The Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival opens up its second year of performances tonight in Traverse City, Mich. And if you're thinking that northern Michigan (not to be confused with Upper Peninsula Michigan) is an odd place for a comedy festival in February, then just remember that it's located across Lake Michigan from Green Bay, Wisc. Oh, and also, it's curated by Jeff Garlin and Michael Moore as an offshoot of the city's film fest.

Traverse-city-comedy-festivalThey've assembled a good lineup for the 2011 TCCAF schedule, too. Bob Saget performs tonight after the opening party. Patton Oswalt, Caroline Rhea, Jeffrey Ross, Ted Alexandro and Joe DeRosa, Brett Gelman and Aubrey Plaza all will be there. A Sunday filled with Coen Brothers comedies on film.

Well, why I don't just let Garlin and Moore explain it? Because they did just that in an open letter a few days ago, which I'm reprinting for your enjoyment.

Hey, Jeff Garlin here. And Michael Moore. We‚Äôd like to let you in on the comedians we‚Äôve asked to come to next weekend‚Äôs Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival. We‚Äôve invited them ‚Äôcause they‚Äôre some of the funniest people we know.

Jeff Garlin: And they each paid us a handsome sum in Canadian gold to be part of this.

Michael Moore: Which had NOTHING to do with our decision to bring them. Besides, what good is ‚ÄúCanadian gold‚Äù anyway?

Jeff: I hear that‚Äôs the name of the Official Drink of the Microbrew Fest.

Michael: No, I think that drink has something to do with fermented cherries. Anyways, tell us about your relationship with Caroline Rhea.

Jeff: Caroline and I go way back to the 80s. I first met her in New York City. From the first time I saw her I thought she was wonderful. I‚Äôm a little bit jealous because my wife stole her friendship. I don‚Äôt talk to her that much any more because she‚Äôs too busy hanging with my wife. Go see her and her opener Flip Schultz. (I love him. Hysterical.)

Michael: I‚Äôd like to say a few words about Patton Oswalt. Truly the smartest, funniest guy I‚Äôve met in comedy in recent years. I first met him when he was the emcee of the film editors‚Äô awards back in 2008 and I was one of the presenters. Awards shows are ultimately a pretty cheesy affair, so we sat backstage in between each award making up things to say and seeing if we could get away with it. The following summer he brought his film, ‚ÄúBig Fan,‚Äù to the TC Film Festival. People loved it and they loved him. And he fell in love with Traverse City. He is thrilled to be coming back to perform his wildly popular act here. Here‚Äôs a glimpse of his genius.

Jeff: I love Patton. He‚Äôs the only man I will allow to apply lotion to my forearms.

Michael: I‚Äôve actually watched him do that to you. Did you know that that‚Äôs illegal in neighboring Kalkaska County?

Jeff: Excuse me, but I‚Äôve been to the ‚ÄúKaliseum,‚Äù and I saw many men applying lotion to each other there.

Michael: I understand that you and Jeffrey Ross have a few stories to tell.

Jeff: Yes, but I can‚Äôt tell them in this letter that you are sending out to decent families to read. Actually, I understand that in Fife Lake, families gather together around the menorah to read your weekly missives to each other.

Michael: Wow, you really do know Kalkaska County. In fact, in Rapid City, I‚Äôm told traffic comes to a standstill when my weekly email arrives on their town dial-up service! But back to Jeffrey Ross.

Jeff: Well, Jeffery Ross is absolutely brilliant and insane. I recommend that people coming to his show bring their own oxygen tanks. [Watch a clip here.]

Michael: What about some of the ‚Äúlesser-known‚Äù comedians we‚Äôre bringing? These are rising stars we wanted to introduce to TC before they become huge celebrities.

Jeff: Because when they do, they will not give us any of their Canadian gold. I want to mention Joe DeRosa, who has opened up for me many times. He‚Äôs crazy smart and funny. And he‚Äôs finally getting noticed in New York. He is one of my favorites: (clip).

