Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Boston Scene: Looking Back and Forward to 2009

This was a year of transition for the Boston comedy scene. The Comedy Connection left Faneuil Hall for the Wilbur. Mottley’s Comedy Club opened to give Faneuil Hall a different, more indie-driven vibe. The Comedy Studio kept chugging despite losing staples like Micah Sherman and Myq Kaplan to New York. Dick Doherty stepped up his programming at the Vault.

There were rumblings about what would become of the scene, the usual concerns about hemorrhaging talent to New York and Los Angeles and speculation about the club scene. But at it’s base, this scene isn’t about the clubs. Never has been. The clubs, like the old Ding Ho and Catch a Rising Star, and more recently the Connection and the Studio, are just the facilitators. This scene is about the comedians, and from what I’ve seen over the past decade covering comedy in Boston, this scene will never lack for good comedians.

Nine years ago, I saw the Ding Ho reunion at the Somerville Theatre. I had been in town for about a year, and seen a few shows, but really hadn’t gotten my feet wet in the scene yet. At that reunion, I saw Bobcat Goldthwait, Steven Wright, Barry Crimmins, Jimmy Tingle, Don Gavin, Steve Sweeney, Lenny Clarke, Mike McDonald, Tony V., DJ Hazard, and probably twenty other comics whose roots were firmly planted in Boston.

It was an amazing array of talent, and an exhausting night as comic after talented comic took the stage. People took turns hosting just to get through it. You can read about the history of this scene all you want, but seeing wave after wave of comics of whom I was already a fan and hilarious veterans I had never heard of drove home just how rich the Boston comedy scene is, how deep its history. And the fact that I had laughed for more than three hours was proof this wasn’t just talk – these people were funny, and there seemed to be an endless supply of them.

A few weeks ago, I saw a lot of the same people at Showcase Live when Steven Wright was introduced into the Boston Comedy Hall of Fame. Crimmins gave us a glimpse into what it’s like to tour with Wright (Theme song --- “No Woman, No Press Charges,” and tequila and acid were staples, acid for the audience so they’d better understand the show). Bob Lazarus had the best set I’d seen him do. Ken Rogerson, Tony V, Don Gavin, Jimmy Tingle, Steve Sweeney, Lenny Clarke, Mike McDonald – the audience knew and cheered every one of them. They were old friends, a constant in an ever evolving city.

A few days later, the Paradise Rock Club hosted Robby Roadsteamer’s Greater Boston Alternative Comedy Festival. Roadsteamer had assembled some of the best of a new wave of Boston comedians. You can debate the term “alternative” if you’d like (in an awkward moment waiting for a sound cue that seemed like it would never come, host Shane Webb questioned alternative – “It just has to be weird, right?”). You can say it’s a false category, call it pretentious, however you perceive it. But what you can’t do is apply that old chestnut that it’s the “alternative to funny.”

Character comic Chris Coxen showed off his “combat dancing” as Danny Morsel (a mix of disco and punching and kicking) and his smoothness as loungemaster Barry Tattle. Mehran, who I was seeing in person for the first time, had a powerhouse set about being both gay and Iranian (the man is not shy about mining either for laughs). Bethany Van Delft was cool and intellectual, the Walsh Brothers told their wild stories about adjusting to LA, Anderson Comedy sang of Christmas with no pants. Shane Mauss pulled off a neat and seamless set of stand-up with a cell phone sketch sown in. And Roadsteamer clearly had the crowd behind him during his set of musical diatribes about the Boston comedy and music scenes, with help from a couple of muscleheads on my favorite of his tunes, “I Got Construction Boots.”

Two shows within three days of each other. Boston veterans, and a new generation of Boston comics. Whatever else might be in transition, the comedians are here, old and new, and they both have helped me laugh my ass off for nearly ten years. And there are continuing efforts to bring the two worlds together. Mottley’s approach to booking has allowed Shane Mauss, veteran Patty Ross, and Baron Vaughn (back home from New York) to headline. Artie Januario hosts a Wednesday night open mic at Giggles that regularly attracts veterans like Tony V (watch for that to start up again January 21).

My hope for 2009 is that people go out to see these comedians, and realize how lucky they are to live in a city where comedy never dies. And you don’t have to go very far to find it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rineman's Best Jokes of 2008

Jon Rineman has assembled an exhaustive list of his Best 50 Jokes of 2008, covering politics, entertainment, sports, and a few other catagories. Rineman, who shares my longstanding frustration about the treatment of Scatman Crothers in The Shining, tees off on the usual suspects(Sarah Palin, Manny Ramirez) like a man obsessed with rimshots. He even includes his top ten worst jokes. Brave move, Mr. Rineman.

Take a look here:
Jon Rineman's Best of 2008.

If you want to see Mr. Rineman live, you're in luck. He's playing a New Year's Eve show at Shea Theater in Turners Falls, Ma with Rich Gustus, Chrissy Kelleher, and Sean Sullivan, hosted by Jennifer Myszkowski. Tickets: $20.00 all seats; Doors open at 7:00 PM

Monday, December 29, 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

Comedy Calendar

I was having some problems with the Comedy Calendar, and I seem to have resolved them, so take a look, and send me your listings, and let me know if you feel it's easy to use. My e-mail is linked to the right.

Happy holidays!

Jewmongous Adds a Late Show At Club Passim

If you were planning on going to tomorrow's Jewmongous show at Club Passim, I just got word from Sean Altman (who is, literally and figuratively, Jewmongous) that the early show has sold out, and Passim has added a late show. Call Passim or check their schedule for details. Altman has been busy on tour, but I got in touch with him by e-mail to ask a few questions about his comedy/music act, and how it has grown since he released the Jewmongous album last year.

How would you describe your Jewmongous show to the uninitiated?

Original, exceedingly catchy, Jewish-themed comedy songs sung by a tall man with high cheekbones, a winning smile, a golden voice and an obsession with his shmeckel.

Is there another Jewmongous album in the works?

Of course! I hope to have it ready by late 2009.

Are you still working with most of the songs from the Jewmongous album? What can people who saw the last Passim Jewmongous show expect to see that’s different this time around?

I’ve added guitarist extraordinaire Matt Detro to fill out the sound and make the show sound more like the album. We’ll be debuting a new love song called “Phantom Foreskin” and making every other song sound more rockin’.

Do you feel like that identity has evolved into something apart from anything you’d do just as Sean Altman?

Most certainly; JEWMONGOUS, as a comedy song project, allows me to take lyrical risks and use inappropriate language that would not be suitable for my normal, sensistive pop song act. It’s nice to be able to have two very distinct projects that are both musically and lyrically fulfilling in their own ways.

I have to admit, I thought the White House Hanukkah party was a put on until I saw the photo with Lieberman. How did you get the invite to the White House?

As the “Father of Modern A Cappella” (owing to my eleven years as the leader of Rockapella), I was asked by a Jewish vocal group called Kol Zimra to vocal arrange and produce an album of Jewish a cappella. That album was so successful that they asked me to do occasional gigs with them. Thus, we’ve twice performed at the White House Hanukah party, in 2004 and again last week.

How was Lieberman when you posed for the photo? Was he reluctant?

