular guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
-- Greg Giraldo is a former lawyer who turned to a life of comedy. He is best known as the top roaster on Comedy Central Roasts.
-- Tom Papa, a New Jersey native, regularly appears as an opening act on Jerry Seinfeld's live tours. He is also a field reporter for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

-- Jeremy Hotz is a Canadian actor-comedian and Just For Laughs favorite with some of the largest-grossing tours across Canada. He's had numerous specials on Canadian television and The Comedy Network, as well as appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Show
with David Letterman.

The Nasty Show starring Louis CK and featuring Nick Di Paolo, Patrice O'Neal and Jim Jefferies - Thursday, June 18, and Friday, June 19

This favorite from Montreal's annual Just For Laughs Festival will feature some of the funniest (and filthiest) comics around.

TBS Special: Comedy You Can Believe In with David Alan Grier - Friday, June 19; Premieres on TBS Sunday, June 28

Popular comedian and actor David Alan Grier (Chocolate News) will perform his own stand-up and introduce an all-star roster of comedians, scheduled to include the following:

-- Bruce Bruce is an Atlanta-born comedian and commercial spokesman who has appeared on Comedy Central Presents and BET's Comic View, as well as in the movies Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector and Cloud 9.
-- Jo Koy is one of a select few comedians to have received a standing ovation after a performance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He was recently featured in his own Comedy Central special, Don't Make Him Angry.
-- Mark Curry, who is best known as a star of the ABC sitcom Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, has appeared in his own Comedy Central stand-up special and hosted Showtime at the Apollo for three years.
-- Aries Spears has been a regular cast member of the late-night series MADtv and counts among his other credits such shows as A Different World and movies like Malcolm X.
-- Marina Franklin is emerging as one of the hottest comedians in the comedy scene today, with such notable appearances as Chapelle's Show, Last Comic Standing and Girls Behaving Badly.

-- Ralph Harris is best known for his starring role in the '90s sitcom On Our Own. He also competed during the fifth season of Last Comic Standing and has also co-starred in such movies as Evan Almighty and Dreamgirls.

Bill Engvall: Aged and Confused - Saturday, June 20

The star of TBS's popular The Bill Engvall Show will regale fans with his brand of highly relatable comedy.

Jimmy Fallon: Live in Concert - Saturday, June 20

This event will give fans an opportunity to check out the new Late Night star in the flesh when he performs live.


George Lopez: Tall, Dark and Chicano - Thursday, June 18 through Sunday, June 21

Lopez, one of the country's top standup comedians and host of his own late-night series on TBS this fall, brings his popular comedy to the Rosemont Theatre.

Jon Lajoie: Live as F*ck - Wednesday, June 17, and Thursday, June 18

Internet phenomenon Jon Lajoie performs a few of his popular comedic songs, including "Everyday Normal Guy" and "Show Me Your Genitals."

Robert Smigel and Dino Stamatopoulos - The Unaired Bozo Circus Parody - Wednesday, June 17, and Thursday, June 18

Before Robert Smigel and Dino Stamatopoulos produced TV Funhouse (featuring the "Anipals" puppets), they attempted a very different version of the show. Instead of puppets, the cartoons were presented within a show that parodied Chicago's beloved Bozo's Circus. "Prozo," "Looky" and "Wizzy" presented a demented collection of cartoons and sketches - all before an actual audience of children and their parents. Now the producers present this never-aired pilot for the first time in Chicago. Also on the bill will be several other controversial clips from their careers, plus a possible visit from Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.

Andy Dick - Thursday, June 18

The NewsRadio alumni's one-man show has been 20 years in the making, but now that Andy Dick has sobered up (it's been almost a year), it serves as a reflection of the abstract, Andy Kaufman-esque humor that made his career during those good ol' days.

Jim Jefferies: Hammered - Friday, June 19

The foul-mouthed Aussie comedian shows that no topic is sacred, joining the Lakeshore line-up with a special presentation of his solo show, following his upcoming HBO special.

Bob, David and Friends - Friday, June 19, and Saturday, June 20

Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, the masterminds behind Mr. Show, will reunite and bring some of their comic pals along for the ridiculous, right-brained ride.

Patrice O'Neal: Positivity - Saturday, June 20

From private parts to politics, Positivity is a funny, righteous look at O'Neal's incident-crowded life.

Double Threat: Jim Breuer and Danny Bhoy - Friday, June 19, and Saturday, June 20

Saturday Night Live alum and master impressionist Jim Breuer will meet barnstorming Scottish superstar Danny Bhoy, whose one-person show sold out 10 performances during Montreal's Just For Laughs.

Best of the Fest - Thursday, June 18, through Saturday, June 20

The best comedians of the Festival deliver killer routines. With surprise celebrity walk-ons every night, there's no telling who will take the stage at Best of the Fest.

Michael Showalter - Sunday, June 21

Multi-talented comedian, actor, writer and director Michael Showalter will take the stage for a special solo performance. Showalter's extensive credits include the online series The Michael Showalter Show, the movies The Baxter and Wet Hot American Summer, MTV's The State and the comedy trio Stella.

