May 26, 2013
2012 New England’s Best Bar Comic Contest
Penuche’s Ale House
Where: Bicentennial Square in Concord
When: All shows 9:30 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 6 (Winner: Matt Barry)
Monday, Aug. 13 (Winner: Jay Chanoine)
Monday, Aug. 20
Monday, Aug. 27
Monday, Sept. 3. The final round will include additional comics who didn’t win but were judged worthy enough to compete.
Comedian: Alana Susko
Style: The mother of two entered comedy late in life, conquering a fear of public speaking. Susko is two comics — the first is PG-13 and riffs on things like raising teenagers and Susko’s life growing up with limited means. For example, she was unaware that other families didn’t play games like “electricity” (touch two appliances at the same time and get a jolt) until she reached school. At the Best Bar Comic contest, she’ll be decked out in a prom dress and tiara as The Goddess, a risqué character born from her experiences with Athena’s, a home party company that sells vibrators and lotions instead of Tupperware – “the ultimate prop comic,” says Susko.
Sample joke: “My father made his own beer, and us kids were the assembly line. He used to like it when Jehovah’s Witnesses came to our door, because they wouldn’t drink his beer or argue with him.”
Many area venues present comedy every week. The Hippo Nite section includes an up-to-date listing; call ahead for shows and times.
• 603 Lounge, 14 W. Hollis St., Nashua (www.jaygrove.com)
• Amato Center, 56 Mont Vernon St. in Milford (www.svbgc.org)
• Blue Mermaid, 40 The Hill, Portsmouth (www.thebluemermaid.com)
• Camelot at the Holy Grail, 64 Main St., Epping (www.holygrailrestaurantandpub.com)
• Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 South Main St. in Concord (www.ccanh.com)
• Fody’s, 9 Clinton St. in Nashua (www.fodystavern.com), second and fourth Thursdays
• Hart’s Turkey Farm, 233 Daniel Webster Highway, Meredith, every Wednesday *
• Headliners Comedy Club, 700 Elm St., Manchester (www.headlinerscomedyclub), every Friday and Saturday *
• Joker’s Sports Bar and Bistro, 1279 S. Willow St., Manchester, every Saturday *
• Killarney’s, 9 Northeastern Blvd., Nashua, every Thursday *
• Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St. in Manchester (www.palacetheatre.org)
• Soho Restaurant & Bar, 49 Lowell Road in Hudson (www.sohocuisine.com), third Thursdays
• Tupelo Music Hall, 2 Young Road in Londonderry (www.tupelohall.com)
• White Birch, 222 Hudson St. in Hudson (www.thewhitebirchnh.com)
• Wicked Twisted Bar & Grill, 38 East Hollis St. in Nashua (www.wickedtwistedbarandgrill.com)
* Run by Headliners
Comedian: Matt D
Style: One-liners delivered with deadpan precision is this comic’s specialty. Winner of the 2010 Manchester’s Best Comic and last year’s Topic Standup at the Magners Competition in Boston, the nerdy Matt Donaher is an absurdist in the tradition of Steven Wright and Mitch Hedberg, two comics he cites as key influences. In the age of Twitter, Matt D’s frequent tweets (@SimplyMattD) are a constant source of laughs. Topics range from snack food to more off-the-wall stuff: “I make a killer grilled cheese sandwich,” he tweeted recently. “The secret ingredient is poison.”
Sample joke: “I ran for class president and lost by only two votes. Which isn’t that bad, really. Unless you’re home schooled.”
Comedian: Jenny Z
Hometown: Jamaica Plain
Style: Minnesota transplant Jenny Zigrino is an observational comic and who touches on modern problems like employment challenges, her weight (she describes herself as Rubenesque) and pop culture. She’s a comic with multiple personalities – the Mass College of Art graduate makes funny short films and works as the emcee for Rogue Burlesque, playing the British character Liz Fang while a cast that’s a cross between Suicide Girls and Mad TV twirls their pasties.
Sample joke: “For my boyfriend’s birthday, I got him a one-way ticket to Brazil, if you know what I mean. But I only did the front. Because the bush is for trimming – you save the rain forest.”
Comedian: Jay Grove
Hometown: Great Barrington
Style: Riffs on life growing up poor, the vagaries of dating after divorce, local women and being a mix of African-American and French-Canadian in a mostly white state (one good bit recalls the summer influx of “seasonal blacks” at Hampton Beach in the 1980s). Grove interacts with the audience, but isn’t looking for a comedy partner; he’s adept at shutting down hecklers. A comedy entrepreneur, he also books many shows in the area and is a regular at Headliners.