Senator Lieberman or, as I like to call him, “Traitor Joe”, was very friendly and had even read about JEWMONGOUS. I hope he listens to the album I gave him and invites me for Shabbos dinner some night.

Did you live here at one time? If your brother went to Brookline, did you as well?

My parents divorced when I was a kid and my brother lived with my Dad in Boston while I lived with my Mom in the New York. I consider both great cities my home, although my sports allegiances are squarely with Boston.

Are people mostly familiar with the songs when they show up?

No, I seem to get a lot of new audience at each show. Either that or people forget the lyric punchlines from year to year. In either case, people laugh and for that I’m most grateful.

Are people who know you from other projects offended by songs like “Christian Baby Blood” or “Blow, Murray, Blow?”

I think that anyone who sets foot in a show named JEWMONGOUS has a pretty good idea that they’re not going to witness an Israeli Folk Dancing troupe. The name of the act tends to steel people for the kind of irreverence that I dish out.

What are your plans for Christmas Day?

After selling out a large venue in Washington DC area, we’ll be shlepping back to New York for a much needed one day rest, which will give me time to become reacquainted with my newborn daughter’s lovely face and technicolor poop.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Judy Gold Debut’s Mommy Queerest at the Huntington

Last year at this time, Judy Gold was in Boston with her one-woman show, 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, playing the Huntington’s Calderwood Pavilion. But there was another show brewing she couldn’t quite finish off, at least until Peter DuBois, the Calderwood’s artistic director, asked her if she wanted to bring her next show back to Boston.

A year later, she’s back in Boston with the premiere of her new show, Mommy Queerest, which might still be in the limbo world of development if she hadn’t booked the Boston date. “I had been working and working on this and it gave me a deadline, which is always the scariest thing in the world,” she says.

Where 25 Questions was more of a play with laugh lines and poignant moments, covering the experiences of more than 50 women, Mommy Queerest is Gold’s own story. And since Gold is a stand-up comic, naturally, her own story is all about the laughs. “It’s very, very different,” she says. “Mommy Queerest is a lot of what people know me for, stand-up and storytelling. It’s really what I’ve done for the past twenty-plus years. It’s about being a gay mom and growing up with my mother.”

Gold is a gay mother of two living in New York, and the theme of gay marriage, she says, is prominent in the show. You can’t talk about being gay and having a family without the creep of politics, especially in light of the various anti-gay marriage propositions in the last election. Gold addresses that, but would prefer to keep the focus on family dynamics.

“It’s funny, because you hear about how gay parents are going to poison their kids and make them gay,” she says. “Well, I came from a mother and father, and as far as I know, most people came from a traditional, quote-unquote, family. And gay parents do not typically have gay children. Once people realize it’s not a choice, it’s the way we are, the way we’re born, and that everyone needs to realize that they know and love a gay person, whether or not they want to admit it.”

After the show’s Boston run, Gold will take Mommy Queerest on the road while still booking dates for 25 Questions. “I’m so proud of that,” she says. “I want to bring it to as many places as I can. I love doing it.”

Gold is also planning a variety show with Lea DeLaria for Provincetown this summer. The two have been working on it as their schedules allow, and will revisit the concept, according to Gold, after the first of the year. “We really would love to bring a variety show to Provincetown, so people can see something new, you know?” she says. “There’s a lot of drag shows and there’s a lot of comics, but this would be something a little more dimensional.”

Mommy Queerest, at the Virginia Wimberly Theatre at the Calderwood Pavilion, Dec 26-31. Tickets: $25-$45. 617-266-0800. www.huntingtontheatre.org

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tingle In the New Year

Jimmy Tingle has had a full year’s break from being a theater owner after his Off Broadway closed down, and he spent it playing clubs and theaters, re-sharpening his comic skills. The coming year will be busy for Tingle, who is working on the release of a DVD and CD release of Jimmy Tingle for President (he’s shooting for a mid-January release for both). The shows are drawn from his run at Watertown’s Arsenal Center for the Arts earlier this year.

“It’s basically my platform,” he says. “It’s fun. But it’s stand-up and it’s the platform, there’s audience participation, there’s a question and answer session with the audience.”

If you’re wondering why he’d release a “For President” album after the election, Tingle says the material was never about a single, particular campaign (other than his own). “It’ll make sense in a year, it’ll make sense in two years,” he says. “It’s not about McCain or Obama or Bush, really. It’s about ideas and it’s about ideas for a comedic run for the presidency.”

Tingle is also working on a new show and a new movie (based on his American Dream show). In the meantime, you can see him at the Regent Theatre Saturday and New Year’s Eve.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Betsy Salkind Releases Betsy's Sunday School Bible Classics

In her new book, Betsy’s Sunday School Bible Classics, former Boston comic and M.I.T. grad Betsy Salkind retells the stories of Abraham and Isaac and Lot, and, as describes it, “puts back all the stuff that was removed to keep children from running away screaming,” That includes all of the murder and rape, things people don’t usually associate with these stories. Salkind illustrates the book herself, offering a brutal, effective counterpoint to the simple narrative, designed to look like a child’s notebook.

Salkind has never been shy about potentially offensive material. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be a part of a tour called “Offensive Women,” which also stars Boston native Julie Goldman. For a bit more background, check out her site or my Boston Globe article from 2005. I spoke with Ms. Salkind by e-mail about M.I.T., Bible stories, and pissing people off.

What made you put Bible Classics together?

I had created the style in an earlier book and knew it would be a great way of telling these stories. I have always been bothered by much of the bible and especially by common interpretations of what the stories were about. For example the story of Abraham and Isaac is always told from the perspective of Abraham and is supposedly about his relationship with God. But I always was more interested in Isaac and his experience, and wondered why no one even talked about it. Turns out there are a whole bunch of stories like that. I also found that some of the stories that are taught to children, the "classic" children's bible stories, are seriously abridged and are really more like Grimm's Fairy Tales. Even Noah's Ark had a lot of surprises.

And I chose the old testament because it’s the basis of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and since we’re supposed to be reverent and respectful of religious people (even if they are not always respectful of each other or non-believers), I thought we should be honest about what’s really in that book, and decide if those morals are really what we want to base our society on.

Was any of this based on stand-up material?

Yes. I had jokes about Abraham and Isaac and Job. A fellow comic, Edmund Johnson, was the son of a preacher and he told me even more horrible stories I didn’t know about. We loved making material out of these stories. It's great material. And references that most people know.

Have you gotten any flak over it yet?

No. I can only hope. Oddly, the religious scholars (or religiously raised) know best that these are the real stories. It seems they have troubled them as well. And so far people find it very funny (if a little disturbing). I thought about giving it to Sunday school children and then letting their parents and teachers try to explain that yes, these are the stories, but...

Are you planning on additional volumes?

Yes. There are 8 stories total, only the first two are in this book. I expect that the whole 8 will be published in a big volume (they are completed and ready to go). Then I plan to take on the Book of Mormon, and some secular stories.

Were you religious as a child? Do you remember questioning these stories when they were first taught to you?

I had a bat mitzvah, but by then was pretty sure god had nothing to do with organized religion. The Abraham and Isaac story always bothered me, and hearing men in the conservative Jewish temple pray "thank God I was not born a woman."

Are you planning more Offensive Women shows in the new year? Any in or near Boston?

