Parkersburg comedy event a homecoming for Ellison

PARKERSBURG — A comedy show slated for Saturday aims to provide laughs and a funding boost for the Parkersburg Homecoming Festival.

Lubeck native Dan Ellison, veteran comic Jeff Blanchard and sound-effects specialist Joe Saba will be featured at “Comedy Night” at the Dils Center on Market Street in Parkersburg. Local comic Joel Gant will serve as master of ceremonies.

Doors open at 7 p.m. with showtime at 8.

The show is one of several new fundraising initiatives for the annual Homecoming, including bingo and a monthly night at Outback Steakhouse where customers can contribute a portion of their bill to the event.

“We were forced, beginning last year, to start running fundraisers in the offseason,” Homecoming President Mike Cottrell said.

“We’re just excited,” he said of the comedy show. “It’s something new we’ve never done before.”

Ellison, a classmate of Cottrell’s at Parkersburg South High School, has performed at venues in 40 states, including Lafayette Hotel in Marietta and Kokomo’s in Parkersburg.

He was working as an electrical engineer when he saw Steve Martin perform in Charleston. After watching more and more comedians, including Bob Nelson and Rodney Dangerfield, “I started thinking, maybe I could do that,” he said.

Ellison got his chance at an open-mic night.

“I got a few laughs, and that was enough, and that bit me,” he said.

It took eight years to go from open-mic nights to full-time comedy. Ellison said he incorporates his knowledge of electrical engineering in his act, for a long time utilizing a soundboard composed of sound buttons pulled from children’s books to tell decidedly more adult stories.

“To write a lot of comedy, you got to have a lot of boredom,” he said, adding that that’s when he starts messing around with technology. Ellison recommends getting Siri to read the lyrics to “Rapper’s Delight”“It’ll leave you in tears.”

“I’m a kid who gets paid to act like a kid,” he said.

Combining his knowledge and ingenuity with his rural roots earned Ellison the nickname “the Educated Redneck.”

“It’s my ability to take things and make things,” he said. “People want to put rednecks down, but they hang around us” and learn how smart country folks are.

“All your NASCAR people are educated rednecks,” Ellison said.

Ellison said people attending Saturday’s show are in for a treat because the featured performers could and have headlined their own shows.

Blanchard is the co-founder of the Cabaret Dada Improvisational Theater and Something Dada Improvisational Comedy Co. in Cleveland. He has appeared on multiple television programs and the YouTube series “Man in the Box.”

“He’s hilarious,” Ellison said.

Saba will be performing his first show in nearly a decade after previously appearing on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “The Arsenio Hall Show” and season two of “America’s Got Talent,” among others. John Mike Nichols, a Homecoming board member and booking agent for Rick Modesitt Associates, said the Desert Storm veteran and sound effects maestro found a more lucrative career as a high-crane operator, but he recently convinced him to step behind the mic again when he attended a show in Maryland.

“He went up on stage and blew the audience away,” Nichols said. “He’s amazing.”

Tickets for the show are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Information about tickets can be obtained by calling 304-481-6483 or visiting parkersburg-homecoming.com.