Sample joke: Confused when he made a rare trip to church, he asked a priest for assistance. “Do you know about the Eucharist?” Grove was asked. “Oh, I know him — he’s the guy that used to play third base for the Red Sox!”
Comedian: Jay Chanoine
Style: Chanoine, a sci-fi buff, sports adnostic and “comic pessimist,” he excels at beating himself up for laughs. Masculinity – or lack of it – is a frequent topic, from his preference for his wife’s trousers (it turns out that they’re the same size, and when “we got married, I got half her stuff,” Chanoine says) to his failure at husbandly tasks like fixing drains (he’s easily distracted by a hiccupping hamster) or holding violent criminals at bay when the best he can muster during a dream about home invasion is to ask the criminals, “What are you doing?”
Sample joke: An out-of-reach high school girl became a porn star, causing him to wonder if Pinkerton Academy will add her to its list of famous alma mater along with poet Robert Frost. “Sia Cox straddled two men at the same time like two roads diverged in a yellow wood, thereby proving she is anything but the road less traveled.”
Style: A multimedia comic who mixes his videos of losers like basement dweller Brian, who writes hopeless odes to pop stars like Katy Perry and Zooey Deschanel, and “world famous drywaller” Todd Bouchard, with standup that riffs on being from New Hampshire (“we look like a cross between the Cloverfield monster and the dead kid in Stand By Me”) and growing up wearing school clothes bought with Marlboro miles.
Sample joke: “Laconia is fantastic because it’s the only place in the world where you can get in a fight with a biker and a 12-year-old boy for the same Skee-ball machine.”
Comedian: Ryan Leach
Style: The former journalist and UNH grad mines self-deprecation for laughs. Leach says that bullies, not speech therapists, helped him get past a childhood lisp. “Do you how hard it is to say you’re not gay when you sound like you’re gay?” Leach says his proudest moment as a standup is being kicked out of a college competition for vulgarity. Based in Southern California for the past two years, he’s a regular at Flappers in Burbank and co-produces the monthly “Battle of the Sexes” comedy show there.
Sample joke: His mother is proud when Leach tells her he’s working as a “kinesiology practitioner” in Pasadena, Calif. His father gets on the phone and tells her, “He’s just a [expletive] gym teacher who knows his synonyms.”
Penuche’s Ale House used to be like most Concord taverns on a Monday night. The Red Sox playing on a flat screen, the bar full of chattering locals, a game of pool, maybe someone muscling the Dr. Who pinball machine. But a couple of summers ago, comedy came to town.
For some, the invasion wasn’t always welcome.
Punchlines at Penuche’s is a cross between an open audition and a standup comedy version of Roadhouse, the Patrick Swayze movie where the band played in a chain-link cage. Comedian Jay Grove launched it after he moved to Concord and needed a place to work close to home. In the beginning, out-of-town comics saw it as a low-risk place to try out new material. But a core group of nascent standups would also get up and give it a shot. Some did well enough to keep coming back.
It takes a certain kind of person to step on the low stage at Penuche’s, beginning with a thick skin. “It’s more like guilty until proven innocent — they expect you to suck,” says Grove. “Whereas at a comedy club, they paid money to see comedy, so they assume it will be good.”
Those averse to indifference or heckling (mostly good-natured) are well advised to avoid Penuche’s. But for the rest, Monday night at 9 is an answering bell at what Grove thinks of as a comedy gym. “We’ll boo and yell until you get us to laugh,” he says. “But it teaches you invaluable lessons — like get to the laugh fast … within 10 seconds. They’ll think, ‘Well, he made me laugh already so he can’t be that bad,’ and you buy yourself another 15 seconds.”
Which leads to this month’s Best Bar Comic Contest, a series of weekly laugh-offs featuring five or six comedians a night, culminating in a final round on Labor Day weekend. The winner receives $500 and a spot opening two shows at Headliners Comedy Club in Manchester. It began Monday, Aug. 6, and continues through the month.
Matt Blay, top comic in 2011, hosts this year’s first round. His opening set riffs on his sexuality — he’s gay. He talks about coming out to his grandmother, who responded by erasing his name from the family Bible. “How did she even know to write it in pencil?” wonders Blay. The rest of his family can get away with pretty much anything, he says. “My brother told my mother, ‘I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,’ and she said, ‘Well, at least you’re not like Matt.’”
“I won this contest last year,” Blay reminds the crowd as he prepares to introduce the first of the night’s six comic hopefuls. “It did a lot for my career is what I’m saying — I’m back here.”
