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LaughFest in Grand Rapids Brings Big Comedy for the Health of It

LaughFest, the nation’s first community-wide comedy festival, has been bringing top comedians to Michigan since 2011 to raise money for Gilda's Club, a warm and welcoming organization that provides free emotional and social support to individuals affected by cancer. The organization is named after Saturday Day Night Live alum, Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989.

Bill Burr, David Cross, Mike Birbiglia, Whoopi Goldberg, Kevin Hart, Amy Schumer, Marc Maron, Martin Short, Lewis Black, Hannibal Burress, Jim Gaffigan, and John Mulaney are just a few of LaughFest’s featured performers from the past few years. This year’s fest, taking place March 7 – 17, brings Brian Regan, Ali Wong, Ed Asner, and Loni Love. There’s something for everyone at the event---improv, music and theater, stand-up, shows for kids and teens, and so much more. The fest is attended by 50,000+ people every year.

Gilda Radner

Gilda’s Club was created by those that knew and loved Gilda Radner, best known for her SNL characters Roseanne Roseannadanna and Emily Litella. When diagnosed with cancer, Gilda found great comfort and strength in the support groups she joined, and dreamt of establishing a support community for anyone going through that same difficult journey, regardless of income.

Gene Wilder, outside Gilda's Club in NYC

After Gilda passed away, her husband Gene Wilder and many of her friends opened that famous red door to the club in New York in 1995 as a tribute to Gilda.

Now, there are clubs that feel like home all over the nation providing workshops, lectures, meals, social events, and laughs free of charge to anybody looking for grief support due to cancer. Other than March’s LaughFest, upcoming events at the club in Grand Rapids include Line Dancing Lessons and Laughter Yoga, showing us that sometimes, laughter really is the best medicine.


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