Caroline Rhea looking forward to Lucy Fest performance

Caroline Rhea fans will see some fresh material in downtown Jamestown on Thursday night.

Rhea, a longtime comedian in the midst of a North American festival tour, never performs the same show twice.

“I have hours of material,” she said during a phone interview. “It’s never going to be the same, because the audience is never going to be the same.”

Part of the star-studded Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, Thursday’s Stand-Up Showcase at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts features Rhea as headliner and host, along with Carmen Lynch, Moody McCarthy and Andrew Norelli.

While Rhea plans to please fans new and old with a fresh set, she also hopes to develop a good relationship with the audience.

“I like stand-up comedy because of my overwhelming need to connect with people,” she said. “That’s the best way I’ve found to do that. I like seeing what we all have in common.”

Rhea, who starred in “Christmas with the Kranks” and as Aunt Hilda on “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch,” has performed in top comedy clubs for decades. She caught the eye of Journey Gunderson, executive director of the Lucy-Desi Museum and Center for Comedy, at the New York Comedy Festival in November.

“I think a lot of people relate to Caroline because she’s so real,” Gunderson said. “She talks about things that might be embarrassing. She really leaves her ego out of it.”

Coming off performances at the Johnny Carson Theatre and the Montreal Comedy Festival, Rhea looks forward to her Jamestown show for several reasons, including her love of Lucille Ball.

Rhea closely followed Ball’s career and called her “the patron saint of comedy.”

“Her comedy is so precise,” Rhea said. “Every time you watch her you could learn something. She’ll be important forever.”

Rhea will also enjoy sharing the stage with Lynch, a former “Last Comic Standing” finalist. Lynch has performed at the Aspen Comedy Festival and on Comedy Central’s “Premium Blend.”

“I love Carmen Lynch,” Rhea said. “She’s absolutely hilarious.”

Lynch, McCarthy and Norelli made appearances on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Conan” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

According to Gunderson, many comedy fans will remember Norelli from the 2011 Lucille Ball Comedy Festival. Norelli, who opened for Joan Rivers, performed for a crowd of 1,200 at the Reg Lenna.

“A lot of people should be excited to see (Norelli) again,” Gunderson said. “The Stand-Up Showcase performers have all been vetted by the best of the best in the industry as far as getting them on national television.”

As host of the event, Rhea will introduce her fellow comedians. She’ll also have plenty of stage time for herself.

“It’s a unique show,” Gunderson said. “If you’re going because you’re a huge Caroline Rhea fan, you won’t be disappointed.”

Rhea’s audience will feature plenty of servicemen and women. Veterans and active members of the military can enjoy Thursday’s showcase free of charge, something that has Rhea excited.

“I think that’s fantastic,” she said. “I’m actually very thrilled to be a part of that. I used to go and visit the soldiers at Walter Reed (Army Medical Center). That’s the least I could do.”

According to Gunderson, to obtain a free ticket, any veteran or active member of the military should visit or call the Lucy-Desi Museum and Center for Comedy at 484-0800. For the general public, tickets for Thursday’s 8 p.m. showcase at the Reg Lenna range from $15 to $30. To purchase tickets, visit the festival’s website or call the Lucy-Desi Museum.