Gilda’s LaughFest, the nation’s first-ever community-wide festival of laughter, has quickly earned a reputation for being one of the nation’s marquee events for both participants and artists. This major 10- day Midwest festival is based in Grand Rapids and includes events throughout West Michigan. Created by Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids and launched in March 2011 to celebrate laughter for the health of it, the festival features stand-up, improv, film, authors, community showcases, and a variety of seriously funny stuff.
We are serious about our “funny” here. LaughFest brings together a diverse audience of children and adults every March to honor laughter as an essential part of emotional health and wellbeing. And what better time for a laughter festival than when it’s typically cold, icy, and distinctly un-funny outside?
The inaugural LaughFest took place in March 2011 and attracted guests from 25 states and Canada. With over 228 events across 49 different stages, the event featured 642 artists including Betty White, Bill Cosby, Kevin Hart, Gabriel Iglesias, Margaret Cho, Mike Birbiglia, and Stephen Lynch. The event kicked off with a Guinness Book World Record for Largest Rubber Chicken Toss, garnering international media coverage.
During the second LaughFest in March 2012, there were 323 events, 217 of which were free. 727 artists performed at 62 festival stages in Grand Rapids, Lowell and Holland. These artists included Martin Short, Kevin Nealon, Whoopi Goldberg, Jim Gaffigan, Patch Adams, The Laurie Berkner Band, Sinbad, and many more! The second festival kicked off with setting a Guinness Book World Record for the most people wearing animal noses.
The third LaughFest in March 2013 attracted people from 33 states and Canada. There were 261 events, 192 of which were free. 1,532 false mustaches were worn. 923 artists from 20 states and Canada performed on 65 festival stages in West Michigan including Wayne Brady, Lewis Black, Brian Regan, Joel McHale, D.L. Hughley, Fortune Feimster, Garfunkel & Oates, and Pete Holmes.
The fourth LaughFest was held from March 6-16, 2014 and attracted people from 35 states, Canada, and even the United Kingdom. There were 278 events, including 212 that were free. 1,675 sunglasses were donned in the dark to set a new Guinness World Record. 899 artists from 27 states and Canada performed on 54 festival stages in West Michigan including Jay Leno, Lily Tomlin, Jim Gaffigan, Chris Tucker, Sinbad, Mike Birbiglia, Judah Friedlander, Jen Kirkman, Todd Barry, Rory Scovel, Maria Bamford, Ted Alexandro, The Tenderloins, and many more.
We celebrated Five Years of Smiles in March 2015 with attendees from 34 states, Canada, and the United Kingdom. We hosted 272 events, 199 of which were free. 752 artists from 23 states performed on 49 festival stages around West Michigan. Headliners included George Lopez, Wanda Sykes, Billy Gardell, Patton Oswalt, Bo Burnham, Jim Jefferies, Pete Holmes, and Brian Posehn.
It was six sensational years of smiles in March 2016 with 40,000 attendees engaged in all levels of laughter, participating in 237 free and ticketed events. We attempted to win back our Guinness World Record by tossing rubber chickens and featured artists such as Seth Meyers, Kathy Griffin, Jim Norton, Marlon Wayans, David Cross and Chris D’Elia.
In addition, each year of LaughFest has attracted an average of 50,000 attendees to West Michigan!