Nearly 45 years after opening, the Kennedy Center is finally getting around to hosting its first comedy festival. “Comedy festivals can be seen as somewhat lowbrow,” says “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” star Rachel Bloom. “The fact that the Kennedy Center is doing one raises comedy to the high art that it should be.” The inaugural District of Comedy Festival (running Wednesday through June 25) certainly has lofty intentions. Along with a slate of stand-up sets, the center will stage a tribute to Joan Rivers, roast politico James Carville and open a podcast recording space. “It really does feel like a special time for comedy in this country,” says Matthew Winer, director of special programming for the center. Read on for details about some of the shows and click here for an interview with one of the festival’s headliners, Judd Apatow.
Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; Wed. through June 25, various times and prices.
‘Celebrating Joan: A Tribute to Joan Rivers’
Eisenhower Theater; Wed., 7:30 p.m., $59-$125.
Melissa Rivers will host a tribute to her mother, who died in 2014. Such presenters as Kelly Osbourne and Aubrey Plaza will read entries from Rivers’ iconic joke cabinet and share stories about the comedian. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s” Rachel Bloom will perform a song to accompany a video montage. “When you look at ballsy, brash Jewish ladies, there is definitely a very clean line where I don’t think I could be doing what I do had she not done it,” Bloom says.
Jane Lynch in ‘See Jane Sing’
Eisenhower Theater; June 24, 7 p.m., $70-$125.
Former “Glee” star and current “Hollywood Game Night” host Jane Lynch mixes comedy and music in her traveling variety show, which includes plenty of jokes and Broadway numbers.
‘The District of Comedy Roast of James Carville’
Concert Hall; June 23, 8 p.m., $59-$250.
Political strategist and commentator James Carville will be the victim of a Comedy Central-style roast, with veteran insult comics Jeff Ross, Jim Norton and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog taking jabs at the Ragin’ Cajun. Bob Saget will serve as roastmaster and Carville colleagues Tucker Carlson and S.E. Cupp — as well as his wife, Mary Matalin — will also take turns on the dais.
Eisenhower Theater; June 24, 9:30 p.m., $29-$45.
The Virginia native and “Saturday Night Live” veteran, who does uncanny impressions of President Barack Obama, Denzel Washington and Jay Z, will perform a stand-up set that showcases his talents outside of the sketch show.
The Bentzen Ball Podcast Studio
Terrace Gallery; June 23-25, various times, $15.
The center’s Terrace Gallery will transform into an intimate, 160-seat space that will host four live podcast recordings in conjunction with D.C.’s Bentzen Ball Comedy Festival. First up is “The Todd Glass Show” (June 23, 8:30 p.m.), a master class in silliness from the L.A. comedian. Keeping with the festival’s semi-political bent, Mike Still and Paul Welsh host “Hard Nation” (June 24, 8 p.m.), in which comedians perform as unfavorable politicians. More political humor comes from “Redacted Tonight” (June 25, 5 p.m.), a satirical show hosted by Lee Camp and featuring John F. O’Donnell. The final recording is “The Last Podcast on the Left” (June 25, 8 p.m.), a comedy show about all the horrors of the world.
More stuff to do in D.C.: