Saturday, November 28, 2009

Kevin Knox Celebration of Life Memorial SErvice

For those of you who haven't seen this yet, the Kevin Knox Celebration of Life Memorial Service will be held tomorrow at the Collins Center for the Performing Arts, 80 Shawsheen Road, in Andover. Visiting with the family is from 12-2, and the service begins at 2PM. To RSVP, follow the Facebook link.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mike Dorval gives Death By Chocolate more of a stand-up spin

When I interviewed Mike Dorval about his Death By Chocolate one-man show for its run at Wellfleet in July, he told me he was happy to announce it was coming to the Boston Center for the Arts in November (it runs Fridays-Saturdays through December). He said then, "Who knows what can happen between August and November?" Apparently, what has happened is a change in his attitude toward the piece.

When Death By Chocolate debuted at the Boston Plyawrights' Theater in February, it was definitely a theatrical one-man show. It was a complete story, about Dorval's struggle with weight and diet, told in scenes with a definite ending.

Dorval says the show has loosened up considerably for the current production. "It's definitely funnier now as I've embraced the stand up side of my nature," he says. "Originally it still had the feeling of something of a monologue but having had the chance to be in front of so many people and interacting with them like I do in my stand up, I have a better understanding of how to relate what I have to say to other people. And I've decided its ok to include things simply because they make me laugh."

And the show may continue to change, as long as Dorval finds new places to do it. "Every night is a little different and I love going in and tweaking and helping the show grow," he says.

Dorval says he has no plans for Death By Chocolate once the current run is over, but he'd love to keep doing it, and interest in the show is growing. "I just know I want it to live on in some form or fashion," he says. "And it will."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nick DiPaolo taping tonight with Aaron Karo

Those who were planning on going to the Aaron Karo show tonight at the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre may have a bit of a surprise waiting for them. Karo will be taping a special, and so will Danvers native Nick DiPaolo. The taping was set up quickly (the folks at the Connection told me they just found out this week). Each will do an hour or so of material. Boston's own Big Nezz will warm up the crowd.

Monday, November 16, 2009

RIP Kevin Knox

Veteran Boston comedian Kevin Knox passed away early this morning after a long battle with cancer. For those who knew Knox, or "Knoxie," as many called him, it's hard to believe there is something strong enough to beat him. If you saw him onstage, you know he never stopped moving. And his Gatling Gun delivery wasn't just a stage affectation. It was how he spoke, how he thought. And if you were a regular around Boston clubs for the past couple of decades, it was a voice you heard often, hosting showcases at Nick's Comedy Stop, The Comedy Connection, and, most recently, at Dick Doherty's Beantown Comedy Vault.

It was a common refrain to hear a fellow Boston comic say that cancer picked the wrong guy. "It just never occurred to me that he wouldn't keep fighting on and on and on," said Doherty this afternoon.

There was little Knox didn't try, starting with traditional medicine and continuing with a more organic approach. But, as too often happens in these cases, collective bravado and individual best efforts lost out to the inevitable. It's obvious from the dozens of recent benefits for Knox, including a standing Monday night benefit at the Vault, how much Knox meant to local comedians. It is a hackneyed phrase perhaps, but true. He will be missed.

A few pieces on Knoxie:

Men's Health

Boston Herald

Boston Globe: New Doherty Showcase

Boston Globe

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stephen Lynch on the second leg of 3 Balloons and his upcoming special

Stephen Lynch kicked off the first leg of his 3 Balloons Tour in Boston in February. Now he’s on the second leg of the tour and heading to the Hanover Theatre in Worcester Saturday. Sometime next year, you can expect to see a few different versions of the tour on a Comedy Central special, on DVD, and as a concert film, if you happen to frequent film festivals. I caught up with Lynch by phone last week.

How has the tour been going since you were here in February?

The show is much funnier than it was when we were in Boston, I’m pleased to report. Even though it was pretty good then, we’ve learned a few things. It’s going well. We finished that big tour in the spring and then I took the summer off, and then I started off this new tour with a trip to Europe where I did a bunch of Scandinavian dates and Dublin and Germany. It’s been going really well. Now we’re back to the U.S. and doing some places we missed on the first part of the tour.