Michael: I first saw Ted Alexandro at last year‚Äôs New York Comedy Fest. He opened for Louis CK and he was awesome! I loved his hilarious observations on what it‚Äôs like to still be single at 40. I think people in TC will really love his act. I would mark his show with a big ‚ÄúDON‚ÄôT MISS!‚Äù Here‚Äôs an example of his work: (clip).

Jeff: How cool is it that you have the actual creator of ‚ÄúEverybody Loves Raymond‚Äù coming here?!

Michael: Yes! Phil Rosenthal. He ran that great show for nearly a decade and he‚Äôs a genius. He‚Äôs bringing this movie ‚ÄúExporting Raymond‚Äù that he made of him trying to remake ‚ÄúRaymond‚Äù as a sitcom on Russian television. I laughed so hard all the way through the film. He used a number of my crew guys that I‚Äôve worked with for years. I encourage everyone to come to the State to see one of the first great, cool docs of 2011 at 1 pm next Saturday.

Jeff: So, we have one show at the fest that isn‚Äôt by a stand-up comedian. YOU are doing a one-man show! WTF??!

Michael: Yes, I know. It‚Äôs brilliant. The greatest artistic achievement since Stravinsky‚Äôs ‚ÄúThe Rite of Spring.‚Äù Oh wait. Sorry. That‚Äôs what Pauline Kael wrote about ‚ÄúLast Tango in Paris.‚Äù

Jeff: Well, you‚Äôre being modest. When you performed this show in London, it sold out for five weeks straight.

Michael: Yes, I dropped 30 pounds doing that show every night. I‚Äôm hoping to lose another 10 this weekend.

Jeff: So, what do you cover in this monologue? Is this something in the Spalding Gray mold?

Michael: Sort of. I‚Äôll tell a lot of tales out of school and say a lot of things people are thinking but are afraid to say. And from there the comedy ensues! I‚Äôm really looking forward to it. Those who come will be able to say they were the first to see it on American soil! I‚Äôm even giving everyone who comes some soil.

Jeff: I see. Is this why no one would sponsor this show?

Michael: Hahaha. It has sponsors. Finally. (Pauses to wipe a lone tear from his eye.) So, Jeff, what‚Äôs this about ‚Äî you‚Äôre going to be doing a hootenanny for your show?

Jeff: Let‚Äôs see. Obviously you‚Äôve got me doing stand up and improvising. Maybe even singing. That alone is worth the price of admission. Also, I have the big bowl of wonderful that is Aubrey Plaza: (clip) You may know her from ‚ÄúParks and Recreation.‚Äù I know her from a gentle love making festival. Speaking of gentle love making, I have Brett Gelmanjoining me. He may be a gentle love maker, but as a comedian, he‚Äôs rough and tumble. You may leave with a few bruises. He just did a great turn on the upcoming season of ‚ÄúCurb Your Enthusiasm.‚Äù As a bonus, I‚Äôve invited Northwestern University‚Äôs improv group Mee-Ow. I saw them perform just last week and I loved ‚Äòem. And lastly, yes, the rumors are true. There will be an accordion player.

Michael: Wow. It‚Äôs like people are going to get five shows in one ‚Äî all in 90 minutes! Talk about bang for your buck. You‚Äôre really putting a lot into this.

Jeff: The street value of this hootenanny is over $500. So for 20 bucks, it‚Äôs like a crack equivalent. No one will leave without being warned not to ingest solid foods or to drive for at least an hour.

Michael: Well, this should give people a good idea of what‚Äôs in store for them at this year‚Äôs comedy fest. There are still good seats available for every show but one, but they won‚Äôt be there for long (you can buy them here with a click). So I encourage everyone to fill up their Friday and Saturday next weekend with as many shows as they can.

Jeff: Yes, please go see as many shows as you can. Take a chance on a comedian you don‚Äôt know ‚Äî you won‚Äôt be disappointed. I should know. I‚Äôve been to Kalkaska.

Michael: I‚Äôll take you back to Kalkaska and show you all the cool stuff you missed. I think the 150 buck poles downtown frightened you.

Jeff: Yes, especially when I saw a live Democrat hanging on one of them.

Michael: That wasn‚Äôt a Democrat. It was a Downstater. You have no idea how much fudge goes missing here every year.

Take care everyone! See you (this) weekend!