Laughs by the Lake brings community together

“I just came to get out of my house,” comedian Dorie Mclemore told a roaring audience sprawled out on lawn chairs and picnic blankets at Lake Carolyn.

While some of the estimated 1,500 visitors of the fourth annual Irving Laughs by the Lake event may have just needed to get out of their homes for a couple hours, many more seemed drawn by the comedy performances, free food and scenic evening lake view.

The event, presented by Frontier Communications and the City of Irving, was held on Sept. 1. Dallas-based Comedian Q hosted Mclemore, Troy Walker and three-time Daytime Emmy winner Ben Bailey. In-N-Out Burger gave two hamburgers, a soft drink and chips to each of the first 1,000 attendees, while Fuzzy’s Tacos sold food and beer.

“I had never booked a comedian before,” said Jasmine Lee, city of Irving special events coordinator. “The main goal was to get a wide range of styles so everybody can laugh at least once.”

For the first time, this year’s event featured a contest for local comedians. Hannah Vaughan, Todd Justice, and David Jessop, were chosen as finalists by a panel to compete onstage for a cash prize and the title “Irving’s Funniest Comic,” determined by an audience vote.

“Normally you turn down an outside event,” said Justice of Carrolton, who won about 70 percent of the vote. “Comedy is not normally an outside event and we made it work tonight.”

Justice said the speaker system and generator allowed the audience to hear and participate, and the crowd’s closeness to the stage and ample laughter set the scene for good performances.

To make the event more accessible for comedians and the audience, Lee and her team have been working to make changes based on feedback from past years.

“The biggest change was to push people to sit closer to the stage,” Lee said. “Comedy is interactive, and our comedians last year told us that would be helpful. We put out a rope around the stage and made people sit in front of the rope. When that area filled up we just moved the rope back.”

“I think the setup is a lot better this year,” said Ernesto Banuelas, who worked at last year’s Laughs by the Lake event. “People have a really nice view now [that the stage faces the lake].”

Changes based on surveys passed out last year include free on-site grass parking which, though limited, proved popular with the crowd. In years past, attendants had to pay for private parking or use Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s Orange Line to Las Colinas Urban Center Station. The city of Irving also provided a complimentary shuttle bus service to the Tower 909 parking garage and Las Colinas Urban Center station.

In the past a band followed the hired comedians but this year the comedy showcase replaced the live music. The audience was asked to vote on their phones for their favorite of the three 5-minute acts.

All of the comic acts were free of adult language and themes and families brought dogs on leashes and children in strollers. According to Lee, Laughs by the Lake is also intended to provide an inexpensive community experience for Irving’s adults.

“Every resident deserves some type of event,” Lee said. “We do a lot for elementary-age kids and families, which is great, but we also wanted people to be able to have a fun night out with the community.”