Is it still the 3 Balloons Tour?

Yeah. The record’s eight months old now, but it’s still the same tour, really. We’re doing the same show, maybe a few changes here and there as we come up with things.

If someone saw you in Boston at the start of the tour and came to see you in Worcester, how would it be different?

Uh. Oh boy. Now I have to write something really quickly before I get to Worcester, don’t I? The show always is evolving, so I can’t tell you exactly what will be different. The set-up will be the same, where I show some videos and do a bunch of songs from the new record and I have some friends join me onstage. But there will be subtle things, and some new jokes here and maybe a song or two replaced as we come up with other things. But nothing radically different.

When you say it’s funnier, is it just a matter of the timing?

Yeah. The jokes start to gel and you start to think of better transitions between songs, and song orders, you experiment with those. By the time I’m done with this tour, I don’t know when it will be, probably sometime next year, it’ll be just where I want it. And that’s the time you have to hang it up and start over again. Which is unfortunate, but that’s how it works.

Are you someone who can write on tour?

Not really, no. I mean, yeah, I’ve done it before. But what I really need is time and isolation, which is sort of hard to come by when you’re traveling with people and checking into hotels and on airplanes all the time. What I need to write really is to sequester myself in a room somewhere with nobody around me and force myself to do it. If given the chance to watch America’s Next Top Model or write, I will probably watch TV before I take up a pen. Which is unfortunate, but I’m very easily distracted.

Then all the songs would wind up being about America’s Top Model or the people who annoyed you on the airplane.

Yeah. That would really be horrible. Maybe not. Maybe I could write a rock opera based on America’s Next Top Model. I think it would have a very short shelf life, though.

Have you taped the show that’s going to be the new DVD yet?

Yeah. We taped it back in, I think it was April in Portland. I shouldn’t say we taped it, we filmed it. We actually used film because I wanted it to have a certain look. I haven’t seen any of the footage yet so I don’t know if it’s going to have that look that I wanted it to have, sort of a 70s rock concert, Last Waltz-type look to it. So we’ll see. I hope it comes out the way I see it in my head. I wanted it to look sort of classic and not just another something you’d see on Comedy Central.

Was there a particular reason for doing it at the Aladdin Theatre?

I like the theater. It’s sort of an old, decrepit movie theater. I don’t know when it was built. It’s got to be a hundred years old, I’m guessing. And I always pull good crowds there. And there were film crews readily accessible there. So instead of doing it somewhere where I would have had to fly in a crew of a hundred people, there were people there or near there already. I’ve always done good shows in Portland, too.

Did you do anything differently for the filming?

No. I did essentially the same show. Now what I can use out of that, I’m not sure. For example, I always close my show with “Purple Rain,” which I think would probably more than I would ever make on the sale of the DVDs to actually use, because Prince does not come cheap, I do not think. So that’ll be out. I’ll have to think of a different way to close the show. And the video, I’m thinking what I’ll do is sort of intersperse the video that I show during the show with songs and with other videos, other tour diary type videos, which I have yet to shoot. I’m trying to give it some sort of storyline instead of just song after song after song. I think, I mean, that’s the plan now. Don’t hold me to any of this. I have no idea how it’s going to turn out. I have some interesting ideas.

So Comedy Central’s going to have an hour version of it, you’ve got a version that’s going to be going around to film festivals, and the version that winds up on the DVD. Are those going to be three different versions?

No, I would assume that the one that winds up on the DVD will be the official work, and then if we chose to send that out to festivals, great. But what we give to Comedy Central will just be an abbreviated version. I don’t know what they want, I don’t know if they want just the songs or if they want the shortened version of the story I’m going to come up with. I don’t know. I’m really wracking me brain trying to figure out how to make this all come together.

How did you choose Gregory Dark to direct the concert film?

Somebody suggested him, I can’t remember who it was, exactly. But he came to see a show I did in Los Angeles and we spoke after the show, and he seemed to really be on board and have some good ideas and be on the same page as I was, so we just sort of clicked.

Had you seen any of his work before?

You mean his work in the music video world or the pornography world?

I’m unaware of his work in the pornography world.