There will be more Offensive Women shows. The December shows at the Zipper Theatre (co-produced by Eve Ensler) in NY were a big hit, and I'm sure we will be back there. In addition the show will come to LA, SF in 2009 and eventually tour the country. I'm sure Boston will be on the tour.

How often do you think the show still offends people, even with the warning in the title?

Rarely. I don't think we're really offensive, we just are letting folks know up front that we are not self-censoring, which I think is expected of women. There's so much to be offended by in the world right now, that if you're offended by us you're going to have a hard time getting through the day.

Did you know Julie Goldman when you were at MIT? (Not sure of the timeline for when she was here and you were).

I didn't know Julie when I was at MIT. I met her when she was a student at Emerson. We actually met on a short lived PBS series that was supposed to be a feminist Saturday Night Live. It was produced by Nova producers, so you can imagine how funny that was.

I never asked about this when we spoke - how did you wind up banned in Boston? Where, specifically, were you banned from? (From the "Emperor story in your online bio).

I was banned from the Comedy Connection and any other club they had control over. So was Guilty Children (the improv troupe), because I was a member of the group. They never gave me any paid work anyway, so the banning was just their rage at being called out. They said I shouldn't air comedy's dirty laundry in front of the audience.

I ran across this letter doing some research. What do you think when you read something like that? Do you ever purposefully try to offend someone?

I love this letter, and am amazed at how high up in the Google search it comes. My favorite thing in this letter is the last sentence in the first paragraph:
“But I will try not to dwell on my own feelings and opinions here because they are more-or-less irrelevant, and because I was not present at the event myself.”
I tend to be most offensive to those who are not actually there.

Here was my response in a later issue of that paper:

Letters to the Editor

I am writing in response to the letter by Adam C. Powell ["Women's Comedy Night Deemed Offensive," April 10]. I didn't actually read his letter, but some friends of mine did, and based on their reports, I consider his letter to be misguided, inappropriate, and misrepresentative of my work. I submit the following reply.

I am sincerely sorry that you were offended. I am also sorry if it was not clear to you and your friends before you attended the event that the content would be feminist.

The material I believe caused distress to your friends was a piece about "The Rapture." The entire piece consisted of me reading, verbatim, from a publication about the Rapture put out by a Christian group in Pensacola, Fla. That much of the audience found the readings amusing was entirely their choice.

It is not my intention as an artist to attack individuals or groups for the purpose of getting a laugh. As a feminist comedian I do hold up to scrutiny many patriarchal institutions and their practices. This includes all of the Judeo-Christian religions. The purpose of this is to allow those who are oppressed by those who would oppress them to laugh at the injustices, so as not to be crushed by that which truly is offensive: oppression.

I cannot say that you were not hurt by my obvious disbelief and disagreement with a doctrine which holds meaning for you. However, I would ask you to understand that I believe a humorous presentation of Christian doctrine is not comparable with the offenses done in the name of Christianity (e.g. the burning of 9 million women).

Betsy Salkind '86
http://tech.mit.edu/V112/N21/letters.21o.html

Are you surprised a letter like that would come from M.I.T.?

I am not surprised by anything that comes from MIT. It was a place that showed Deep Throat in campus facilities, got a lot of its money from the department of defense and the weapons industry, and preferred co-ed housing because the buildings suffered less vandalism than the all-male housing. It was also the height of Reagan youth.

I know you were happy leaving the Bank Examiner gig, are you even happier about that decision now?

Oh yes. I can finally use that part of my life for material. I also remembered recently that we had a Federal Reserve Employee Credit Union. The bank regulators did not use banks – they used a credit union. Nuff said?

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Boston Comedy Community Wishes You a NSFW Happy Holidays (Sort Of)

Last night's Comedy Studio Holiday Show was the usual bizarre affair, complete with bathroom wall poetry, gang rivalry, and fresh watermelon. People braved travel bans and packed the house -- it was standing room only by the time I navigated the North Shore to get to Cambridge. The Walsh Brothers, Josh Gondelman, MC Mr Napkins, Ken Reid, Billy Bob Neck (Paul Day), Barry Tattle (Chris Coxen), and Studio owner Rick Jenkins were predictably loose, if not always on topic for the holidays. Jenkins was honored by the comics with a donation to the Boston Food Bank, and a surprise gift -- an original piece of art illustrating one of the jokes he has told almost every night he has hosted. I caught a bunch of the comics (and the house band for the night, the Grownup Noise) after the show at the party to get their holiday greetings.

Rick Jenkins, making a reference to the joke in the illustration.


Jenkins and the illustration.


Renata Tutko


Barry Tattle


The Walsh Brothers


The Grownup Noise (Boston Comedy's house band)


Niki Luparelli (and friend)


Paul Day


Robby Roadsteamer

BNN Mondays -- Santa versus the Weather

Sometimes the weather makes you crazy, even if you're Santa Claus.



For more videos, visit BostonNewsNet.com .

Friday, December 19, 2008

Random Notes

Improv Jones has cancelled tonight’s show at the Arsenal Center for the Arts due to weather. They have also canceled the December 26 show, but offer you this link to their YouTube videos instead… DJ Hazard will release Man of Hazardium Monday on CD Baby. You can check here Monday to order your copy… The Wilbur Theatre has added a New Year’s Day show with Joel McHale, who plays two shows there New Year’s Eve… Chris Coxen has announced his jazzy alter-ego Barry Tattle will host Valentine’s Weekend at Mottley’s Comedy ClubBrian Joyce is bringing Irish comedian Ardal O’Hanlon back to the States for a March 5 show at the Somerville Theatre. O’Hanlon, one of the stars of the BBC show “Father Ted,” gave a great show at the Burren last year when Joyce first brought him in. Make a point to catch this one.

Billy Bob Neck Sings “Burn, Kids, Burn”

Boston’s voice for the righteous, Billy Bob Neck, has posted his Christmas video in order, he says, to “let kids know in a fun, sing-along fashion that Santa is evil.”



See more Neck here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Comedy Shows Tonight

If you’re still making plans for tonight, there’s a lot of comedy to consider. Over at the Sweetwater CafĂ©, Lamont Price is hosting How the Jokerz Stole Christmas with Tony Moschetto, Tom E. Morello, Renata Tutko, Daniela Capolino, Shawn Donovan, Sam Jackson, DJ Reason, and DJ Matt Phipps at 8 PM at the Sweetwater Cafe. Price produces shows at the Sweetwater on occasion, and always has a good line-up.

Also, for those who miss the old Comedy Connection, some of that old crew are getting together for a show at the Cask n’ Flagon with Robbie Printz, Pete Costello, Corey Manning, and Chris Tabb, hosted by Brian Moote, at 8:30 PM.

You’ll have to decide between those shows and the Greater Boston Alternative Comedy Festival at the Paradise Rock Club. Tough choices. I’ll see you out there.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Robby Roadsteamer's Greater Boston Alternative Comedy Festival

The Greater Boston Alternative Comedy Festival with musical guest Campaign for Realtime
December 17, 8 PM.
Paradise Rock Club, 967 Commonwealth Ave, Boston.
www.ticketmaster.com


Robby Roadsteamer knew he was asking for trouble by naming his latest production “The Greater Boston Alternative Comedy Festival.” Having worn a path between Boston’s music and comedy scenes over the past several years, he’s aware of the problems the term “alternative” presents. In the music scene, everything not Top 40 or hip hop became “alternative,” crowding the field until the term became useless.

