Grand Rapids’ annual week-long celebration of laughter is taking place March 5-15. The 2020 Gilda’s LaughFest is held throughout downtown Grand Rapids and is an event for all ages. This year marks LaughFest’s tenth birthday, and per usual, all proceeds go to Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, a free community with programs designed to support emotional health.
In the words of LaughFest Festival Director Joanne Roehm, LaughFest is “a 10-day celebration of laughter for the health of it.”
The multitude of performances include stand-up, improv, spoken word, sketch, and music and theatre among many more. With a little something for everyone, it’s no surprise that the festival brings in approximately 30,000-50,000 attendees each year.
Featured performers at this year’s LaughFest include Maria Bamford, JP Sears, Russell Peters and Jeff Foxworthy.
Grand Valley State University alum Allen Trieu is a stand-up comedian who has been performing at LaughFest since its start ten years ago. Trieu said that LaughFest stands out from other comedy events because it is a festival for a cause. The emotional health programs Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids offers include a comprehensive program of education, structured sharing times, networking, lectures, workshops and social activities designed to support emotional health.
“This festival allows people to see a variety of acts in a variety of venues which comedy doesn’t always get to,” Trieu said. “The name Gilda’s and the understanding of what they do for the community is also a big part of why West Michigan comes together for it.”
Roehm said, “I think people really resonate with the cause behind it and the work Gilda’s Club does. We all need to laugh as we come out of a Michigan winter.”
Trieu said that what he hopes audience members take from the festival is very simple.
“I hope they have a good time and laugh,” Trieu said. “I also hope that, with my shows in particular, they can see that Grand Rapids itself has talented individuals in the city.”
Rohem hopes that along with having a good laugh, those in attendance learn a little more about Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, “especially that we are there if or when people in West Michigan need our emotional support services.”
It is important to put on events like LaughFest because “it further puts the city on the map,” Trieu said. “I think the attention LaughFest brings to Grand Rapids is extremely positive. It also is important because of the cause. People come together to support each other and to laugh, it’s a great thing.”
Rohem also acknowledged the importance of the festival and said it contributes to the Grand Rapids narrative as a four-season city and a fun place to live, work and play.
With over 150 family friendly performances taking place, LaughFest is a fun way to celebrate the end of a cold Michigan winter and help support a local cause.