Apparently he did some early work, in the 80s, I think, in the porno world. No, I wasn’t really familiar with any of his work. I just saw that he had a lot of experience, and then when I talked to him, we seemed to hit it off. That was enough for me.

Did he try to make you wear a big fuzzy mustache?

Yeah. It turned into a whole porn shoot. There were fluffers there before the show.

When does this get released in the different iterations?

You know what, I don’t know. I have to finish it first. Obviously people are waiting for me, waiting very patiently for me to do this. We did film it several months ago. But I like to take my time with these things. I want to make sure it’s quality before I put it out.

Do you have any plans for once the tour is over?

Hopefully I’ll have started writing new songs and I can get into the studio again and start recording. The last record, we did the whole thing in a week in a studio in Brooklyn. And this time what I’d like to do is sort of record in chunks, so when it comes time to put out the new record I don’t have to rush in and finish everything. I’ll have things that are already done. And that way I can tweak things to my version of perfection and change things as I go. So that’s the plan for now, just keep writing, recording.

Any idea, other than the method of recording, how you want things to be different from previous recordings?

I wouldn’t mind doing something with more of a through line to it. Maybe I’ll take a stab at a rock opera one of these days. Or even a mini rock opera and the rest can be unrelated songs. The idea of telling a little story seems intriguing to me. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for the past few months.

Read my previous interview with Lynch here.
Or watch my post-show interview from Boston here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gavin, Rogerson, Sweeney, and Dunn play benefit for Kevin Knox tonight

Some of Boston's most tenured veteran comics are playing a benefit tonight for Kevin Knox. Don Gavin, Steve Sweeney, Kenny Rogerson, and Jimmy Dunn will top the bill for tonight's show at the theater that usually hosts Sheer Madness (a.k.a. The Cahrles Playhouse Stage II), organized by the folks at Tommy's Comedy Lounge. Tickets are available at, or at the box office for $25. Tommy's Comedy Lounge, 74 Warrenton St, Boston. 800-745-300

On a related note, Dick's Beantown Comedy Vault won't host their running Monday-night benefit for Knox to avoid conflict with the Tommy's show.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

2009 College Improv Tournament -- Prelim Results

The preliminary winners from this afternoon's 2009 Coolege Improv Tournament at ImprovBoston are in:

Match A Winner - Cheap Sox (Tufts University)

Match B Winner - Purple Crayon (Yale University)

Match C Winner - DangerBox (New York Univeristy)

Match D Winner - TBS (Brandeis University)

Match E Winner - Seriously Bent (Suffolk University)

These winners will face off at Improv Asylum tonight at 11PM, and the winner will go on to compete against other groups from around the country.

Third Annual College Improv Tournament: East Coast Regional in Boston today

Fourteen improv teams will compete today in two different venues starting at noon for today's Third Annual College Improv Tournament. Priliminaries start at ImprovBoston at noon, with teams from Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, and run on the hour until 4PM. The finals then move to Improv Asylum at 11PM. The shows are open to the public, tickets are $10 for the prelims and $15 for the finals, available by phone at ImprovBoston (617.576.1253) and Improv Asylum (617.263.6887). Student discounts available.

Participating schools: Emerson College, Yale University, Boston University, Tufts University, Salve-Regina University, Northeastern University, New York Univesrity, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Colgate University, Brandeis Univesrity, Penn State, Suffolk, and Mount Holyoke.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Show is on tonight at the Studio

There was some doubt earlier this week over whether there would be a show tonight at the Comedy Studio. Just got this from the Studio's Rick Jenkins, confirming there will in fact be a show, with a great line-up, to boot:

We will have a show tonight (Friday, November 6) at the Studio.

The Hong Kong wasn't sure until Wednesday night. So we quickly put together a pretty cool night. Personally, I feel like it's going to be a great time. Like the old days; small turn out; lots of funny friends.

Renata Tutko will host sets from Chris Fleming, Sarah Heggan, Rick Jenkins, Andrew Mayer, Andy Ofiesh, Sean Sullivan and Bethany Van Delft.

