- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

VINCENNES, Ind. (AP) - The new Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy has drawn its first international conference to Vincennes.

Anne Pratt, director of marketing for the museum, said the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, an international group that aims to promote the health benefits of good, clean comedy, will be holding its annual conference April 3 through 6 at the adjoining Red Skelton Performing Arts Center as well as Vincennes University’s P.E. Complex.

“This is the first time this conference has ever not been held in a huge metropolitan city,” Pratt told the Vincennes Sun-Commercial (https://bit.ly/1kWPqWp ).

“So I’m really hoping they get an appreciation for rural, small town life and the health benefits of living somewhere quiet without all the hustle and bustle of a big city,” she said. “I want them to see what we have to offer, and I just know it will be a great boon for us.”

Pratt said the conference, which annually draws upward of 300 people from seven countries, features multiple keynote speakers as well as breakout sessions that focus on the health and educational benefits of humor.

And while most residents here might not be interested in participating in the entire four-day conference, the community will get a chance to partake on the second day of the conference when the AATH members will be hosting a “Pins and Grins” event at VU’s bowling alley.

For a $25 fee, members of the community will have a chance to visit with the humor health professionals, snack from a taco bar and hear Vincennes‘ own Big D entertain the crowd. From 7:30 to 9 p.m., several of the AATH members will be set up in various rooms around the P.E. Complex offering exhibitions of their own comedic talents.

“They’ll be scattered all over, and people can just wander in and out enjoying all of it,” Pratt said. “Each of them has some kind of special talent in humor. It might be improv, therapeutic clowning or maybe laughter yoga, but humor is their profession. They make people laugh.

“So you can go round and round, visiting these different rooms and see what all they have to offer.”

Residents will also have an opportunity to see the conference’s main keynote speaker, Brad Zinn from Phoenix, perform his latest show, “The Great Comedians: Those Felt Hat and Big Cigar Funny Men,” on April 5.

“He impersonates 20 of the greatest comedians of all time,” Pratt explained. “People like Bob Hope, Groucho Marks and W.C. Fields. He portrays them in this big routine, with song and dance, and he always closes his show with an impersonation of Red Skelton.”

Tickets for Zinn’s show are $20 and a dessert reception will follow, Pratt said.

And in an effort to promote Vincennes‘ many restaurants, Pratt said they are also planning a “dine around experience” for the AATH members. Each of them will be given a list of local restaurants - Pratt is also hoping to be able to include coupons from local business owners - and offer them transportation anywhere they want to go.

“We’re working with the Vincennes/Knox County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau on that and are really hoping to showcase some of our favorite restaurants,” Pratt said. “We’ll be offering shuttle service to get them from place to place.”

The AATH’s website is already encouraging its members to visit local historic spots like Grouseland, Vincennes State Historic Sites, the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park and the Indiana Military Museum.

Pratt said the opportunity to hold the international conference here started with a chance encounter three years ago. Lenny Dave, a nationally-known motivational speaker and member of AATH, gave a presentation at VU, and when he stopped into the museum’s gift shop - the museum wasn’t yet open to the public - he and Pratt bonded over their enthusiasm of American comedy.

“We just totally clicked, and he kept telling me about the AATH organization, about the benefits of humor that isn’t hurtful or sarcastic, and he said Red was an ideal example of that kind of humor.

“I went to conferences in San Diego and Chicago and eventually the board decided this year’s conference would be held in Vincennes. It’s all been really exciting.”

For more information about the AATH conference, including pricing, visit the organization’s website at https://www.aath.org. People can also contact Pratt at 812-888-2105 or email her at apratt@vinu.edu for additional, local information.


Information from: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, https://www.vincennes.com

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