In comedy, the description is often a dividing line between comics who view themselves as more traditional comedians (a definition that’s almost as useless) and comics who see their work as edgier or more original. But there’s little in the mechanics of what happens onstage, in structure or set-up, that could provide a definite line of demarcation.

Andy Kaufman did character work, but so did Sid Caesar. Jackie Martling does set-up and punchline material, but so does Steven Wright. Margaret Cho and Patton Oswalt may tell stories, but so did Andy Griffith (and if you’re suspicious of dragging out Matlock as an example, dig up a copy of his “What It Was Was Football.”). The structure of doesn’t define the genre, and none of those comics stick strictly to those structures.

“It’s like anything abstract,” says Roadsteamer. “It’s like describing art or love or anything. It’s like, you get to a certain degree where you have an idea of what the differences are, but to even try to define very stripped down – ‘alternative comedy is a comedian who goes up and doesn’t…’ – that’s stuff where you’re going to find a lot of contradictions.”

What you can say about the show is that it is packed with eclectic, immensely talented comedians. The Walsh Brothers put an indelible stamp on this scene with their mix of personal storytelling, rooted in their Charlestown upbringing, and absurdist sketch. Shane Mauss can write a standard joke as well as anyone, but will stretch talking about the strange things he’s experienced with his sudden popularity after his success at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen and his Conan appearances.

Chris Coxen has been developing a set of characters, including the plastic-haired “Future Queer” and lounge singer Barry Tattle for the past several years, and they’ve recently started to mingle in more integrated shows. The Anderson Comedy Group has a taste for bizarre and sometimes tasteless sketch and short film. Shane Webb (who will MC the evening), Bethany Van Delft, and Mehran all mine their personal lives, from very different perspectives. And then there’s Roadsteamer himself, who has moved from a fake-mustachioed hard rock troubadour to something closer to his everyday self with an acoustic guitar.

What they do have in common is that they all come from the Greater Boston – Allston/Brighton/Cambridge – comedy scene. “All these amazing, talented comedy acts are coming from that area,” says Roadsteamer.

If this show is successful, Roadsteamer would like to organize more of them to spotlight what he sees as underappreciated acts. He doesn’t see a place for acts like this to grow and make a living in the current club scene, and he hopes this show will help the cause.

“There is an underground scene going, but it’s always nice to see what you can do with it, and maybe you can bring it to the next level,” he says. “Maybe one day, which obviously seems like a pipe dream at this point, but maybe more comedians of this type can make a living in the area in the area they enjoy living in.”

A sampling of Festival talent.

GBAC Festival Promo


Shane Webb


The Walsh Brothers


Shane Mauss


Anderson Comedy Group


Bethany Van Delft


Mehran
Mehran, 5 tight, 10.25.08

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Garlic on Steven Wright

Our friends over at the Garlic have an interesting list celebrating Steven Wright's induction into the Boston Comedy Hall of Fame. Take a look.

The show is tonight at 8 PM at Showcase Live.

Preview: Louis C.K.'s Chewed Up

Any comic could mine a topic like “boxers versus briefs” for some easy, observational material. For Louis C.K., “boxers versus briefs” is a confession. It’s a chance for him to merrily reveal how his crotch “looks like a pig’s ass when I’m naked.” Which is not the worst of C.K.’s confessions from his brutally funny new special, Chewed Up, which is out on DVD and CD tomorrow.

Here’s a sample from that routine, “My Horrible Body.”

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io


The Newton native does not ease into uncomfortable subjects. The minute he hits the stage of the Berklee Performance Center, C.K. starts into a favorite topic of one of his idols, George Carlin, taking on three specific terms in “Offensive Words.” Here’s a clip from the bit, in which C.K. explains his hatred for “The ‘N’ Word.”

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io


There is an undeniable logic to even the most potentially offensive of C.K.’s thoughts that short circuits the immediate shock and leaves you saying, “Huh, that makes sense.” He looks at everything with a sort of dark wonderment, whether it’s the beautiful nonsense that his kids (and all kids) constantly spout (“A Three-Year-Old’s Secret”), his diet (“My Horrible Body”), or race (“I Enjoy Being White”).

When he goes to his doctor for a sore ankle, the 40-year-old C.K. is told there is no remedy, just painful stretching he’ll have to do from now on – “That’s just a new thing you do until you and your shitty ankle both die.” He sums up the history of race relations in a tidy hypothetical – as a white person, he could get into a time machine and go anywhere and know it would be all right.

As he notes in the bonus interview on the DVD, C.K. took a minimalist approach to the setting and lights, which has the effect of focusing attention on his comedy. (If that seems strangely obvious to you, compare Chewed Up to Bill Maher’s last special, The Decider, which was broadcast live and taped in the same venue. That was meant to seem more like an event, an approach C.K. purposefully eschewed).

Chewed Up is stand-up comedy stripped down to its bare essentials, something we can expect to see from Louis C.K. about once a year. C.K. (and also notably, Bill Burr) has committed to leaving his old material behind after every special and starting work on the new one immediately following, in the tradition of George Carlin (to whom this special is dedicated). The more C.K., the better.

BONUS: The DVD is of special interest to Boston comedy nerds. Besides the aforementioned facts that C.K. is from Newton and the special was taped at Berklee, C.K. speaks at length in the bonus interview about his time here, remembering Chance Langton’s open mic at Stitches, seeking inspiration from WBCN’s Friday Funnies, and playing Off the Wall Cinema.

BNN Mondays: MC Mr. Napkins' Headline Anagram JammaJam

This week's clip from Boston News Net comes from MC Mr. Napkins, a man who can turn the jobless rate into J-Lo's Arse. Which is the best kind of alchemy.



For more videos, visit BostonNewsNet.com

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Review: Lea DeLaria's Christmas Cheer and the anti-Fred Phelps

Three blocks from the Calderwood Pavilion on our way to the Lea DeLaria show yesterday, I heard faint cheering, a chant or two lifting up over the sound of the wind blowing down Clarendon Street. I thought it might be carolers or a crowd coming from some sports event. But when we turned on Tremont Street, there was a crowd of maybe a hundred people packed tightly onto the sidewalk across the street from the theatre complex, singing cheerily.

That’s when I saw the signs. “God Hates Fags.” “You’re Going to Hello.” Six of Fred Phelps’ wacko supporters were outside in a small taped off area, hoisting their signs smugly in the air, or trying to walk in a small circle. The hundred people across the street were counter-protesters, and as I realized they were singing the national anthem, and that the cop across the street was actually leading them in song, I got a warm, joyful feeling. My thought was that they were there to protest DeLaria, about as out a lesbian as you could find. I pitied them if DeLaria were to find out they were there, because there were only six of them. I didn’t find out until after the show what they were actually there for.

