Emmy-winner and comedy icon Joan Rivers is set to headline the birthday festival set for Aug. 3-7, The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center announced Friday, while also mapping out a vision for the center's future which includes the creation of a festival of comedy.
''In 2011 for her 100th birthday, we give Lucille Ball what she always wanted, The Lucille Ball Festival of Comedy,'' said Journey Gunderson, the center's executive director.
With Rivers highlighting the festival by performing Thursday, Aug. 4 at the Reg Lenna Civic Center, another big name was added to the celebration in rising comedian Whitney Cummings.
''Staying true to our mission of not just honoring established comedy genius, but showcasing rising stars as we did Ray Romano, Lewis Black and Ellen Degeneres on their paths to the top in the early '90s, we couple our legendary headliner with a contemporary, just as she is exploding onto the scene, or as it's said in the business, 'blowing up right now,''' Gunderson said.
Cummings who has performed on the Comedy Central roasts of Rivers, Donald Trump and David Hasselhoff, and appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno twice in the last month, has been courted by both NBC and CBS, who have each built pilots around her for this fall's network sitcom lineup.
''Jamestown is thrilled to have grabbed her when we did,'' Gunderson said.
The pairing of Rivers and Cummings is the start to the first of a four-pillar vision mapped out for the center's future.
''Pillar one is a festival of comedy, the concept regarding her legacy that resonated with Lucille Ball the most when it was presented and discussed with her by the Arts Council of Jamestown shortly before her death in 1989,'' Gunderson said.
The second pillar is a partnership with institutions of higher learning in order to provide educational programming in support of the development of the comedic arts.
Bob Thompson, founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, and professor at the Newhouse School of Communications, has agreed to be a lecturer, panelist and partner as we develop this programmatic series of seminars and classes.
''With Candace Huber, director of Continuing Education at Jamestown Community College, we're developing the Summer 2012 platform of 'comedy college' courses, and, this August we begin a new category of Membership to the Center for Comedy, proceeds of which go to fund programs and opportunities for people and youth interested in all facets of the comedic arts, so that we can cultivate the next little Lucille Ball,'' Gunderson said.
The third pillar, is a comedy film festival paying tribute to the legacy of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
The final pillar, and most aggressive in the Legacy of Laughter vision according to Gunderson, is the formation of a Comedy Hall of Fame and Award.
''Like Cooperstown to baseball, Jamestown will induct and honor the comedic artists who most embody the legacy of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz for their impact on the world through the comedic arts,'' Gunderson said.
Tickets to all of festival performances go on sale Tuesday, and can be purchased at www.lucy-desi.com. A complete list of festival events is also available online.