Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ken Rogerson: The Roast That Was Nearly A Benefit Show

Rogerson onstage at Giggles with his bike.
For a half an hour at Giggles last Monday night, the biggest comedians in Boston busted Ken Rogerson’s balls. Not to be outdone, Rogerson then busted his own. Literally.

Let me back up. This is a story of a random act of kindness in the local comedy community, a galvanizing moment you don’t often see publicly. Rogerson had no transportation to gigs. And probably more importantly, he has always wanted a Harley. He rode them as a kid, and on the set of Rescue Me a few years ago.

So Mike Clarke, brother of Lenny and and a few other comedians hatched a plot to pitch in and buy the Harley for Rogerson and surprise him with it.

All told, forty-two people, most of them comedians, chipped in about $100 apiece to buy the bike. They then rolled it into Giggles Monday night and filled the club with Rogerson’s friends, including Steven Wright, Lenny Clarke, Tony V., Mike McDonald, Steve Sweeney, Don Gavin, Jimmy Dunn, Jim McCue, Joe Yannetty, Robbie Printz, Dave Russo, Johnny Pizzi, and Brad Mastrangelo.

Rogerson was told he would be playing a charity gig, making $300. He was legitimately shocked when he walked in and saw the room filled with his friends and a Harley on the stage. Rogerson is not often speechless, but he was, at least for a few minutes, when Lenny, dressed in a hat he swiped from the corpse of Carnac the Magnificent, led him up to his bike and old him what was going on. You can see that on the videos.

You can also see that the evening quickly turned into an impromptu roast. As Wright was talking about Rogerson, you can hear Gavin shout, “Did he die?” Mike McDonald said this was the kind of gift anyone would want to receive, and wondered why the hell it went to Rogerson. McCue had one of the best lines of the night when, pushed into speaking, he took the stage and said, “This is the strangest way to tell someone they have cancer.”

Once everyone had a turn taking shots at Rogerson, everyone gathered for a group photo, and filed out to watch Rogerson start up his new toy. Rogerson was beaming out in the Giggles parking lot, posing for photos, feeling the bike roar. He then let out the clutch and the bike lurched, and a surprised Rogerson sped about ten feet into Sweeney’s Lexus, the only thing between Rogerson and busy Route 1 traffic.

Some of Boston's best pay tribute to Rogerson.
Rogerson crumpled to the ground, holding his head, and stayed still for a long moment. As I said when I wrote a short bit about this for the Globe, most of the comedians waited until it was clear Rogerson was more embarrassed than actually hurt before laughing. Most of them. Rogerson escaped with a few scratches, as did Pizzi, who had to leap out of the way. Sweeney’s Lexus was also unharmed, which made him wonder why they didn’t get Rogerson one of those instead of a bike.

Just as Rogeson lets out the clutch, he ages 30
years. This photo is not retouched in any way.
Afterwards, when Rogerson asked if Pizzi was okay, Pizzi asked if he were insured yet. “Because I’m suing,” he said.

“Johnny, everything I own is at George’s, stop by and pick something out,” said Rogerson. “It’s all in one room.”

Everything was a surprise to Rogerson. The bike itself, his friends, and how light the clutch was. It was hard to keep everyone quiet, but Rogerson said he didn’t suspect a thing. “I had no clue,” he said. “I have no words. Who expects this? And who expects to crash it the first thirty seconds? They had to tell the story about the ‘Rescue Me’ tour. It’s my second time crashing, and my third time on a bike in forty years. I’m embarrassed as hell.”
Rogerson, McDonald, and Sweeney after the crash.

Rogerson was happy Pizzi was okay, and that Sweeney’s car was fine. And he was clearly touched by his friends’ generosity. He’s sure he’ll get over the embarrassment quickly. “It’s not like it’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “You’ve heard the stories from the 80s.”

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