By Carol South
Special to the Record-Eagle
TRAVERSE CITY — If laughter is the best medicine, the Traverse City Winter Comedy Arts Festival should leave residents with a clean bill of health.
The Traverse City Film Festival is teaming up with the National Cherry Festival to present the expanded comedy fest from Feb. 14-17. Michael Moore and Jeff Garlin from "Curb Your Enthusiasm" will host the downtown event, which features a buffet of comedians and events for all ages — inside and outdoors.
Performances by the festival's lineup of comedians kick off Thursday evening with Kathleen Madigan at the City Opera House. Later that night, Colin Quinn will perform at the State Theater.
For the next three days, those venues and others, including the Old Town Playhouse, InsideOut Gallery and Horizon Books, will be hopping. In addition, a busy slate of activities will be held outdoors on Front Street: everything from dog pulls, bed races and ice skating to tug-of-war competitions, snow coloring and snowblower races.
The festival's opening act, who has been hailed by some as the funniest woman in stand-up comedy, is making her second trip to Traverse City. In 2008, Madigan also played a sold-out show here and she's pleased to return for another round of fun.
During her first visit to the area, Madigan was surprised to find a Hollywood celebrity casually walking around downtown.
"I said to the guy who picked me up when we were driving through town, 'That dude looked like Michael Moore,'" she recalled. "He said, 'It is.' I was like wow, that's weird, huh? Then he told me the whole story."
Madigan writes her own material and makes sure to keep it fresh — not so much for the audiences as for herself.
"I'd vomit repeating jokes from years ago," she said. "I've never understood comics who do that. Why not just be in a play?"
For Madigan, who usually headlines her gigs, comedy festivals are a blast because the comics get to see each other work. She can also hang out with colleagues afterward.
"My favorite memory is meeting the Bionic Woman after a show recently," Madigan said. "I loved that show and Lindsay Wagner is beyond nice."
With the "best job ever," Madigan enjoys being her own boss with a schedule that requires two hours of work a night.
"So far no one has told me that I need to get a real job, so I think that's all that I can ask for," she said. "Most people don't get to do what they like and get paid. I know I'm lucky."
Tickets are $33. Visit www.cityoperahouse.org for more information. For complete Traverse City Winter Comedy Arts Festival information, visit www.wintercomedy.org.