A unexpected encounter in an unlikely location has resulted in a rare opportunity for a husband and wife comedy duo to share a stage in Jamestown next week.
Journey Gunderson, executive director of the Lucy-Desi Museum and Center for Comedy, managed to secure Tom Cotter and Kerri Louise for a Friday, Aug. 8, performance as part of the Lucille Ball Festival of Comedy - after several weeks of coordination - following a chance encounter with Cotter at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport last fall.
"This is a pretty interesting story of how it all came together," Gunderson said. "And we thought it was a unique situation for (Cotter and Louise), with them being a power couple in comedy similar to Lucy and Desi themselves. They both feel like this is an awesome chance for them because they don't often get to work together."
According to Gunderson, she came across Cotter at the Buffalo airport last fall just prior to his performance at Buffalo's Helium Comedy Club. Although she had wanted to see the performance, as she had become familiar with Cotter through his appearance on the seventh season of NBC's "America's Got Talent," the show was sold out.
"Just as I saw tickets were sold out, who walks by me in the airport but Tom Cotter himself," she said. "Because I'm somewhat aggressive, I kind of pounced on him. I gave him my card and told him about the (Lucille Ball Festival of Comedy) and the (upcoming) National Comedy Center. He asked about the festival, and said it sounded like a great festival. He had awareness of it, and mentioned that his wife (Louise) was a big Lucy fan. Then he invited me to his show."
Gunderson said Cotter's performance at the Helium Comedy Club was impeccable, with his rapid-fire delivery punctuated by the perpetual laughter of his audience.
"When he performed, nobody stopped laughing for the entire 60 minutes he was onstage," she said. "He buzzed through the material, and he also did really good crowd work - which isn't easy. After the show, I kind of left him alone because he was being swarmed; but he was so gracious with the crowd. From there, I decided to pursue (booking him) through his management. It took a couple weeks, but we got it done."
She added: "It means a lot to the festival because Lucy is a national brand, and I feel the same about Tom Cotter."
Although they are married, Cotter and Louise have both established successful solo careers independent from one another in the world of comedy. When they take the stage at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts at 8 p.m., with Louise opening for Cotter, it will be a rare occurrence for the two to share a stage.
"She's got her own career, and I've got my own career, so we rarely get to be at the same place at the same time and working together," Cotter told The Post-Journal. "So because of that, and all those other factors being equal, this will probably be the highlight of my year without question."
Though he had established a career for himself as an accomplished comedian long before his appearance on "America's Got Talent," Cotter earned much notoriety by advancing as far as he did on the program. As runner-up, he achieved more success than any other comedian to appear on the show, and has since performed in various clubs and colleges across the nation - while also making appearances on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson."
"I do a lot of these comedy festivals, and this one is very special because the people who are running it really have their act together," Cotter said. "They've got Jay Leno coming, who was wonderful to meet when I did his show, and he's been an inspiration to me. So, between that and my love of Lucy and the fact that it's in my home state of New York, there's just a whole lot to be excited about for this festival."
Louise, who was a finalist on the second season of NBC's "Last Comic Standing" in 2004, will be opening for Cotter. Gunderson said Louise had sent her portfolio and resume along in hopes of performing in this year's Lucille Ball Festival of Comedy. She said Louise was so professional in her representation of herself, that it wasn't until later that Gunderson had pieced together that the two comedians were married.
"I was impressed with the way (Louise) approached it, and she did definitely add that she's always been a big Lucy fan," she said.
The Friday, Aug. 8, performance featuring Cotter and Louise is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts. Ticket prices range from $15.50 to $43.50. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit www.lucycomedyfest.com, or call the Lucy-Desi Museum and Center for Comedy at 484-0800.