Eddie Brill at The Comedy Club at Cheers

Eddie Brill is a New York guy, but he has a special place in his heart for Boston. Brill, who books comics for David Letterman, went to Emerson College and worked on his chops here in his early days. Now he gets back for gigs like his two-night stand at The Comedy Club at Cheers, tonight and tomorrow, and to look for talent for Letterman. “Some of the best comics in the world are from here,” he says, speaking last night from his hotel room in Boston. “If I didn’t come here to check out the comics in Boston, I’d be a fool.” He booked Joe Wong for his debut this past April, and worked with him on his set. Brill also teaches comedy, and he’ll be teaching three days of seven-hour workshops at Emerson this weekend.

How often do you get back to Boston, do you think?

Probably about three to four times a year. I’m always here looking for comics for the Great American Comedy Festival. I’ll try to do a Letterman audition up here, as well, but sometimes they’re the same thing. And I always teach at Emerson once a year, and I come up once or twice a year to do gigs or corporate work. That kind of a thing.

What are the workshops on, in particular?

It’s a comedy workshop that I created about ten years ago. I’ve been doing the one-day, very intense workshops for seven hours. And I’ve done it all over the world now, in Australia and England and Ireland, and all over Canada and the United States. It’s been very, very successful. It’s really about comics being honest with each other and helping each other, being each others’ eyes and ears. I’ve got it down to a science where it’s really effective.

So a few years ago I presented it to Emerson, and they let me do a weekend. It was so successful that we’re into our third year in a row.

Who is it aimed at? College comics or –

No, I’ve done workshops with ten people and eight of them have been doing it for sixteen years, plus. Comedians are nice to each other, but it’s really hard to be honest with each other because there’s a lot of ego involved. This is a situation where people have been given the okay to really be honest with each other in a respectful way, and you can help each other and be each others’ eyes and ears, to point out the kinds of things that people don’t know about themselves because you can’t see yourself.

Is that the main point of it, to show people how to communicate within the comic community?

Naw, that’s only part of it. The key is, I learned more from teaching when I was at Emerson than I did from doing. So I created a workshop where everyone is a teacher. Everyone learns so much about what they do by seeing what others do.

How much of that is stuff you learned since working on the Letterman show?

Hmmm… I don’t think I’ve learned that much. I have learned about what we want at Letterman, but that’s something in addition to what I’m already doing. It’s pretty much a different hat. And I’ve always loved teaching and I will admit I’m pretty damn good at it. I’ve always been very good at being that kind of person. Been doing it or a very long time and I’ve had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of students, and a lot of them have been in touch with me and a lot of them have been inspired, not only to be comics but to be writers, and they learn a lot from them. So it’s been very, very good. There are people who don’t ever do it again, but they appreciate it. And then there’s people who never thought about doing it and begin doing it.

How tough is it when you sit down with a comic, especially one who might be well known and has been road testing their material for years, how tough is it to sit down with them and do something for Letterman?

It’s very tricky. What happens is, the kind of cool thing is, word has gotten around to trust me, that I’m not going to let anyone go up there and do anything that would make them look bad. Whatever I talk to them about will only be, will help them do better. And there have been some scenarios where I’ve helped some pretty top-name comics with some ideas for their sets and they just loved them. What it really comes down to, the bottom line is, it’s the comedian, it’s their set, not mine. So I might make suggestions, and most of the time, these people will follow it, but they’ll do it because they’ve learned to trust me.

Was it harder at the beginning, when you don’t know as much as you do now, when you first started the job?

I had booked before, a had booked a comedy club and a couple of shows, but this was booking for someone else’s taste. And interestingly enough, we have similar tastes. We both like the same kind of funny, which really is helpful to me. He also has a lot of integrity, Letterman, where he doesn’t care if anyone is big, he just cares that they’re funny. That’s a really great boss to work for, who’ll put comics on because they’re really great at what they do, not because they have a big name and you want to get ratings. He just wants the comics to be great. He’d rather find a young comic that no one knows about, instead of finding someone who already has all that power.

Are you currently looking at anyone else from Boston, or working with Joe again?

Definitely going to do something with Joe again in the new year. I like Dan Boulger. I like him a lot, I could see him eventually have a set for the show. There are so many great comics in Boston, and each time I see the groups from Boston, they improve all the time because there’s so much work here.