The Hippo


Jul 22, 2019








Sean Tumblety. Courtesy photo.

 Halligan Tavern Comedy Night 

When: Thursdays at 8 p.m.
Where: Halligan Tavern, 32 West Broadway, Derry
Full schedule:

Derry hilarity
Halligan comedy night mixes stars and strivers

By Michael Witthaus

 Just as necessity is the mother of invention, the genesis of many a weekly standup show is a comic looking to sharpen his act. It’s what led Sean Tumblety to start one in Derry. 

“I did it for pretty selfish reasons — I needed to get on stage,” the tall, dapper comic explained on a recent Thursday night as a crowd filed in. “My biggest strength is writing and sticking to my script, and I thought it would be great to host a show and have to work off the cuff, to work that muscle that’s probably my weakest.”
Tumblety conceived of something similar to Comedy Studio, a Cambridge club he frequented. 
“It was a booked show, but if you went three times and watched, the host would put you on. I thought that was really cool,” he said.
Held upstairs at the Halligan, each show includes a headliner, a feature, and six comics in various stages of development. Crucially, it’s a semi-open mike, with slots filled months in advance.  
“If I’m gonna give a shot to one or two people who’ve never done it before, I’ll make sure the rest of the show is booked properly,” Tumblety said. “I’ll mix Boston in but always have local comics for the crowd. I want to cater to the New Hampshire audience.”
Upon its launch in September 2012, the weekly event clicked immediately. 
“It was insane; almost every single night you couldn’t get in. There’s a little bit of magic in this room.” 
Tumblety said he helped set a tone of respect for the performers early on by showing the door to a few loudmouths.  
“I made it clear that if people want to chat there’s a nice bar downstairs; otherwise comics are working hard to make you laugh,” he said.
A good thing got better after fellow comic Nick Lavallee took over Wednesday night comedy at Manchester’s Shaskeen Pub.  
“Nick said, ‘I’m going to mirror the showcase/feature thing you’re doing, and we’re going to build two rooms.’ As soon as that started happening, we had success. We decided to ask national performers to come here.”
Soon, Comedy Central and Tonight Show talent had a one-two punch line in the Granite State, and when big names like Myq Kaplan or Dan Soder appeared, fans arrived an hour or two early for wristbands guaranteeing admission. 
“It was very organic the way it grew, but we knew what we wanted,” said Tumblety. “We wanted to create a place in New Hampshire that’s just as prestigious as Comedy Studio.”
With assistance from Manchester’s Dave Carter, Tumblety and Lavallee offer an enticing pitch to prospective talent. 
“We work together to get big-name comics two nights, and it’s more attractive,” said Tumblety. “They use it as an opportunity to nail down their set before the weekend. They’re coming to play the Wilbur in Boston, Comedy Connection in Rhode Island, places like that. It’s a nice couple of rooms that are always packed for them to practice.”
There’s never a cover; the comedians are paid with a percentage of the bar receipts. Everybody’s happy, especially the owners. 
“The Halligan is 100 percent behind it, because they have this beautiful upstairs room that’s only used for functions,” said Tumblety. “It’s a nice, small romantic room, and it fills up quick.”
As evidenced by new comedy nights popping up from the Seacoast to the Lakes Region and beyond, there’s a definite hunger for this kind of entertainment. 
“We see it every week,” said Tumblety. “The thing is, if you’re going to go to a movie, which could be junk anyway, you’re going to spend 30 bucks. You can go to a show like this, spend the same amount, and get something totally different every time — live. It’s a beautiful thing.”  
As seen in the January 23, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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