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11th annual LaughFest kicks off March 11

Thursday kicks off the start of the 11th annual LaughFest, which went virtual due to the pandemic

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Gilda’s LaughFest presented by Gun Lake Casino will kick off the virtual festival Thursday, March 11, at 9 p.m. with headliner Justin Willman, a magician and comedian who is host of the hit Netflix show “Magic for Humans.” 

Other virtual activities on opening day include “The VIP Comedy Show” at 6 p.m., an improv comedy roast and in-depth interview; “No Laughing Matter” at 8 p.m., a discussion about how even in the worst times, there is something funny to talk about; and “You Have Two Minutes: Brian Kelly’s Favorite LaughFest Portraits,” a chance to view the work of LaughFest’s official photographer and his time photographing headliners during the festival’s first decade.

This year’s festival will feature a total of 30 events, plus social media content and contests. Much of LaughFest will continue to be free, with donations to Gilda’s Club welcome, while premium all-access content is $40. 

All festival programming, free and premium content, will be available through links at www.laughfestgr.org and can be streamed through computers, smart TVs, and other connected devices.

Other headliners during the festival, which runs through March 14, include Tom Papa, who regularly appears on National Public Radio’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me;” stand-up comedian Ron Funches; and Michelle Wolf, on-air contributor and writer for “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.” Additional premium content includes “Bunny Bunny - Gilda Radner: A Sort of Romantic Comedy,” a live play chronicling the relationship between Alan Zweibel and Gilda Radner; and “3 Mics & a Movie!,” which includes the movie “The Hitch-Hiker” being shown while comedians add alternate dialogue and sound effects.

Some of LaughFest’s free activities, include: Family Improv Workshop, Kids Joke Time, Laughter Yoga and more. The Seriously Funny Adventure Challenge scavenger hunt will take place during all four days of the festival, allowing socially distanced teams to tour downtown Grand Rapids while following clues and prompts provided at various stops.

Proceeds from the festival and donations raised will go to support the free cancer and grief emotional health program offered through Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids. Gilda’s Club is celebrating 20 years of operations, having first opened its doors to the public on February 15, 2001.


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