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Rialto piling on the laughs for first comedy fest

Kathleen Madigan will perform during Rialto's Last Laugh Comedy Festival.

Kathleen Madigan will perform during the Rialto's Last Laugh Comedy Festival.

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Rialto’s Last Laugh Comedy Festival

♦ Oct. 12-28

♦ Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet

♦ Tickets, $5-$59.50

♦ (815) 726-6600

Updated: November 13, 2012 6:08AM

The Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet will get the last laugh this month.

The theater is presenting Rialto’s Last Laugh Comedy Festival, running through Oct. 28.

The month will feature comedy shows as well as a comedy film festival, said Randy Green, executive director at the Rialto.

“Comedy has gotten a lot of attention the last couple of years,” he said. “I thought this market has been great for comedy, so I thought … we could create something and kick off the season with something very new and very different for the Rialto and brand it as its own unique component.”

Adam Carolla kicks off the lineup with an 8 p.m. show Oct. 12.

“Adam is a guy who is certainly a face people can put a name to,” he said. “Certainly with ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ and ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ but he’s got the No. 1 podcast that has over 400,000 daily listeners. He’s got a market that reaches beyond television and beyond the stage.”

Kathleen Madigan, one of today’s most heralded female comics, returns to the Rialto Oct. 18 for a 7:30 p.m. show. “She’s someone who takes what’s going on today and put it out there with her brand of comedy,” he said. “She’s so relevant because she talks about the news of the day in her own style.”

Next up is the Nobodies of Comedy at 8 p.m. Oct. 26. The Rialto is known for introducing audiences to up-and-coming artists, Green said.

“There are five comedians in that group who work out of New York or Los Angeles. A lot of these guys write material for other people,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us to put new names and new faces out there, at a price that’s very affordable for a night of comedy.”

Green loves to tell the story of how as a young man first breaking into the business, he was working at the Mississippi River Festival at Southern Illinois University when Bette Midler took a break to introduce her band, and on piano was a guy by the name of Barry Manilow, he said.

“Barry Manilow was Bette Midler’s pianist and accompanist when she was headlining major fairs and festivals back in the late ’70s,” Green said. “So you never know. The next Seinfeld or Louis C.K. might be part of the Nobodies of Comedy.”

Finishing off the Festival is Cheech and Chong at 8 p.m. Oct. 27. The duo is largely known for their late 1970s and ’80s cult films and stand-up routines based on a love of cannabis.

“They’re part of a culture I think people enjoy reliving, so what better than to have these two legends come together and close out our festival,” Green said. “We’re really delighted they’re going to be here and it ought to be something special.”

In addition to the stand-up comedians, they have added films to the mix, thusly creating the Rialto’s Last Laugh Comedy Film Festival.

This in part came about from patrons’ suggestions, he said.

“It was never on my radar, but there were people who said, ‘We love film festivals. We think the Rialto should do a film festival,’” he said.

They were already deep into planning the Comedy Festival, and decided that adding films would be a perfect pairing, he said. Several years ago, the American Film Institute ranked comedy films.

“We selected their top five comedy films of all time,” he said. “They are very diverse, very distinctive, and there were things about each one that made them very unique and special. We decided to put it in the festival and give people who enjoy comedy movies a way to see some classic comedy films that maybe they haven’t seen in quite a few years or maybe have never seen before.”

The films — in reverse order — “Duck Soup,” (Oct. 22) “Annie Hall,” (Oct. 23) “Dr. Strangelove,” (Oct. 24) “Tootsie” (Oct. 25) and “Some Like it Hot” (Oct. 28).

The first four films will be shown at the University of St. Francis, and each night a member of the St. Francis faculty will host the film and offer bits of trivia and host a post-film discussion. “Some Like it Hot” will be shown on the screen at the Rialto on Oct. 28, he said. Tickets for the films cost $5 each or $20 for all five movies.

Annie Alleman is a local free-lance writer.

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