But I brought that warm feeling with me into the upstairs room the Calderwood had turned into a cabaret, complete with tables and drinks and mood lighting, with a stage just big enough for DeLaria and her piano/bass/drums trio, Janette Mason and the Ho Ho Hos. Mason (an accomplished musician in her own right, who scored the recent Bob Hoskins film Ruby Blue), led the trio in an elegant version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” before DeLaria took the stage.

DeLaria kicked off her set with a fluid, fun “Sleigh Ride,” since this was a Christmas cabaret show. But she followed it with “Night and Day,” and then told the crowd how she hates Christmas. Anathema, she said, for the gay and lesbian crowd who get to dress the whole house in drag.

If you’re wondering why I’m reviewing a music show on a comedy blog, it’s because DeLaria is as skilled a comedian as she is a singer, and her aggressive comic style, even when she’s ranting about Christmas or politics, is as joyful and vivacious as the music in her program. As she put it, there was “a lot of great music and a lot of cranky stand-up.”

Part of the reason she hates Christmas, she said, is because she lives in New York, which is flooded with tourists during the season, people who fly from Kansas to see Mama Mia. “I’d rather watch $135 burn on the sidewalk,” she said, than pay the ticket price for that show.

The show was an enormous amount of fun. DeLaria sang a “Jingle Bells” cha cha cha that segued into “Manana,” sang an obscure song about mistletoe with some forced audience participation, and delivered a stunning, delicate rendition of “Christmastime Is Here.” The encore, a nimble, beautiful “Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.”

After the show, I learned from DeLaria that she had tangled with Fred Phelps before, getting him to try to crawl over his foot soldiers to take a swing at her. It was a proud moment for her, that she was able to taunt the guy ‘til he popped. As I walked out, I found the real reason the protesters were there. “The Laramie Project,” a play about a small town after the murder of Matthew Shepard, was playing in the theater next door. It’s too bad god hates fags. The Phelps people missed a great show.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Boston Comedy Hall of Fame Update

Bob Lazarus, who is fighting leukemia, has been given clearance by his doctors to make his first appearance in public since late July, and his first comedy appearance since the middle of June, at the Boston Comedy Hall of Fame show, at which Steven Wright will become the first inductee.

The Boston Comedy Hall of Fame show is at Showcase Live Monday at 8 PM.

The Walsh Brothers Back In Town to Play Mottley's, Greater Boston Alternative Comedy Festival

When Chris and David Walsh left Boston for Los Angeles in March of 2007, they left a scene changed for the better by their participation. They created the Great and Secret show at ImprovBoston, which encouraged the participation of a generation of comedians who are redefining the current scene – Dan Sally, Renata Tutko, Nate Johnson, Chris Coxen, Ken Reid, Sean Sullivan and countless others. Their D.I.Y. spirit was inspiring, and the Great and Secret is still at ImprovBoston every Thursday at 10 PM, while the boys have brought their own G&S to the Improv in Los Angeles. The Walsh Brothers are back for the holidays, playing Mottley’s Comedy Club tonight and tomorrow and the Greater Boston Alternative Comedy Festival Wednesday. I caught up with David by e-mail to talk about life in L.A. and coming home.

Is it important to you to keep coming back to play Boston?

It is very important that we come back to play Boston. Actually, imperative might be a better word. The opportunity to perform in front of Boston audiences is reason enough to make it important. In our limited experience (playing the road a bit and the big comedy cities: CHI, NY, SF, LA), Boston has the best audiences for standup. Their smart, open to whatever we do, and have a long, comedy history (it's important that people remember seeing Don Gavin in 1983 at Stitches and then tell us we remind them of that time).

In addition to the audiences, the city itself is where we're from and what we're about. Every time we get introduced in Los Angeles, the emcee brings us up as from Boston. Most of our comedy and sensibility (Oh the sensibility!) comes from direct experience - true stories, real people and characters, our surroundings - and our whole life was spent here, so it's crucial that we stay connected and involved. And on top of all that, we developed here as comics. The comedy community is the best. We've got friends, a few enemies (which always helps) and great clubs and theaters to perform at. (This whole thing is a mess).

How do you keep in touch with the scene?

We keep in touch with the scene through Hologram technology. And friends. Friends keep us up-to-date on the comings and goings of everyone. Like an isolated mental ward patient, the comedy studio Kvetch Board is good to check in on once in a while. One thing that's cool about having our own show in Los Angeles is that it's kind of a way station for traveling comics. Every Boston person who comes to L.A. usually comes by our show and we put them on stage. Then, in front of our lawyers, they give us a deposition about what's happening with the Boston comedy scene. Most people say it's just Chris Coxen playing with himself.

What are your plans for the Great and Secret West in the new year?

The plans for the Great & Secret West are to do an industry showcase after the new year. We've been doing the show for almost a year and built up a bunch of new sketches, characters and videos and we're ready to show "the people who matter." So we'll get the agents and the executives and the czar of comedy down to the show, see what the feedback is and go from there. It doesn't really matter what they say. We'll continue to do what we do, if only because we don't know how to do anything else.

Other than that, we'll continue to build the show and the audience. And maybe fool around with the idea of a concept show.

How many folks that perform at the G&S in LA have Boston roots?

Aside from a few of the stand-ups that perform at the Great & Secret, most people involved with the show have Boston roots. We write and do the show with James Patterson - who we started out with in Boston. He's kind of become a third Walsh brother, much to his chagrin (which as chagrins go - is very large). And then we got kid from Emerson and the show Zebro doing a lot of stuff with us. His name is Fred Young. He's a great maniac. That's the nucleus of the show. And then we have mostly Boston people on speed dial that we call up to play characters as we need them.

One thing we're always on the lookout for though is a Murray. We can never find a good Murray. Ben Murray used to be our booth guy in Boston and he was the best. He wasn't just a booth guy. He was a presence, an ethos. We keep hiring guys from the tech union and none of them fit.

Do you see a huge difference between Boston and LA audiences?

This is a hard thing to explain because an audience is an audience is an audience. Comedy is a guy with a mic and people paying to listen. However, the people paying can have different agendas. For the most part, a comedy show in Boston has people who want to laugh and experience some sort of release. In Los Angeles, you have the same thing and then a certain amount of people who are filled with self-interest: industry, wannabes, star-f*ckers, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies and dickheads. The self-interest creates a different type of atmosphere. Los Angeles is more of a 'scene'. But that's only a part of it. It goes on and on. Also, I have no idea what the eff I'm talking about. Boston=Better.

Is there any particular place in Boston you like to come back to for the holidays?

The Comedy Studio Christmas Show and party is a great night (Dec. 21). Usually hang out with Keith Lockhart and the Pops one evening. Go to Billy Tse's on Commercial St. for my favorite festive Chinese food. Scope the malls on the North Shore for high school chicks. And a little, bunny hill skiing at the Blue Hills.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lea DeLaria: Laughing and Singing at the Calderwood

For the past ten years or so, Lea DeLaria has been more of a jazz and Broadway singer than a comedian, but the mark she left on stand-up can’t be forgotten. When she played Fox’s Arsenio Hall Show in 1993, she became the first openly gay comedian to perform on network TV. For the next three nights at the Huntington Theatre’s Calderwood Pavilion, you can get a taste of the breadth of DeLaria’s talent as she brings her Christmas show to the Upstairs at the Calderwood cabaret series (with a couple of Berklee musicians in tow). I spoke with her for the Boston Globe last week, but here’s another peek at what you can expect, from that conversation.

