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King, Wein form N.Y. comedy fest

Comedian Alan King and festival producer George Wein have teamed to create the Toyota Comedy Festival, a 10-day event along the lines of the Just For Laughs event held annually in Montreal that aims to draw some of the biggest names in the business to 28 venues around Gotham in June.

Utilizing places such as Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall and The Paramount, King and Wein are launching the first annual event of its kind in the U.S. and using New York City as the backdrop. More than two dozen free and paid events are being planned throughout the five boroughs between June 3-12.

Home Box Office will cap off the festival with a live broadcast from The Paramount on June 12 with Comedy Central serving as the official network during the festival. While plans are still sketchy, there is the potential for Comedy Central to air some of the events leading up to HBO’s telecast. Premium cable rival Showtime airs the Just For Laughs gathering.

According to King, who appeared before the media yesterday, Wein first suggested the idea in 1964.

Event’s co-prods

Wein’s Festival Prods., producer of such events as the Newport Jazz Festival, and King’s Kings Point Prods. are co-executive producers of the festival. The Toyota Motor Corp. and the Toyota Dealers Assn. of Greater New York have signed on as title sponsors. Continental Airlines has been signed as the official airline of the festival.

King, while admitting much of the talent is still in negotiations, said that he expects the festival to cover “everything from Henny Youngman to Dennis Leary.” For example, one event being scheduled is a young comedians night with someone like Jerry Lewis hosting.

Museum lectures

Also being planned during the period are seminars and lectures at the Museum of Television and Radio as well as luncheons in which the keynoters are comedians. Comparing the New York event to that held in Montreal, King said: “Theirs is a convention ours is a celebration.”

Promotional efforts will kick off in April with a party and a full slate of radio and television spots bought by Toyota. Organizers will also announce in April plans for a Philadelphia festival.

In March festival organizers will hold an open audition for new comedians. Those selected will become members of the Toyota Comedy Caravan, which will perform on weekends throughout the city. In addition to the free events, a June 6 benefit is being planned at Avery Fisher Hall in which the proceeds will go to the Mayor’s Increase The Peace Volunteer Corps.

“We’re trying to get a couple of laughs in a city that needs it,” King said.

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