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.

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