“I think that’s one of the reasons I stand out as a singer because all singers do patter between songs, it just so happens that I have a history as a stand-up comic so when I do my patter, it’s funny,” says DeLaria. “Sometimes it’s hilarious. The tour I just did in Australia, people were screaming with laughter. It was just that type of tour where I was on, I was really funny, the music was great, the band was on. I mean, I’m kind of looking for that to happen when I come to Boston. It’s that kind of show. No one really hires me to just do stand-up anymore. It’s not my life.”

For more info, call 617-266-0800 or go to www.huntingtontheatre.org.

Flashback: Before Cheech and Chong Lit Up America, They Lit Up Paul's Mall in Boston

Cheech and Chong play the Orpheum tonight and tomorrow on their “Light Up America” tour, the first time they’ve played the road in 27 years. The ticket price to see the duo’s greatest hits live is $39.50 to $59.50, but Fred Taylor remembers when you could see Cheech and Chong in Boston as a bit cheaper. Taylor owned Paul’s Mall for 15 years in the 60s and 70s, an eclectic club that was once a hotbed for jazz and comedy. He remembers Cheech and Chong recording parts of their album Big Bambu at Pall’s Mall.

“They first appeared April 10-16, 1972, July 3-9, 1972, July 10-16,1972, and August 12-17, 1975,” he says. “Ticket prices were $3 and $3.50 for the first three dates and $4.50 on the last date. As I recall those were double bills with Tavares, The Fabulous Rhinestones, and Pablo Cruz.”

When I caught up with Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong in October backstage at a gig in New Hampshire, they remembered one specific gig with some technical problems. “We were there when the toilet had overflowed right above the stage,” says Chong. “And the plaster was coming down in the middle of our act.”

They also remember some of the legendary performers they saw onstage at the Paul’s Mall/Jazz Workshop complex. “I remember walking through there one night and Charlie Mingus was on one stage playing away,” says Chong. “I forget who was on the other.”

“Rahsaan Roland Kirk,” Cheech says.

“Oh yeah! And then we were in the back.”

I wrote more about Cheech and Chong for the Boston Globe’s Sunday edition.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Stella tapes new DVD at the Wilbur

David Wain, Michael Showalter, and Michael Ian Black first started working together as part of the State in the late 80s in New York City. They debuted as Stella at Fez in New York City in 1997. All three live and work in New York. So that would make the obvious place to tape the new Stella live DVD… The Wilbur Theatre in Boston.

The individual members of the group had only a small window to pull something together before they got back to their regular schedules, and booked a short two-week tour schedule, which give them few options. So producer Jon Stern came out to Boston to scope things out, and the plan came together. They will tape the special at Thursday's show.

“We wanted to do it toward the end of the tour and we wanted to do it somewhere cool,” says Wain. “We thought Boston is a great place. We didn’t want to do it in New York where we all live. It just seemed less exciting.”

Stella has had a deal in place with Shout Factory for a while, according to Wain, and wanted to get their live show on tape. “We have DVDs of our shorts and of our series, but we never had one of our touring show,” he says.

Black, Showalter, and Wain have all been working on other projects for the past year and a half. Black has a new book, My Custom Van, and has a new children’s book coming out in January. Both Showalter and Black have worked on pilots for Comedy Central (they have a new one, Michael and Michael Have Issues, on tap for the network). And Wain has been promoting Role Models, which he directed.

For Wain, performing with Stella onstage is a welcome change from the grind of working on a feature film, where a joke might take four years to get from a script to an audience. “The changing of gear is life-saving for me in my creative mind,” says Wain. “I was so emotionally and mentally exhausted after doing the movie, so this is a complete shifting of gears. Better would be a vacation, but that didn’t happen.”

Wain won’t direct the new show – he’ll be too busy onstage, and directing a live performance DVD is a different skill set than directing a feature film. Stella is also a very improvisational act, which makes Wain curious about how it might come out, especially since they essentially have one shot at it.

“If we had the budget I suppose we’d do what U2 would do and shoot like ten shows and then edit them together as if they were one,” he says. “But the DVD viewers will see an authentic record of this one show.”

Wain says Stella has been doing almost all new material on the tour, with some musical and multi-media elements. Since they are taping here, the Wilbur show will be a bit different. “At the Boston show, we’ll be doing a slightly longer show, including some quote-unquote classic material because of the fact that we’re doing it for the DVD,” he says.

The troupe will also bring back Eugene Mirman, who started out in Boston and has been opening for Stella since their first tours in 2003. “Quite simply, we just think he’s funny,” says Wain. “He’s a little offbeat like we are. So the people who like Eugene will like us, and vice versa, in theory. It seems to have worked well.”

The live DVD is expected to come out sometime in the first half of 2009. State fans should also look for a reunion show next month in San Francisco, and there are rumblings about a new State TV special.

Wain is also at the beginning stages of a couple of new film project, which, in all likelihood, will involve his Stella or State-mates. “Pretty much everything I’ve done has been an organic like configuration of friends, usually with some group of people from the State,” he says. “One day I might work with people outside the State, who knows?”

Monday, December 8, 2008

BNN Mondays

New feature!

Every Monday, Boston Comedy will present a "Clip of the Week" from the previous weekend's Boston News Net show at ImprovBoston.

This week, it's Kristina Smarz investigating the Lowell Festival of Lights, which also includes swords for sale, fake money that will get you into heaven, and show tunes!



For more videos, visit BostonNewsNet.com

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Corey Manning: Comedy for Community and Scene

Give Corey Manning credit for making the most out of his opportunities, for the benefit of local comedy and the community. This weekend, he is on the road with Vanessa Fraction (HBO’s Def Comedy Jam, Barbershop 2) and Eddie Bryant (P. Diddy’s Bad Boys of Comedy) in Maryland. All through the week, he’ll be playing shows with them in the New England area, including a Monday night benefit for the Lotus Foundation at the Comedy Studio also featuring Chris Tabb, Just Al, Big Moe, Lady Zain, and DJ Reason.

Fraction and Bryant are up-and-coming headliners that probably wouldn’t have a ready place to play in Boston if Manning hadn’t created the opportunity. He met both of them a couple of years ago at the Bay Area Comedy Festival, and has been in touch with them ever since trying to work out a schedule to bring them to Boston and to work with them on the road.

Manning is genuinely impressed with both comics, especially Fraction. (He’ll also join the two for shows at Catch a Rising Star in Providence, R.I. on Tuesday and Macumba’s in Mattapan on Thursday). “Vanessa Fraction is the next Monique, honestly,” he says. “I’m really honored to be on a show with her, because she has that strong a potential.”

Manning started out working Dick’s Beantown Comedy Vault in 2002 not long after moving to Boston from North Carolina in 2001. He hosted his own nights at the Vault and then moved on to the Emerald Isle with Tabb to co-host Big Funny Sundays. Now he books his own shows and co-hosts Wake Up Live on Touch 106.1 FM weekdays from 6 AM to 7 AM with Andrea “Drea” Baptiste, and works with local schools, creating after-school programs with his Laugh and Learn. (According to Manning, the Lotus Foundation, which Monday’s show benefits, is the fiscal agent for Laugh and Learn).

