Sometimes, you just have to laugh at yourself – and each other. That’s the mantra Gridiron is taking as local media personalities prepare to skewer headliners and newsmakers during skits at Wichita’s Orpheum Theatre.
Though this year’s theme is a play on the bestselling, risque novel, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” organizers say there will be the same amount of nudity in this year’s show as in last year’s performance – absolutely none.
Fifty Shades of Gridiron promises an evening of humorous entertainment, satirizing recent local and national news topics. While many of the jokes are at the expense of others, it’s all in good fun, organizers say, and proceeds from the show will fund scholarships for aspiring journalists.
“People like seeing local news anchors up on stage writing, performing, dancing, singing and doing things that they perceive to be out of character for the folks who are up on stage,” said assistant producer and longtime Gridiron cast member Kevin Connelly. “They like to see who these people are – the people who write the bylines and tell the news – and they like to see what type of talent they possess. It also works because we are really funny and put on a really good show.”
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This year’s cast includes a number of familiar faces from local print, radio and TV media. Among them: KSN, Channel 3’s Justin Kraemer; local funnyman Bucky Walters, KNSS radio’s Ted Woodward; Sierra Scott of KPTS’ “It’s All Good,” Teresa Veazey from Wichita State University’s Ulrich Museum of Art; and Bonnie Bing. Mike Iuen of KAKE, Channel 10 will emcee the event. There also will be a mystery guest or two. While Connelly wouldn’t reveal their identities, he did divulge who wouldn’t be appearing on stage.
“Gridiron has never had a former president of the United States before as a mystery guest,” he said. “I’m happy to announce that in 2013, that tradition continues.”
Performers will cover a wide area of topics on stage. A musical review of “Fifty Shades of Grey” will be sung by the men and women of the cast. U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder’s nude swim in the Sea of Galilee will be lampooned. There will be a behind-the-scenes look at the Bel Aire aquarium. Proposals for addressing the state budget will be put forward. There also will be an homage of sorts to the popular TV show, “Downton Abbey.” Longtime Gridiron favorites including the “What’s Wrong” skit and “The Fairytale Princess” shtick also will be part of the performances.
The event itself has a long tradition, starting in 1967. It originally was patterned after the Washington Gridiron show. It now has the distinction of being the longest consecutive running gridiron event in the country. Presented by the Society of Professional Journalists, it’s awarded around $208,000 in scholarships to journalism students. This year, $8,000 will be given out, with amounts ranging from $750 to $1,500 per student. Typically, there are 10 winners selected from a pool of applicants. Many of them will be in attendance at the performances.
“It’s good to go out some place and laugh,” Connelly said. “It’s different humor that is homespun. It’s developed here by local talent. It’s healthy for anybody – a community, a city, an individual – to be able to laugh at themselves and other things that are just kind of funny and ironic.”