His remark draws a laugh, but to a guy like Bill Burr, who’s made cable specials, movies and more in more than 20 years as a standup comic, contests are a serious subject. “You’re talking to the 1993 winner of the WBCN Boston Comedy Riot,” he says during a break filming The Heat, directed by Paul Fieg (Bridesmaids), starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. “The Riot was huge. … If you won, you were the man, the new up-and-coming guy. Then you had the curse of the Riot, when everybody that won it didn’t become a star the next week.”
Hard-luck stories did set back a few winners. Dane Cook was part of a comedy troupe that won in 1992 and got booed off the stage a few months later trying to open for Phish at Boston Garden. But Cook persevered, and a decade later, the young comic sold out the same venue — as a headliner.
Win or lose, most comics keep it real about tournaments as potential touchstones to overnight success. “It’s nice to add another credit,” says Blay outside Penuche’s, “but I work from here to Providence and do a lot of shows in Florida — not enough to get rich, but a nice living.”
Matt D. is one New Hampshire comic who’s parlaying contest wins into opportunities. In 2010, he was named Funniest Comic in New Hampshire, and he won last year’s Magners Comic Stand-Off in Boston. Among the latter honor’s perks was a trip to Scotland to perform in the Glasgow International Comedy Festival.
“That was not a competition, just a fun week in comedy over there,” the comic explained during a phone call from his home in Somerville. “But the most recent thing, that was really cool.”
He’s talking about the invite he received from Eddie Brill, talent booker for Late Show With David Letterman, to appear at something called The Great American Comedy Festival.
“I ended up being a finalist of 18 comics,” says Matt D. “Very cool.”
Even with the accolades, he continues to work out one-liners at the Shaskeen in his hometown of Manchester, and at Cambridge’s Comedy Studio, where he’s a regular.
The Brill event took place in Norfolk, Neb. — Johnny Carson’s hometown. Carson left television in 1992 and died in 2005, but the former Tonight show host still stirs memories of a bygone time. These days, an appearance on Leno, Letterman or Jimmy Kimmel can be a definite career boost, but back then, Johnny was a kingmaker like no other.
Comedian/actor Patton Oswalt reportedly talked about this heyday during a keynote address in July at the Montreal Just For Laughs festival. According to the Huffington Post’s article about the address, Oswalt said: “The way you made it in comedy was very clear, simple, straightforward. You went on Carson, you killed, you got called over to the couch, and the next day you had your sitcom and your mansion, and you’re made. Just ask Drew Carey and Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres — and Bill Clinton. That’s how you did it.” Oswalt recounted his own success as a comic — King of Queens, United States of Tara, lead voice in Ratatouille, playing opposite Charlize Theron in Young Adult –— all the while emphasizing how little control he had over his fate. He “was lucky” that “they decided.” Those days are over, he said according to Huffington Post, citing YouTube, podcasts and social media as the new great equalizers.
But it’s critical to remember that Oswalt was talking to a gathering of mostly standup comics. Whatever power may lie in a killer clip, a clever Funny or Die bit or a wry tweet – anyone with a history in the business will insist that luck and the handing out of plum gigs comes at the end of hard work, not before.
Ask most seasoned comedians how best to make it in a crowded field, and they’ll echo writer Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote in Outliers of the need to spend at least 10,000 hours doing anything to be really good at it.
Rob Steen offers his own version of Gladwell’s maxim. “The thing that you need is to work every kind of show,” said the veteran comic and Headliners impresario a few Saturdays ago. “Theaters, bars, parties, country clubs – with every single experience like that, you give yourself tools. Sometimes comics don’t have those. Certain places need certain jokes. After four or five years, I can confidently put you in any of my venues.”
Steen points to Grove as a good example. “Jay’s one of those guys who will work really hard and will work everywhere. I feel confident putting him in any club. He can be clean when he needs to and dirty when it’s called for.”
Gaining that trust took time. Grove got into the comedy game a few years ago, after a messy divorce found him at a crossroads. Since then, he’s attacked comedy with a vengeance — he’s played campgrounds, Moose Halls and one-offs at restaurants. The variety seasoned him.
“There are no garage comics, you can’t practice on your own,” says Grove. “The only way is in front of people. It doesn’t work like that in rock ’n’ roll, where the impulse is if the music’s good, you want to see them live.”
“I literally gambled”
Juston McKinney agrees. With a resume that includes a stint in the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, cable specials and DVDs (he’s filming a new one in October at Manchester’s Palace Theatre), McKinney probably hit his 10,000 hours long ago. But he still goes to open mikes around his seacoast home to work out new material, typically once a week.