Manning will be bring Fraction and Bryant to local schools this week as part of the program. Monday and Tuesday, they’ll visit Young Achievers in Jamaica Plain, Wednesday they’ll be at the Boys and Girls Club in Dorchester, and Thursday they’ll be at Winthrop Elementary, also in Dorchester.

“We’re going to different schools just to speak to the students about different things like pursing your passions, respect, thinking about their future, and how what they did at the elementary age ties into what they do now,” says Manning.

For more detailed information and tickets, call Manning at (617)851-5246 or visit www.CoreyManning.com.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Swinging Supershow at Mottley's

Even in a flourishing economy, it can take a while for a comedy club to catch on, especially on the non-prime weekend nights. Which is why a night like Thursday at Mottley’s Comedy Club are so heartening to see.

Faneuil Hall was mostly dead Thursday night. A few straggling shoppers, a sparser than usual crowd gathered at the food court. Around the corner at Trinity, a handful of people watched Thursday night football (Raiders versus Chargers – why not just flp a coin for the winner?). But downstairs, in a small room that can hold about 90 people, co-owner Tim McIntire was giving the cash register a work-out with a nice, steady stream of people for Dan Sally and Andy Ofiesh’s Supershow, which they host every Thursday.

McIntire, Sally, and Ofiesh say that attendance has been spotty so far, but the place was roughly two thirds full Thursday, and they got to see a great show. Sally and Ofiesh developed their chemistry a few years ago hosting Thursdays at the Comedy Studio, and they haven’t lost a step with Supershow. They are loose and conversational, and like to tweak their audience a bit.

The pair started the show with their “mission statement, “ which included the promise “to go too far,” to “threaten nudity,” and, said Ofiesh, to have a “rape whistle talk.” “Very important to protect your ears while raping,” he said. And yes, they did make good on the nudity promise, at least partially, in a hypnotists bit later on.

The line-up was almost all spot on, including Jess Baade, Shereen Kassam, Renata Tutko, Jon Rineman, and special guest Brian Kiley, a Newton native and Conan O’Brien writer who is in town for next week’s tapings of the NESN Comedy All-Stars show at the Wilbur Theatre. Kiley writes some of the most efficient comic couplets in the business, and it’s always a pleasure to watch him work. (I’ve written about him for the Globe a couple of times – You can see the last one here). I have to admit I didn’t enjoy show-closer Paul Marino’s style (including his extended riff on Phil Collins), but I seemed to be in the minority at the club that night.

If you’re trying to figure out what to do with your Thursday, go see Supershow. It’s worth supporting.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

CD Sneak Preview: DJ Hazard's Man of Hazardium

One of the best things about working the comedy beat is that people send you great stuff to listen to before anyone else gets to hear it. Today I was happy to find Boston legend DJ Hazard’s new album Man of Hazardium, which comes out sometime next month, in my box.

In just over an hour, Hazard covers material from the last twenty years, including tracks from his impossible to find 1993 album Lock Up the Planet When You Leave and last year’s El Hazardo Rides Again, which Hazard sold only at his shows. He reports the recordings were made “pretty much all over North America,” and spans “from 1988 to just a few months ago.”

A sampling of the tracks – the off-kilter song “Music (Is Like a Woman),” which is one of my favorites, “The Ding Ho Song” from the Boston Comedy documentary When Stand Up Stood Out, the Bruce Springsteen parody “Bruce,” and the crowd favorite “Untie My Ankles,” which is sung to the tune of Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning.” Die-hard Hazard fans may recognize the cover art from FUEL TV’s American Misfits.

More on this album closer to the official release date. You’ll be able to find it on CD Baby, but watch this space for an exact date. If you want a sneak peak at some of the material, Hazard will be on the Reid and Renata show at the Comedy Studio Friday with MC Mr Napkins, Billy Bob Neck, Dan Sally, and others.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

John Tobin on the new Boston Comedy Hall of Fame

There is a hall of fame for just about everything these day. Every sport has one, every form of music. So why not Boston comedy? Boston City Councilor John Tobin asked a similar question in a conversation with his friend, Spark Capital’s Todd Dagres. The two decided to create the Boston Comedy Hall of Fame, which will induct its first member, Steven Wright, at a local all-star ceremony at Showcase Live on December 15.

Wright was an obvious choice. The Boston scene was already swinging when Wright made his first appearance on “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson” in 1982, but his obvious talent led people to start looking for talent here. And since Tobin was looking for a comedian who “has made significant and lifelong contributions to the art of stand-up comedy,” Wright was perfect. “That was easy and unanimous,” he says. “Steven Wright is the obvious first choice in a long line of future inductees.” He adds that if Wright hadn’t agreed to it, they wouldn’t have gone forward.

The line-up for the show reflects Wright’s importance in the Boston comedy community. Tony V. will host the ceremony, which will include performances by Don Gavin, Barry Crimmins, Steve Sweeney, Mike Donovan, Mike McDonald, Lenny Clarke, Ken Rogerson, and Jimmy Tingle, with a video from “When Stand Up Stood Out” director Fran Solomita.

For now, there will be no brick and mortar Boston Comedy Hall of Fame, but Tobin says he “would love to see it at some point be a part of a larger complex dedicated to the history of Boston entertainment.” Wright will receive an Oscar-sized statue (to go with his actual Oscar) called the Thomas Wignell Award, named for a 19th century actor considered by some to be the first stand-up comedian.

Tobin, a co-founder of the Boston Comedy Festival, has always been a comedy fan and looked for ways to contribute above and beyond his duties as a City Councilman. “It’s just something that I have always been passionate about,” he says. “Comedy has had a big role in shaping me and I have nothing but admiration for the men and women who work hard and lend their voices to making people laugh and think.”

Tobin and Dagres have set up the project as a not-for-profit under the banner of “Stage Source,” which will set up a fund for comedians who fall sick and need assistance. Tobin is the executive director and Dagres is the president of the board, which Tobin expects to expand after this year’s ceremony.

Watch www.BostonComedyHallOfFame.com for future developments.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Bob Lazarus Update


Last year at this time, I was writing about Stoughton resident and veteran comic Bob Lazarus’s fight with leukemia and a benefit thrown for him at Giggles with Steven Wright, Tony V., Jimmy Tingle, and a host of other local luminaries. Lazarus had one more hospital stay left in his treatment, and felt good enough to show up at Giggles and perform a bit at his own benefit. (There was also a benefit at the Regent Theatre in May, a Ding Ho reunion show that featured the above as well as Barry Crimmins, Steve Sweeney, Mike MacDonald and others).

A year later, Lazarus is still battling leukemia. He has a stem cell transplant this summer, and now calls August 22 his new “born on” date. A stem cell transplant is given like a blood transfusion, the desired result being a replacement of the patient's immune system. Lazarus's donor is a 37-year-old woman he hopes to meet someday.

“I have the immune system of a 37 year old,” he says, “and this incredible desire to buy a purse and matching pumps.”

His signature mop of black hair is coming back (he mentions to note it has been dyed since '87), but he says he feels like he could rub his head briskly and it would all come out. Some of his diet restrictions were lifted in time to enjoy a few Thanksgiving treats. He considers himself lucky to qualify for MassHealth Premium Assistance, which is paying his Blue Cross while he is unable to work.