THE VERY FUNNY SHOW - Friday, June 19, and Saturday, June 20 at Zanies

TBS has ordered 10 episodes of a new series entitled THE VERY FUNNY SHOW, hosted by Tim Meadows (Saturday Night Live, TBS's The Bill Engvall Show). Among the many comedians slated to perform for the series tapings are Bob Marley, Dwight Slade, Steve Byrne, Andrew Kennedy, Al Madrigal, Joe Matarese, Dwayne Perkins, Jeff Dye, John Caparulo, Nick Thune, Erin Jackson and Louis Ramey. The showcase is also scheduled to feature a number of comedians with Chi-town connections, including Chicago-based comics Patti Vasquez and Rocky Laporte; Chicago natives such as Hannibal Buress, Matt Braunger, John Roy, Sebastian Maniscalco, John Mulaney and T.J. Miller; and Southern Illinois-based Dale Jones.


TBS PRESENTS A "VERY FUNNY" FESTIVAL: JUST FOR LAUGHS and the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago are partnering on four nights of the best independent comedic shorts and feature films from around the world. This event will take place within Indie Comedy - The Christopher Wetzel Award for Independent Film Comedy, which was created at the Gene Siskel Film Center to support independent filmmakers. The following is the slate of films scheduled to be screened:

Visioneers - Thursday, June 18, at 8 p.m.
-- 1st place feature film winner of The Christopher Wetzel Award for Independent Film Comedy

--Dir. JarEd Drake, USA, 94 min. With Zach Galifianakis, Judy Greer

George Washington Winsterhammerman (Galifianakis) lives an ordinary life. Every day, he gets in his minivan and goes to work at the Jeffers Corporation, the largest and most profitable corporation in history. It is an utterly comfortable life, but when people around George begin exploding, he fears he might be next.

Goodbye Baby - Thursday, June 18, at 6 p.m.
-- 2nd place feature film winner of The Christopher Wetzel Award for Independent Film Comedy

--Dir. Daniel Schechter, USA, 87 min. With Christine Evangelista, Alan
Ruck, Gerry Adler, Ivan Sandomire

When Melissa Brooks (Evangelista) discovers she can't afford college, she moves to New York City and gets a job as a waitress at a comedy club. Living with her eccentric, older brother (Sandomire), she enters an unlikely love triangle while trying to raise the nerve to get on stage and perform.

Mr. Art Critic - Friday, June 19, at 8 p.m., followed by a Q&A with the director and some of the local Chicago cast

-- Richard Brauer, USA, 90 min. With Bronson Pinchot, Toni Trucks

M.J. Clayton (Pinchot) is a high profile art critic in Chicago. He is known throughout the country for his heartless and angry reviews. One day at a local pub, he makes a proclamation that any idiot can make art and bets that he can prove it. As the stakes rise, and his reputation is put on the line, Clayton finds that the view from the other side can be humbling.

The Baby Formula - Wednesday, June 17, at 8 p.m.

-- Dir. Alison Reid, Canada, 82 min. With Angela Vint, Megan Fahlenbock

Two young women in love are desperate to have their own biological child. They take a chance on an experimental scientific process and make sperm from their own stem cells. Pregnant with humor and unexpected twists, the story of their journey ultimately confirms that all life is a gift, and all families are crazy.

Eating Buccaneers - Saturday, June 20, at 4 p.m.
-- Dir. Bill Keenan, Canada, 88 min. With Peter Keleghan, Leah Pinsent

This feature comedy centers on four self-absorbed advertising executives and one officious client who crash-land their charter plane into the woods. Unknowingly, each person has embarked on a third-class journey through hell that will help them to discover what's really important in their lives...that is, if they don't kill each other first.

Capers - Saturday, June 20, at 6 p.m.
-- Dir. Julian Mark Kheel, USA, 86 min. With Danny Masterson, Leon, Aysan

Three teams of criminals live on the same Brooklyn block, but each exists in a separate genre of film. They all share a hatred of Connie, a racist local pawn shop owner and mafia widow. When Connie has a heart attack, each team decides it's time to find out what's inside her legendary safe. Unfortunately, they all plan their big score for the same night.

Best of Just For Laughs Shorts Program 1 - Wednesday, June 17, at 6 p.m.
Best of Just For Laughs Shorts Program 2 - Friday, June 19, at 6 p.m.

These are two 90-minute programs of the best comedy short films from around world, scouted by or submitted to Just For Laughs and the Gene Siskel Film Center.


