Patton Oswalt headlines District of Comedy Festival at Kennedy Center

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the District of Comedy Festival (Jason Fraley)

WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia is about to become the District of Comedy.

The Kennedy Center hosts its third annual District of Comedy Festival this Thursday through Saturday, including Patton Oswalt, Harry Shearer and the famous Second City comedy group.

“The Kennedy Center is our national cultural center and we are striving to make sure that our programming reflects modern American culture and that our programming is accessible to everyone,” director of special projects and comedy programming Matthew Winer told WTOP.

The festival kicks off at 6 p.m. Thursday on the Millennium Stage in the atrium with celebrity impressionist James Adonian impersonating Bernie Sanders in a “Bernie Sanders Town Hall.”

“James is my favorite Bernie Sanders impersonator,” Winer said. “Larry David is amazing, but James, in my opinion, is better. … He’s going to act as though he’s Bernie Sanders and really accentuate all of his hilarious idiosyncrasies. … Then he’s going to have a few comedians and others that he’s interviewing as special guests over the course of the town hall session.”

Thursday also brings a stand-up set by NPR’s “Ask Me Another” host Ophira Eisenberg, as well as “Up to 11” with Harry Shearer, voice of Ned Flanders and Mr. Burns on “The Simpsons.”

“Harry Shearer will host a screening of the amazing movie ‘This Is Spinal Tap,'” Winer said.

The laughs continue on Friday with the special show “RIOT! A Celebration of Women in Comedy,” starring Bridget Everett (“Inside Amy Schumer”), Phoebe Robinson (“2 Dope Queens”), Amanda Seales (“Insecure”), Melissa Villaseñor (“SNL”) and Sasheer Zamata (“SNL”).

“A group of amazing comedians who really emphasize the female perspective in today’s rapidly-evolving culture,” Winer said. “It’s going to be a really fun, hilarious evening full of energy and a lot of insight into the role of the female comedian today.”

The Friday night headliner is stand-up comedian Chris Gethard.

“You might have seen his HBO special very recently,” Winer said. “He is the host of ‘The Chris Gethard Show’ on truTV. He actually performed at the Kennedy Center on the Millennium Stage about three years ago and we’re really thrilled to have him back.”

If you’re coming with little ones, check out the musical comedy group “Baby Wants Candy.”

“The original, completely improvised full-band musical will be taking over our family theater,” Winer said. “Based on an audience suggestion, they will improvise a full-length musical, which will be a really exciting thing to experience Friday and Saturday in our family theater. [It’s] completely made up on the spot and it’s absolutely hysterical.”

On Saturday, check out the “Bentzen Ball Podcast” live with comedian Catie Lazarus.

“She is an amazing interviewer … sitting down with Christopher Jackson from the original cast of ‘Hamilton,’ Ezra Klein of Vox and Sasheer Zamata, the amazing New York-based comedian.”

Also on Saturday, you can enjoy the “Smart, Funny & Black” game show with Amanda Seales.

“You may know her from HBO’s ‘Insecure,’ among other television shows,” Winer said.

It all builds to this year’s headliner, Virginia native and stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt.

“You might know him from his incredible stand-up, ‘Veep’ or ‘Parks and Recreation,'” Winer said. “He will be headlining the Concert Hall at 7 and 9 p.m. We are so excited to have him with us. … He has a lot of opinions on a lot of topics. He’s amazing, insightful and hilarious.”

If you think you’ve got what it takes, try participating in the Second City comedy workshops.

“We are welcoming in the Second City training center to host three classes: Intro to Improv, Character Generator and So You Want to Try Stand-Up,” Winer said. “So, if you’re interested to pursue comedy further, please come check out the Second City training center.”

Why offer such an array of comedy in such a prestigious arts institution?

“Comedians are our modern-day philosophers,” Winer said. “They … speak truth to power and bring people together by relaying perspectives from different backgrounds.”

Find more details on the Kennedy Center website. Listen to our full conversation below:

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Matthew Winer (Full Interview) (Jason Fraley)

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