Since it’s still dangerous for Lazarus to go out in public, he still can’t work (he’s limited to taking a long walk every day the weather cooperates). “I have to wait until I'm allowed to be in public places,” he says. “Probably not until next summer; maybe a little sooner.”

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Maria Ciampa's "Weighed" on FunnyOrDie.com

Just in time for your post-Thanksgiving leftovers Armageddon, Maria Ciampa brings you “Weighed,” a parody of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt.” Ciampa wrote, sung, and directed, with an assist from Calvin Swaim and Justin Carr. The star of the show is Harry Gordon, flat out one of Boston’s best comic actors and improvisers. The video is hosted on FunnyOrDie.com.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Bill Engvall at the North Shore Music Theatre 11/30

Blue Collar Comedy's Bill Engvall heads to the North Shore Music Theatre November 30. I spoke with him about the Blue Collar Comedy phenonenon and his TBS sitcom, "The Bill Engvall Show" for the Boston Globe. Read the interview here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

First Night Comedy


The First Night schedule is out, and features two regular comedy shows – Tony V.’s show (Hynes Convention Center Exhibit Hall D at 7:45, 9, and 10:15 PM), which this year features fellow veteran Ken Rogerson, and ImprovBoston (Hynes Convention Center Exhibit Hall C at 7:30, 8:45, and 10 PM).

Tony and Rogerson’s show is called “700 Billion Laughs: A Bailout of Humor From Some Serious Stupidity,” and Tony is quoted in the press release saying, “Start your year by investing in some titters and watching them grow to guffaws. This will be an evening of covering our own assets, diversifying some foolishness and restructuring your hedge fun. We got your dividends, right here!”

I thought something was fishy, since Tony is not prone to “titters.” But when I checked with him be e-mail, he said, “Yup! I said it - I meant it - And I stand by it.” So there you go. A comedy guarantee from Tony V.

For more info on First Night, visit www.FirstNight.org.

Benari Poulten at Mottley’s 11/28

Chelmsford native Benari Poulten does a lot of traveling for his day job. Which might be fun, if his day job wasn’t in the U.S. Army Reserves. Poulten was assigned to Guantanamo in 2002, and he’s heading out again soon, this time to Baghdad. So if you want to see him do stand-up, he’s doing a guest spot tonight at Mottley’s Comedy Club (the headliner is Newton native Jon Fisch, with Jason Kanter and Giulia Rozzi). Friday, November 28, 8 PM. $20. Mottley’s Comedy Club, 61 Chatham Street, Boston.

Patrick Borelli's Holy Headshot at PA's Lounge, 11/28


Patrick Borelli started his career in stand-up at The Comedy Studio a decade ago before moving to New York, where he works for a book publisher by day and works the stand-up clubs by night. Today, he’s back in Boston at PA’s Lounge for a “reading” of his new book, Holy Headshot: A Celebration of America’s Undiscovered Talent, which he co-wrote with Douglas Gorenstein. Essentially a collection of headshots from aspiring actors, the book provokes a lot of laughter and a bit of sad sympathy for its decidedly offbeat hopefuls. Union Square Roundtable. Friday, November 28th, 9 PM. $9. PA's Lounge, 345 Somerville Avenue in Union Square.

What possessed you to produce this book?

I've always loved looking at offbeat headshots and working with odd actors. When I first started out at the Comedy Studio in Harvard Square, I paired up with an peculiar elderly stand up named Lady B. She was in her late 60s. We would write and perform sketches together. From the very beginning of my career I was seeking out strange performers.

Do you have an honest appreciation for what these people are trying to do in their careers?

I started out in Boston which has a great comedy scene but is not the center of the entertainment industry like NY or LA is. More than half the people in Holy Headshot! live in small towns or cities throughout the US. I do appreciate that they're trying to build a career for themselves outside of LA or NY. I know how hard that is. I'm totally pulling for the folks in the book.

Did you get submissions from anyone you knew in Boston, either from the Studio or local actors?

I did not get submissions from anyone that I knew. I could have easily filled the book with Boston comedians I know like Eugene Mirman, Larry Murphy, Jen Kirkman, and Brendon Small, but that's not what I was looking for.

What, exactly, will you be doing at PA's Lounge? What are the videos you said you're showing?

I'll be showing some of my favorite headshots and resumes in Holy Headshot! I shot some short videos with some of the actors in the book. I did a basic interview with them and then asked them to perform a skill they had. Most of them performed a monologue or acted out a scene from a favorite film. I have a great video from an actor named Yenz Von Tilborg. If you combined a pirate and a hairdresser, you'd have Yenz. In his video, he performed a dramatic monologue from Dracula. All the videos are on www.holyheadshot.com.

Is what you're doing at PA's Lounge the same thing you've been doing at other book-related shows?

At PA's Lounge, I'll be doing a one-man, powerpoint presentation of my book. In NY, LA and San Francisco, we did a talent show featuring talent taken straight from the book. But since this is Thanksgiving, we were having trouble finding actors that were available to perform.

Have you gotten any responses from people included in the book?

Yes. They are ecstatic with the book. A number of them have been contacted by talent agents or have been called for auditions. Which is exactly what we were hoping for. Here's a message I just got from a Louisiana-based actor, Eric Gipson:

"I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be in the book, and to also be one of the 10 actors selected for the NPR story photos. It's a kick, an honor and a hoot! I wanted so bad to get in on the NYC and Los Angeles talent showcase action; but I may touch base with you soon about at least showing you some video samples of my lunacy, er, acting that is! How about a show in middle America or the South? THIS DOG IS STILL HUNTING!!! MY EYEBALLS ARE A-WIGGLIN, BABY!”

Seriously, I already feel like the other 102 actors in the book are my family as we continue our efforts in this bittersweet (but mostly wonderful) business. Entertaining people is my passion and I hope we can all connect one day.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Welcome to Boston Comedy

For the past ten years, I have been covering the Boston comedy scene for The Boston Globe, The Boston Phoenix, Boston Magazine, and every outlet I could find. For seven and a half years, I wrote a regular column for the Globe following comedy, one of the only of its kind in the country. But with belts tightening across the publishing world, I have suddenly found myself without that regular outlet at a crucial and exciting time in Boston comedy history. The Comedy Connection, the city's biggest club, has moved to the Wilbur Theatre. The Comedy Studio, the place where young comics grow, has never been more popular. Mottley's Comedy Club opened this summer, finally giving Boston a room where deserving lesser-known acts can headline and stretch.

This blog will be dedicated to capturing the Boston comedy scene as it changes, as clubs and comics come and go, wither and blossom. This is one of the funniest cities in the country. If you don't believe me, ask fans of Steven Wright, Mike Birbiglia, Barry Crimmins, Paula Poundstone, Bobcat Goldthwait, Denis Leary, Eugene Mirman, Dane Cook, Jimmy Tingle, Brian Kiley, Conan O'Brien, Jay Leno -- well, you get the idea. Funny people grow here, others come here to get funnier. If I can show you a bit of that, I'm betting you'll come back for more.

So welcome. Welcome to Boston Comedy.

Boston Comedy Calendar