Jamestown’s Lucy Fest tickles the funny bone



Jessie Cadle | Staff Writer

“Hello friends, I’m your Vitameatavegamin girl. Are you tired, run-down, listless? Do you poop out at parties?”

Those words, uttered by Lucille Ball as Lucy Ricardo in “I Love Lucy,” have become iconic, and Ball has amassed millions of fans across generations.

Even without Vitameatavegamin, there is one event “I Love Lucy” fans never get tired of: the annual Lucille Ball Festival of Comedy, affectionately known as Lucy Fest.

This year’s Lucy Fest runs today through Sunday in Jamestown, N.Y., sponsored by the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Center for Comedy.

Lucy Fest features performances by comedians such as: “Mike & Molly” star Billy Gardell; Paula Poundstone, panelist of NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!”; and “A Stand Up Mother” star Tammy Pescatelli. Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, will be a musical guest.

Two days of Lucy Fest are spent on the Lucy World Games, which allows Ball fans to grape-stomp and wrap chocolate just as Lucy did in her most famous TV scenes.

Thursday night, Poundstone returns for her third time to Lucy Fest. Named one of the top 100 comedians of all time by Comedy Central, Poundstone brings her signature situational comedy stand-up to Jamestown.

“I don’t think it makes me a really unique individual to love Lucille Ball. In fact, just last night, the last thing we did before we went to bed here … we watched the golf episode and the diner episode (of ‘I Love Lucy’),” Poundstone said. “Oh, I know them all.”

Poundstone recalls last year’s crowd at Lucy Fest as a particularly responsive audience, which plays well into her favorite — and most famous — part of her act: conversing with the crowd and asking them about themselves.

“Little biographies emerge and that kind of tells me which way to set my sails,” Poundstone said.

The comedy conversation makes each night and each performance different. Though she has stand-by bits, her act is always changing.

“It’s kind of like Willy Wonka’s churning river: It churns as a result of what’s going on in the room, in my life and in the time, in terms of current events,” she said.

She keeps up with current events to stay informed for herself and for her role as panelist on NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” She claims she is the least-informed of the panelists, as her losing record shows.

The position on NPR is but one act she has done as a comedian in her 30-year career. She has had specials on HBO and ABC and wrote a book in 2006 called There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say.

With her comedy, she hopes to cultivate camaraderie with those who have come out for a night of laughter.

“A lot of what I talk about on stage is personal … about just being who I am. And as unique as I may feel occasionally, in truth, I’m really not, because the laughs generally come from shared experience,” Poundstone said. “And that’s a really great thing for us.

“Sometimes I think, ‘Oh my god, I’m a freak. There is something about me that is so terribly unusual.’ And it always turns out that it isn’t … that alone is uplifting.”

Poundstone’s jokes yield from her daily experience raising a household of kids. She doesn’t write her jokes down word-for-word, and most times, she writes down nothing at all besides reminders to tell certain stories.

“The hardest part is just remembering anything. I have the worst memory in the world,” she said. “Usually what happens is, one thing sort of leads to another. Therefore, it’s never the same, because it’s a different path to things each time.”

She looks forward to returning to Lucy Fest and celebrating comedy in the annual bash.

“It’s a great thing to celebrate for a community, especially when the country’s in such a fractious stage,” Poundstone said.

Along with Poundstone, Tammy Pescatelli returns to Lucy Fest again this year, but this is her first time doing stand-up at a performance with musical guest Lucie Arnaz.

One of the final five on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” and star of her own reality series “A Stand Up Mother,” Pescatelli brings her act to the stage Friday.

“Finding the funny is the theme of my show,” Pescatelli said.

Pescatelli is a fan of Ball’s comedic timing and because Ball’s story helped Pescatelli sell her show, “A Stand Up Mother.” She pitched the show saying she is akin to Arnaz and Pescatelli’s husband is similar to Ball, always looking for a way to break into show business, she said.

Pescatelli’s show focused on her life as a stand-up comedian and mother, and how she dealt with her mother-in-law, her husband and her all-brother group of siblings. Much of her stand-up deals with similar themes of family.

“To make people laugh in this day and age … that’s the best gift I can give someone,” Pescatelli said. She looks forward to returning to Lucy Fest and meeting Lucie Arnaz, the daughter of one of her idols.

“You can’t be in show business as a woman — whether you are a comedian or not — without having respect for Lucy,” she said.