NORFOLK, Neb. -- Two comedy icons will headline the closing night Gala of the 13th Great American Comedy Festival Saturday, June 18th, at Johnny Carson Theatre in Norfolk.

Tom and Dick Smothers, also known as The Smothers Brothers, will entertain at the Gala. David Koechner will headline the Friday night Comedy Showcase on June 17th. Koechner was scheduled to appear at the 2020 Comedy Festival that was postponed because of Covid-19. The 2022 event will be the first since 2019.

Presented by Nucor Steel Nebraska, Nucor Cold Finish Nebraska, Nucor Detailing Center, and Vulcraft Nebraska, the festival kicks off Thursday, June 16th, with the traditional family Comedy Magic Show. All shows are at 7 p.m. at the Johnny Carson Theatre except an Adults-only Late Night Show at The Stables Friday, June 17, at 10:30. The Stables is located at 1909 Vicki Lane in Norfolk.

Billed as “An Evening with The Smothers Brothers,” the Smothers’ appearance will include an evening of memories and laughter with classic “Comedy Hour” clips and an interactive audience Q and A.

The Smothers Brothers debuted their unique brand of humor at the Purple Onion in San Francisco in 1961. The two began performing together while college students at Santa Clara University.  Their entertainment style set them apart from both music and comedy in the early 1960s.

The half dozen years that followed saw a string of hit albums, TV appearances and a brief sitcom, “The Smothers Brothers Show.”  In February 1967, the curtain rose on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” on CBS as a mid-season replacement. The Comedy Hour immediately rose to number one and edged out the long-time leader, “Bonanza.”

“The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” established a benchmark for topical and satirical content and featured long-established stars and cutting-edge rock groups of the 1960s. That satire and controversy came with a price as they pushed the envelope for three seasons with political and anti-war content. 

According to their biography, their success was cut short by White House pressure and a contrived firing by CBS. The brothers then took their show on the road for five decades, performing regularly to capacity audiences at concert venues throughout the country. 

The Smothers Brothers chose to retire in 2010, but their recent induction into The National Comedy  Center spurred their interest in returning to the stage. The brothers consider connecting with audiences a priceless gift.

Actor, writer and producer David Koechner’s Norfolk appearance is one stop on his 2022 “Blue Skies and Dirty Lies” comedy tour. He is well known for his roles as Todd Packer on “The Office” and Champ Kind from “Anchorman” and “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.”  He currently co-hosts A&E’s “American Top Dog,” plays Bill Lewis on ABC’s “The Goldbergs” and recently appeared on ABC’s “Bless This Mess.”

He has also appeared in CBS’s “Superior Donuts,” Showtime’s “Twin Peaks,” Comedy Central’s “Another Period,” and IFC’s “Stan Against Evil.” His recent film work includes “Then Came You,” “Braking for Whales,” “A Week Away,” “Vicious Fun,” and “National Champions.”

An alumnus of Chicago’s Second City Theater, Koechner got his first break as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” and has since appeared in more than 200 films and television shows. 

When not filming, Koechner performs live stand-up comedy across the country and creates original content videos for his YouTube channel, “Full On Koechner.” He also co-hosts Big Slick Celebrity Weekend, an annual charity event benefitting Children’s Mercy Hospital of Kansas City.

“We are beyond thrilled to bring back the Great American Comedy Festival after Covid-19 forced us to postpose the 2020 and 2021 festivals,” said Lisa Wattier, executive director. “Our past audiences were extremely disappointed when we postponed those two festivals. We all agree it is time to put those two years behind us and get back to living again.

“And living means laughing and there will be an abundance of laughter at this year’s Great American Comedy Festival with headliners David Koechner and The Smothers Brothers, several other stand-up comedians and three fantastic magicians.”

The Great American Comedy Festival is also made possible with the support of the Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment. The annual festival opened in 2008 to honor the legacy of Norfolk’s favorite son, Johnny Carson, who was host of NBC’s “Late Night Show Starring Johnny Carson” for over 25 years.

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