Some of comedy's biggest stars cut their chops on Chicago's stages. One of the pillars of the Festival will be an extensive grassroots programming line-up that will showcase the next generation of Chicago talent. Just For Laughs has joined forces with not only some of Chicago's most respected comedy ensembles (like Schadenfreude and Chicagoland) but also theaters that feature their groundbreaking work. The Festival will work with the historic iO Theater, the annual mainstay Chicago Sketchfest, the prolific Annoyance Theatre, the experimental Playground Theater and the trailblazing standup venue The Lincoln Lodge.

iO Theater
Thursday, June 18

Best of Sketchfest will feature the seven top sketch groups picked from Chicago's January Sketch Festival. Hot Canadian act The Imponderables will give two exciting repeat performances, fresh off their acclaimed January Sketchfest run. Joining them will be top troupes Team Submarine, The Cupid Players, Hey You Millionaires, Brick and Kerpatty!, with more names just around the corner. (Additional performances Friday, June 19)

Bob Odenkirk's Best Of Sketchfest will feature Sketchfest comics teaming up with Odenkirk for a night of marvelously twisted comedy. (Repeat performance Friday, June 19)

Saturday, June 20

Improvised Shakespeare Company will bring the bard's language to life through improv in one of Chicago's must-see shows.

Whirled News Tonight features an ensemble of iO improvisers ripping their scenic inspiration from the latest headlines. It's a treat for comedy and news junkies alike.

The Late Night Late Show Reunion marks the return of a Chicago favorite, an improvised midnight talk show featuring celebrity guests.

Annoyance Theater
Thursday, June 18

Messing with a Friend will feature Susan Messing joined by Alex Fendrich at 9 p.m. in a reunion of the first-ever Messing with a Friend line-up from years back. Local improv superstar TJ Jagodowski joins Messing at 10:30 p.m.

Friday, June 19

The Annoyance will debut a world premiere musical for the festival, in addition to a performance of its longest running hit. Complete information is available at

Green Room with Paul Provenza features Aristocrats director Paul Provenza chatting with the Festival's hottest comics after they're done performing. (Repeat performance Saturday, June 20)

Saturday, June 20

Chicagoland is an all-star show with comedy veterans coming together for a special night of improv. Opening is the all-female Sirens, one of Chicago's most respected ensembles.

Schadenfreude Rent Party will present an evening of comedy aimed at Chicago itself, featuring the movers, shakers and corrupt politicians for which the city has become known.

Sunday, June 21

Best Church of God celebrates Father's Day with the "original" Father. This ensemble's mock church service will purge the comedy evil from overindulging heathens.

The Playground Theater
Friday, June 19

Alone: Chicago's Best Solo Acts line-up includes Jet Eveleth, Paul Thomas, Brooke Bagnall, Nicky Margolis, Nancy Friedrich, Jeff Madden, Wendy Mateo and "Sex" Ed Vincent (Paul Brittain).

After Hours Reunion will feature American Dream and Chuckle Sandwich, two of the most crazed (in a good way) teams in recent history. Opening will be The Blog Report.

Saturday, June 20

Don't Spit the Water, Chicago's popular live game show, returns from hiatus for back-to-back outings at the Playground, its former home.

The Lincoln Lodge
Wednesday, June 17

Homecoming will feature Chicago's brightest comedy alums reuniting for a special show. (Repeat performance Thursday, June 18)

Friday, June 19

Chicago Stand-Up Run-Down will bring a who's who of top local talent to The Lincoln Lodge, including Prescott Tolk, Bryan Berrey, Chastity Washington, Lil Rel, Adam Burke, Sean Flannery and Cameron Esposito. (Repeat performance Saturday, June 20)

Just For Laughs is active in many areas of entertainment production including festivals, television, theater and touring. Its inaugural festival 27 years ago is now the world's largest and most prestigious comedy event welcoming over 2 million people each summer. During its 27 years, the Montreal Festival has featured some of the top comics in the world, including Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle, Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, Ray Romano, Dane Cook, John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson and Tim Allen. Each year, more than 1,000 industry executives are drawn to Montreal for what is considered the hottest breeding ground for new talent. In spring 2006, the company's French division launched the Festival Juste pour rire Nantes Atlantique in France and, in 2007, Just For Laughs launched the Just For Laughs Toronto Festival, both to great success. The newest city added to the list is Chicago with TBS Presents a "Very Funny" Festival: Just For Laughs, set to debut this summer. The company also successfully tours across the globe bringing some of the festivals' best talent to Canada, the United States, Bermuda and Asia and has personal management offices in Los Angeles, Paris, London and Montreal. Just For Laughs television shows are seen in over 139 countries and on more than 97 airlines around the world and in the past have been seen on MTV, Showtime, HBO, CMT, BBC America, ABC and Fox. Just For Laughs: Montreal is premiering on Comedy Central this May. Just For Laughs is currently seen in Canada on CBC, as well as The Comedy Network.

TBS, a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., is television's top-rated comedy network. It serves as home to such original comedy series as My Boys, The Bill Engvall Show and Tyler Perry's House of Payne and Meet the Browns; Lopez Tonight, an eagerly anticipated late-night series starring George Lopez; hot contemporary comedies like The Office, My Name is Earl, Sex and the City, Everybody Loves Raymond, Family Guy, King of Queens, Seinfeld and Friends; specials like Funniest Commercials of the Year; special events, such as TBS Presents a "Very Funny" Festival: Just For Laughs in Chicago in June; blockbuster movies; and hosted movie showcases.

Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner company, creates and programs branded news, entertainment, animation and young adult media environments on television and other platforms for consumers around the world.

Photo courtesy of TBS

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