“There are really no shortcuts for stage time,” he says. “You’ve gotta get your comedy legs, and there is no substitute for being there with a mike. It doesn’t matter how many people you’re performing for or what kind of venue.”
McKinney began as a comic at the Boston Comedy Connection in Faneuil Hall. “The first time I went on stage, I didn’t tell anybody because if it went bad, I didn’t want anybody to know,” he recalls. “It went surprisingly well.” He continued doing open mike nights in Maine, honing his craft while working full time as a policeman.
“What really lit a fire for me, made me think I had a career in it, was a friend of mine told me about a guy in New York City looking for clients to manage,” recalls McKinney. He sent a tape and got a callback with an offer. Just like that, he quit a secure job, cashed out his pension, bought a car and drove to the city.
It was 1998, and he stayed until 2001. “The favorite part of my career, my New York years,” says McKinney. “It’s a great comedy town, and with so many clubs in such a small area, I was working seven nights a week doing three to four sets a night.”
There were moments of doubt. “I was living on someone’s couch, and I needed to get an apartment,” McKinney recalls. “I remember going into a building and they wouldn’t give me an apartment because I didn’t have any income. I really wasn’t making any money. I’d been in New Hampshire and Maine my whole life with a great job and now I’m walking around New York not able to rent an apartment. Did I make a mistake? I literally gambled.”
McKinney empathizes with barroom comics fighting to be heard. “Comedy is all about a controlled environment ideally, and a bar is a challenge,” he says. “They won’t turn the TVs off, when they get a good tip, they’ll ring the bell. There are so many distractions.”
He’s been there. “I’ve had nightmares where I’ve bombed, when it’s not going well. I was doing comedy one day at the racetrack. I’m on stage with a bunch of televisions behind me. It looks like people are looking at me, but everyone is really watching the screens and the horse races,” he remembers with a wry laugh. “They lose their money and throw their tickets down — I realize they’re not even listening to me.”
Worse than that was the night he performed on the Premium Blend cable show at a theater in Harlem. Tommy Davidson hosted, with a studio audience that was almost entirely African-American. “He brings me up and says, ‘This guy used to be a cop’ — and made this face. People started booing — for 30 seconds, I felt that tension, but I won them over because I was so new and green. I got over it, but as I got older I wondered — why did he do that?”
The Locals — Young, Hungry, Talented and Driven
Nick Lavallee bristles when people call him a YouTube comic. Sure, videos like “I Love You, Sally Struthers” get him noticed — but he insists that leads to paying work doing his standup act. “The Internet allows me to reach people and create success,” says Lavallee, noting that Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada saw him online and booked him at his Chicago and Hollywood comedy clubs. “How many open mikes will get you paying gigs in a year, and how many times do you have to chase down a promoter to do a future set? I personally have seen way more value in producing my content online, putting a CD/DVD in stores and booking my own shows.”
For many, the dream is Los Angeles. Ryan Leach is one comic who made the journey, though it wasn’t entirely voluntary.
After losing his first post-college job, Leach suddenly found himself in need of employment. “I had friends in L.A., and I decided if I’m going to make a run, I should go now,” recalls Leach, a regular at the Shaskeen who’d done well in college comedy contests — he says his proudest moment as a comic was getting bounced from a UNH show for being too profane. Leach headed west and took a day job in Pasadena teaching private school physical education, the source of some of his best jokes. He also began working nights at the just-opened Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank.
“Literally, I had a place just like I had here with the Shaskeen that was a home club. From there, I built up an act. … They taught me how to promote myself.” Leach talked while sitting at the Shaskeen bar, waiting to appear with Lenny Clarke around the corner at the Palace Theatre. The show wouldn’t be happening without the skills he acquired on the West Coast. “I’ll be back in October for a wedding, and I’m going to try and book some shows then, too.”
Jenny Zigrino, who performs using the stage name Jenny Z., began doing comedy in high school. “I think I just really like making people laugh. When you’re an awkward chubby teenager, it helps make people like you,” she says. “It worked – what made me feel I was good at it was when my teacher made me the headliner of the graduating class when I was 16.”
After a foray into club work, however, she stopped. “I was young and I didn’t like hanging in the bars — then I lost interest.”
Then she took a trip to England. “My friend showed me an old Russell Brand video from 2005 when no one had heard of him,” Zigrino recalls. “I was struck by how funny and charismatic he was on stage. Everyone liked him, and I said, ‘I can do that — I can make everyone like me.’”
Coming back to America and almost immediately breaking up with her then-boyfriend spurred Zigrino back into standup. “In a lot of ways, it helped me out,” she says. “To get over it, you have to tell everyone about it. So I did jokes about my ex, and it was all history from there.”
