NORFOLK, Neb. — When it comes to the Viaero Great American Comedy Festival's amateur show, don't be misled by the word amateur.
That's the opinion of Steve McNally of Norfolk, Neb. He has frequently been in attendance for the festival's preliminary amateur competitions leading up to the finals.
This year's finals are on Wednesday.
“These guys aren't amateurs in the way you might think. They're very funny,” he said during a discussion of the festival at a recent Norfolk Noon Kiwanis meeting.
McNally said he thinks the $10 ticket to the amateur finals represents the best value for those deciding which performances to attend. “You definitely get your money's worth,” he said.
The festival runs Wednesday through June 17.
The festival's amateur competition has evolved since its beginning in 2008 when some individuals who were giving stand-up comedy a try for the first time were part of the festival performance.
Now it's much more rigorous to qualify for the finals.
This year, at four preliminary competitions in Norfolk, West Point and O'Neill, audience members selected two comedians to advance to the June finals out of a field of 10 to 12.
In addition, the Comedy Works club in Denver staged its own multiweek competition this spring. The winner of that competition — out of a field of more than 50 — also advanced to the festival performance.
For its part, the festival generally defines amateur comedians as individuals who are not yet performing comedy as their full-time occupation.
The winner of this year's amateur competition will receive $500, a trophy and a career consultation with Eddie Brill, the festival's executive producer and warm-up comic for David Letterman.
This year's amateur show will be hosted by Sam Adams of Denver, who won the festival's amateur competition in 2009.