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NHFF Annual Comedy Panel Features Star Guests

Left to right: Greg Kretschmar, Tim Herlihy, Rae Dong Chong, John Viener

Every year the Annual Comedy Panel is a “not to miss” event with lines wrapping around corners to get into the venue. This year was no different on Saturday night when host, Greg Kretschmar of Greg and the Morning Buzz, and panelists Rae Dong Chong, actress; Tim Herlihy, writer and producer; and John Viener, actor and writer, took the 3S Artspace stage.

Before the event began, Co-founder and Industry Director Dan Hannon welcomed everyone to the intimate space and thanked the tireless festival sponsors Portsmouth Chevrolet and The Provident Bank. Without these major sponsors, Hannon stated, the New Hampshire Film Festival would not be what it is today, and offered a friendly reminder to “give them some love,” which was happily accepted with applause.

The seacoast’s favorite radio host, and longtime panel moderator, Greg Kretschmar, kicked off the event with a question for each panelist, “What’s funny to you?” to which, Tim Herlihy, co-writer for feature films starring Adam Sandler such asĀ Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore; stated quickly that slapstick comedy like America’s Funniest Home Videos always gets him. This mention brought up NHFF favorite guest, Tom Bergeron, the former host of AFV who was unable to attend this year’s festival.

Rae Dong Chong, who was an actress in The Color Purple and Commando, said that the plot line of denial in comedy is what she finds funny, and movies such as Tropic Thunder, where small moments like when Jack Black is getting “squid burns” in the background, go almost unnoticed, yet are the most amusing moments to Chong.

NHFF first-timer, John Viener, actor and writer for the Oscars, Comedy Central Roasts and sitcoms like Family Guy, answered first responding to Chong saying, “We watch different movies,” prompting much laughter and a light knee slap from Chong, but then continued to say seriously that the arrogant idiot characters, like Homer Simpson, never fail to make him laugh.

The theme of “what makes you laugh” continued in questions brought up by the audience on how to be funny in a PC world. Today, comedy that crosses a line, or is offensive, which is often what comedy is based on, can lose an audience. However, Veiner pointed out that “You have to push buttons to get by” and that sometimes you have to “let people find their comedy.” An audience member stood up shortly after and suggested that maybe comedy featuring topics of race, sexuality, and misogyny may be received better if it wasn’t coming from just one group of people. The audience supported this theory with whistles and applause.

Shifting the conversation from what could easily become too heated and topical, Kretschmar took more questions from the crowd. One question was “What is something you would tell people that they don’t know about the work?” After pondering for a moment, Herlihy chimed in and said that he hates the conception that Adam Sandler is “lazy.” He said that after working with Sandler for nearly 35 years, that he knows better than anyone that he’s the hardest working person on the set and behind the scenes.

Veiner closed with an important message which was a perfect takeaway, he said in response to the same audience question, “Have as many life experiences as you can and chase what makes you excited and not worry about anything else.”


By Samantha Granville