SOMERVILLE, NJ - Central New Jersey comic, ventriloquist and magician Johnny "Gemini" Lombardi has reached out to hs network of funny friends and assembled a series of one-night shows in Somerset and Hunterdon counties at restaurants and other outdoor venues.
"Everyone needs to laugh," Lombardi said. "Especially with COVID and everything else that's going on, people are stressed."
The "Festival of Laughs" first show is Sunday night, Aug. 16 at the Old Croton Bar & Grill in Flemington with dinner and show from 6-9 p.m.
Other dates and locations include:
Aug. 20, Thursday, Verve Restaurant, Bar & Bistro, Somerville, 8-9 p.m.
Aug. 26, Wednesday, Royal Bar, Branchburg, 7-9 p.m.
Aug. 27, Thursday, Applebees, Flemington, 7-9 p.m.
Aug. 29, Saturday, Holiday Inn, Clinton 7-9 p.m.
Sept. 5, Saturday, Old York Cellars, Ringoes, 7-9 p.m.
Sept. 12, Saturday, Old York Cellars, Ringoes, 7-9:30 p.m.
All performances are weather-permitting.
Two additional dates at venues in Hillsborough are in discussions, according to Lombardi.
Ticket prices, the comics performing at each venue and other information can be accessed online; reservation links are listed in the "Festival of Laughs" calendar online at GeminiComedy.com/FestivalofLaughs.
Lombardi, a longtime performer and producer of comedy shows, said he's been getting calls from his fellow comics and in some cases, their agents, all of whom have been impacted by the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic.
He's also working with fellow comic Joey Novick to put the road show together.
Opportunities to entertain at casinos, nightclubs and resorts are limited by crowd restrictions imposed by Gov. Phil Murphy's executive orders, but restaurants that have been forced to shift to outdoor dining have emerged as a new venue, according to Lombardi, a veteran of the New York City club circuit and Atlantic City casinos, with performances on HBO and other cable channels.
"These are my friends," Lombardi said. "I'm trying to help them out."
Lombardi invites other restaurants and outdoor venues to contact him about adding shows to the "Festival of Laughs" schedule; locations must adhere to social distancing requirements and other COVID-19 protocols, according to Lombardi. Call (908) 295-4345.
Though unable to work the comedy club circuit and Atlantic City casinos with which he is most familiar, Lombardi has shifted gears and dabbled in a production of a kids' TV show, "Studio at the Hill," which has just been added to Amazon Live streaming. There are three episodes, 20-25 minutes long, featuring Lombardi, his puppets, clergy and guests, all of whom help deliver messages of values and respect to a younger audience.
Studio at the Hill was produced in conjunction with Mary Mother of God church in Hillsborough where Lombardi is a parishioner.