Originally posted at the California Special Districts Association.

The importance of laughter is well-documented. “A day without laughter is a day wasted,” said Charlie Chaplin. “Laughter is an instant vacation,” according to Milton Berle. Cosumnes Community Services District (CCSD) holds an event every summer that encourages its community to get together and laugh. Its Comedy Under the Stars event has grown very popular over the years, gathering hundreds of residents to watch professional comedians while enjoying picnic dinners and the evening air.

California Special District asked CCSD to describe the Comedy Under the Stars event and explain what it takes to organize the successful affair.

Heather Shortino, Cosumnes Community Services District

What is the Comedy Under the Stars event?

Comedy Under the Stars is a series of comedy shows taking place throughout the summer at the Laguna Town Hall outdoor amphitheater. The CSD has partnered with Sacramento’s Laughs Unlimited to bring the three summer shows to Elk Grove. Laughs Unlimited schedules three comedians for each show; an emcee and a feature and headliner comedian.

Comedy Under the Stars Logo


  • Creating a partnership and an annual agreement with Sacramento’s Laughs Unlimited to book comedians
  • Securing sponsors
  • Booking security
  • Marketing the event

Unique challenges

  • Since the show is recommended for adult audiences, we do have to reiterate this information to guests. It is up to them but we discourage bringing any minors in.
  • With some of the language not suitable for everyone; we need to make sure volume is low enough so neighbors are not affected. The show is put on in an outdoor amphitheater and in close proximity to an apartment complex and we want to make sure we are being good neighbors!

The show starts at 8:00 p.m. with seating available at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Guests are encouraged to bring a picnic dinner and blanket (no high back chairs). The shows are suitable for adults only.

What inspired the district to turn to comedy for a public event?

One of the things that inspired the CSD to first host a series of comedy shows in 1994 was that, at the time, a similar event was held at a Sacramento golf course. The free event became too popular and it soon outgrew the golf course venue. At that time, the CSD did so many things for families and we thought it might be fun to do something for just the adults. Because there were a lot of families living in Elk Grove at the time, the Parks and Recreation Department believed the addition of comedy shows would round out the list of activities offered to children and adults in the community. With this idea in mind, staff contacted Laughs Unlimited and the rest, as they say, is history. Laughs Unlimited and the Cosumnes CSD Parks and Recreation Department have been partners for over 20 years.

Has the event been successful?

The shows have been very successful. Each show’s attendance ranges from 450 -700 depending on the date of the show and weather. Customers have been very happy with the event and are excited to have the opportunity to attend a local comedy show. Many of the people who come out to enjoy the show come out with large groups of friends and family and look forward to these nights all year long! The comedy shows are truly an event that brings the community together.

Explain how comedy under the stars helps the district fulfill its mission to the public.
The mission of the Cosumnes Community Services District is to enhance the quality of life for those residing in, doing business in and visiting the community. The Parks and Recreation Department’s mission is to “Make Lives Better.”

The Comedy Under the Stars shows fulfill our mission by providing an opportunity to bring members of our community together for an enjoyable evening where they can create lasting memories with friends and family. These shows are just one of the many ways the Parks and Recreation Department is “Making Lives Better” in Elk Grove.

What advice do you have for other districts who may want to throw a similar event for their communities?

  • A partnership with Sacramento’s Laughs Unlimited or a similar business is vital;
    since they have the relationships to book
    the comedians.
  • It’s a great revenue producer with
    minimal planning.
  • We would recommend at least a nominal charge for the event and recommend a pre-registration discount to encourage people to register prior to the event. This will help ensure you have an idea of how many people you will need to accommodate.
  • If you decide to start an event like this, give it time to catch on. You may have a couple of shows that don’t cover the direct costs, but after a couple of shows, your attendance is likely to increase as word gets out.
  • An idea that we have used in the past to attract more people is to offer a Groupon for discounted tickets. This or any other social media marketing would be a great idea for someone trying to start up a new event.

What are some other innovative ways Cosumnes CSD engages with the community?

The Cosumnes Community Services District hosts numerous programs and special events throughout the year that bring the community together. While executing these programs and events, we consistently strive to provide excellent customer service. We encourage our customers to share their experiences on the “How Are We Doing?” customer service hotline because with their input, we can enhance the quality of our programs and facilities. We also have a live 24-hour Park Maintenance Hotline that allows park users to report a park maintenance need at any time of the day, seven days a week.

We also open up a dialogue with customers on our social media pages and hold park design workshops for community members to get involved in the planning of their neighborhood parks. We are able to take creative risks with park planning and recreational programming when we engage the community and earn their support.