Laughter always helps

Martha’s Vineyard Festival of Laughs to benefit local charities.

Festival of Laughs, from left: Crawford, Davidson, Sommore, and Bellamy. —Courtesy Festival of Laughs

The Martha’s Vineyard Festival of Laughs is a three-night comedy extravaganza benefiting Island Food Pantry, Martha’s Vineyard Museum, and Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club. This event features performances by Sommore, Bill Bellamy, Lavell Crawford, Tommy Davidson, Don Curry, Guy Torry, Tony Roberts, Joe Clair, and Special K, and is sure to be filled with guffaws, snorts, and spit-out-your-water laughs. 

“I’ve been working with these comedians on a national basis for many years, from the LA Comedy Festival to the Atlantic City comedy festival. They’re all great comedians. Performing on the Vineyard gives them an opportunity to see the Island, and a chance for me to give back to the community I’ve been coming to for over 60 years,” said Brian Alden, president of North American Entertainment Group and the Alden Charitable Foundation. 

All nine comedians performing in the Martha’s Vineyard Festival of Laughs are notable. Critically acclaimed comedian and actor Crawford gained fame for his role as Huell Babineaux in the series “Breaking Bad” and its spinoff, “Better Call Saul.” Davidson is known for his remarkable range in standup comedy, acting, and music, and has starred in the hit TV show “In Living Color.” Sommore is an awardwinning comedian, and has appeared in hit films like “Soul Plane” and “Friday After Next.” Her television credits include “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” and “Politically Incorrect” with Bill Maher. Her latest comedy special, “Queen Chandelier,” recently premiered on Netflix.

“We’ve done comedy festivals in Atlantic City, and it’s always great. It’s like a family reunion for comics,” Sommore said. “If you’re lucky, you’re working most weekends, so sometimes we pass each other in the airport on our way to shows. When we get to do a show together again, we get to catch up.”

Sommore has always been a fan of comedy. As a child, she wanted to be a dancer in the TV show “Solid Gold Dancer,” but quickly realized that particular dream might not come true. “I couldn’t dance — didn’t have any rhythm — and I thought, ‘What can I do now?’” Aside from “Solid Gold,” she loved watching Joan Rivers, and became a big fan. “I thought, ‘Does she do this for a living?’ She was so quick-witted. She was a broad, you know? But she always dressed like a lady. I pattern myself after that. When I’m performing I always dress nice.” 

Sommore is the only female comic on the lineup at the Festival of Laughs, though this isn’t unfamiliar territory. She’s held her own for a long time. Sommore was the first woman to host BET’s “ComicView,” and in 1995, she received the Richard Pryor Award for Comic of the Year. “It’s getting better for women in comedy,” she said. “There are still obstacles, but sometimes it’s just the small challenges — the ones that men don’t even think about. Like, there won’t be a mirror backstage — and I need a mirror! I need a full mirror, guys!” 

One of the things that makes Sommore so successful is that aside from being incredibly funny, she holds a degree in business administration, and understands the business end of comedy. “I’m a lot different from some comics. I read a book written by Judy Carter, and I did exactly what her book said to do. I believe there’s always a science and an art to everything. When you understand how a business works, it isn’t so frustrating to be a part of.” 

This will be Sommore’s first time on the Vineyard and she’s looking forward to it. “When you go to a certain region, you like to see what those folks like to laugh at. And then I learn, too,” Sommore said. “For this show, all I can say is be ready to laugh!” 

Martha’s Vineyard Festival of Laughs. Thursday, August 17, to Saturday, August 19, Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster at