GR event supports fight to defeat cancer through laughter

Chris LaFoy

In 2010, the city of Grand Rapids was flooded with mysterious yellow advertisements and signs bearing only a smile. As time went on, rumors began to circulate about what these logos could possibly mean, all culminating to the final announcement that Grand Rapids would be hosting a comedy festival unlike any other.

The second-annual Laugh Fest will bring some of comedy’s biggest names to venues all around West Michigan in order to support the Gilda’s Club of Grand Rapids.

Gilda Radner was most recognizable for her work as a cast member of Saturday Night Live. Her wit and delivery could convince audiences that she was the only star of the show, even when sharing the stage with talents such as Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and John Belushi.

In 1986, Radner was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Although Radner had a support system of family and friends, she became an outspoken advocate for other cancer patients and hoped that anyone struggling with the disease could find support.

After her death in 1989, her husband, Gene Wilder, consulted and planned with experts to develop and open organizations that could help people find the support that Radner believed in.

The Grand Rapids Gilda’s Club has been fulfilling Radner’s wishes since 2001, and to help raise both funds and awareness, hosts Laugh Fest.

Whoopi Goldberg is the headliner of this year’s festival. Goldberg’s acting and comedic work has spanned three decades. As a television personality, her stand-up engagements are limited, therefore her appearance at Laugh Fest is one of the most anticipated.

Goldberg will be performing at the Grand Rapids Community College Fieldhouse on March 9.

Rodney Carrington has used his Texas roots to inspire a comedy routine that could only be described as country. Carrington will perform at the DeVos Hall on March 18.

Jim Gaffigan’s quiet, unimposing brand of humor has gained him a reputation as a crowd pleaser. His goofy, nerdy delivery is always followed by rolling laughter. Gaffigan will perform at the Grand Rapids Community College Fieldhouse on March 16.

Bo Burnham, whose musical brand of comedy became an Internet sensation, will perform at the Fountain Street Church on March 17. Burnham performed at GVSU last spring.

Actor-comedian Sinbad will perform at the Fountain Street Church on March 18.

Of the estimated 200 events planned for Laugh Fest, at least 100 will be free of admission. The organizers have arranged for a wide variety of events so there are shows suitable for any age group.

The 10-day festival begins on March 8. Events are scheduled throughout West Michigan and include films, art shows, group performances, music and much more.

A complete schedule and ticket information is available at

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