By his account, David DiLorenzo does one hundred different voice impressions (on the phone with him yesterday, he did an impressive Rodney Dangerfield, nailing some of the deeper rumblings of the beloved comic’s voice). He’s been doing radio for twenty-six years, and before and during that, playing as a comedian around New England. He feels like he’s seen some of the best this scene has to offer, which what led him to create www.BostonComedyLegends.com, and to organize tonight’s benefit at the Hanover Theatre in Worcester featuring Ken Rogerson, Paul Nardizzi, Larry Norton, Nick Albanese, and DiLorenzo himself. A portion of the proceeds from the show will go to help the family of Bob Lazarus, a veteran Boston comic (and friend to just about everyone in Boston comedy) who died of leukemia in January.
How’s the response [for the show] been so far?
Oh, it’s been awesome. I know we’ve got about 900 people attending. We’ve sold almost 450 tickets just through the box office. The Pike radio station sold 84 of them on their Web site within three weeks back in March. They went on sale like March 15 and they were gone within three weeks.
How much of the proceeds are going to Bob Lazarus and to what particular fund?
Right, his daughter Carly is thirteen, in fact, she’s having her Bar Mitzvah this weekend, and unfortunately, Kathi, his wife, won’t be able to make the event. We wanted her to try to make it but she can’t. The thing is, it’s going to be a portion of the proceeds, and the reason I say that is because we really don’t know how much money we’re going to have at the end of the day.
I’d like to cut them a nice check for like five thousand dollars, and say, “Hey, here you go, here’s five thousand,” but what we’re doing, the way we’re working it with the Hanover is we’re getting a percentage of the door and so are they. So normally they charge five thousand just to rent the place out or for an event, they’ll say you can pay us five thousand and you get to keep the door. It’s my first time working an event at the Hanover, so I wasn’t sure what kind of turnout we’d end up with. And we kept the tickets really reasonably low at eighteen and fifteen, and then two dollars per ticket has to go toward the renovation, which I didn’t realize until I already set the prices. I would have set them at maybe seventeen and twenty.
Is there a particular percentage above profit or anything that’s going to the fund?
Yeah, we’d like to give them as much as twenty percent, if we can. We would love to do that. If we end up with ten or fifteen or twenty thousand dollars after it’s all said and done, I’d be glad to give them twenty percent of that. That’d be ideal for them. I’m still paying the comics, and I had to pay twenty-five hundred in advertising, so there are some costs involved.
Bob and I go back a long way, over twenty-five years ago. Moving around and traveling like I did for so many years, I just lost touch with Bob. I moved back from Florida maybe eight years ago – I was there about three years – and in that time, I’m trying to get settled in, I got a new apartment, bought a car, had a girlfriend, broke up, had another girlfriend, broke up, you know what I mean? Bob Lazarus, unfortunately, wasn’t on my radar at the time, and then the sad story was, about sometime mid-January, I think it was one of your e-mails, I think it was, you had mentioned Bob being ill and I was taken back by it, and I was like, man after all these I have not been in touch with Bob. I tried to send him off an e-mail, it was either your site or it may have been Barry Crimmins’, because Barry wrote something about it, too.
The sad thing was, there was an e-mail address – e-mail Bob if you want to send your best wishes. It was about three o’clock in the morning, I’d just gotten in from a gig, and I’m trying to write this long, twenty-minute e-mail, and I hit send, and it said, “you have to be a member of this site to send an e-mail.” I’m like, ah, brother. So I flipped back and the letter was completely gone. I was so upset. I said, I’ll write one tomorrow. I’m gonna go to sleep. And sure enough, within two days after that he passed away. So that really got my motor running, I was so upset, I said, I’ve got to talk to Kathy. So I waited about a month or so, it was sometime during February, I think. He died on his birthday of all things, January 4th. I called Kathy and I told her we’re going to do a show in Worcester and we’re going to try to promote it as much as we can, and get some folks in the seats and the comedians are going to help and they’re going to work for a reduced rate, obviously, and that’s where we are today. She was very appreciative.
This isn’t the only one we’re going to do. We’re going to try to do a couple of more in the future, for Karli and for other comedians too. I’ve spoken with guys like Dick Doherty and Don Gavin and Barry Crimmins and Mike McDonald. Kevin Knox has had cancer for a while, we’re going to try to do a fundraiser for him. Nick DiPaolo might be coming in for that. We may actually do that in Worcester again, maybe at the Hanover, maybe in October or so.
With some of the other benefits that are happening in and around Boston, are you looking to spread it out so people don’t get sort of benefit-fatigued?
I understand. If I could know more about some of the future events – I don’t know if Kathi knows about them or yourself, I don’t know if there’s a Bob Lazarus Foundation Web site or information I could get because a lot of these guys want to step up. And again, we could do maybe a smaller one for Bob in a place that holds maybe four or five hundred seats.
When did you start comedy in Boston?
I started in a place called Periwinkles in ’82 in Providence and then I played up in Boston from about ’85 on. I’m still there occasionally, at Dick Doherty’s places. I’ve worked in the Randolph room and I worked at Nick’s, and I used to work at the Connection at the Charles Playhouse. And during different sets, waiting for each time to go up, we used to go upstairs and watch Blue Man Group, back in 1987. Looking at these guys going, “Man, these guys are nuts.” They were great.
What do you think qualifies you to be a Boston comedy legend?
Oh, I’m not one myself.
No, I mean, what qualifies someone to be a Boston comedy legend.
Have you been to the site? I tried to put it in a paragraph or two about how it all started from what I can remember in the late 60s with people like Dick Doherty and in the 70s with Jay Leno and then of course, Steven Wright going on Carson in ’82. These are guys, Denis Leary, Lenny Clarke, these are guys who would put Boston on the map as far as comedy. And then it seems from their generation, it permeated into something else with guys like Tom Cotter and Nick DiPaolo, all the guys that came right before us – I started right around the same time as Cotter and those guys.
And of course, I’m not anywhere near the level some of these guys are. Al Ducharme, and of course Wendy Liebman. I used to book Wendy Liebman back in 1990 when she was just a middler, just feeling her oats. And then you’ve got Bob Marley and Joe Rogan – I used to book Joe in 1989 at bachelor parties in Providence, he and I would do it together. I was there, it seems like I had almost a bird’s eye view of these people coming into the comedy business and becoming legends. Anthony Clark, Kevin Meaney and I used to sit around at the Periwinkles and talk about shows and comedy and favorite comics and legends of the past.
What do you plan to do with the Boston Comedy Legends site?
Well, I want to incorporate guys like Dick Doherty and do a show with Dick Doherty and all of his people and promote the fact that he was one of the first. And then there’s guys like Don Gavin and Steve Sweeney and Kevin Knox of course and that whole Ding Ho crew. If we could just keep the word out that right here in New England, in my opinion, we’ve got some of the greatest comics who ever lived.
Is there a danger, do you think, in tossing the word legend around too casually and possibly using it to describe people who were great Boston comics but not necessarily legends?
I don’t know. Again, on that Web site as I said toward the end, there are people now who we may turn around someday and call them comedy legends. Like Mike Birbiglia or Jon Lincoln or Joey Wong, being on Letterman. He had a great set.