Jay Chanoine, who won round two of the Best Bar Comic contest, felt early on a need to make people laugh for a living. “I have wanted to do it since I knew you could get paid to tell jokes,” says Chanoine. “A friend of mine came to see me when I first started doing comedy and he said it was funny because when we were asked what we wanted to be when we were growing up, I told her I wanted to be a comedian.”
A good night “is any show that goes really well and you’re on and hitting all your points and your delivery is right,” says Chanoine. “There are so many things that go into it, so when they all go well, it’s definitely a high point.”
One show stands out in his mind for a couple of reasons: One, he bombed, and two, he had no choice but to rise above his failure. “It was a show for Rob Steen in Portland,” he recalls. “I just did terribly and the crowd was not on my side. I wore a sparkly silver jacket and I think that kind of put them off; it was not the kind of crowd to be dressed like David Bowie. I guess the owner of the place told Rob to never have me go there again.”
The club owner didn’t know that Chanoine was already booked to play again in two months, and Steen made it clear he wasn’t about to fire him. “I was nervous that it was going to be as bad as the first time, but I really kicked that show off well. I had a great time and got the crowd where they needed to be for the rest of the night. That is your job as an opening act.”
Also competing at Penuche’s (in Week 2) is Hudson comic Alana Susko. Since jumping into comedy five years ago, Susko has turned what began as her strategy to conquer glossophobia into a booming business. Her nonprofit Comedy On Purpose raises money for charity with every performance, and she organizes shows at no less than three venues.
She also works as a home party “goddess” for Athena’s Home Novelties, a role that required a minimal amount of public speaking skills. As she grew comfortable selling lotions and vibrators to living rooms full of housewives, she began to think about doing standup. “I was frustrated because fear was holding me back,” she says. “So I decided to start talking and moving in the direction of my dream and I took a comedy class.”
Her first open mike in Boston wasn’t great, but it was a start. “I felt myself turn green, and I almost passed out,” she says. “I was very robotic in the beginning, and it went so fast and I couldn’t even remember it — it was like a blackout. I wasn’t drinking either; the fear literally stopped my brain from functioning.”
She’s more at ease now. “Someone will come in during a performance, and I can stop and wink at them and still be present,” says Susko. In the process, she’s managed to build Fody’s Tavern in Nashua into a comedy hub. “The room is getting a name for itself, so I’m fortunate that big names will always stop in and, of course, I give them time. It’s a huge compliment that they come her to practice new material. I’ve had Bill Campbell and Rob Steen and others I can’t say — because if people know they can see these people for five bucks then they’re not going to pay full price to see their shows.”
To Los Angeles and back
Though Hollywood remains a magnet for many, comedian Bob Marley made the journey in reverse. After several years on the coast, which included work in commercials a role in both Boondock Saints movies, Marley returned to him home state of Maine — and enjoyed his greatest success.
Marley’s comedy career began with talent shows at the University of Connecticut and blossomed in Boston during the early ’90s. In between, he spent summers working clubs in Portland, Maine, telling jokes between musical acts. One spot a night grew to time between all four bands. “Next thing you know, I’m doing 12 four-minute spots and writing stuff every night for it,” he said recently from his home near Portland. “I’m building an act. Then I went around to all these bars up in Maine and got my own nights and my own shows booked.”
After three years in Boston, Marley moved to Los Angeles. He recalls intense pressure — “I spent 11 years every night on Sunset Strip just swinging for the fence,” he says. If you don’t reach the audience within 20 seconds, you’re toast. It’s the entertainment equivalent of speed dating. “Because you’re up against every other good guy in the country, I’m just out there hammering that 15 to 20 seconds.”
Some nights found him sandwiched between heavyweight acts like Damon Wayans and Martin Lawrence on a bill that might include Dane Cook and Jim Gaffigan. In his home state, says Marley, “there are good comics, but they’re not all on the same lineup with me. It’s just me and I’ve built my own audience — so it’s a lot easier.”
Marley does regret not spending a couple of years in New York City. “To me, the New York guys are the real craftsman in the whole comedy scene,” he says. “That is one of the things that I wished I had done that I would tell younger comics to do. If you’re going to go anywhere, go there first. … If you can make it through that, then you’re ready. I just jumped to L.A. because I had an opportunity out there and it paid off.”
At the sound of the bell
As the start of Best Bar Comic round one nears, the contestants sit around a table in the corner listening to Blay give instructions. Slots are determined by picking numbers from a hat. Grove sets the lineup for each night. The inveterate sports fan uses an NCAA-type seeding system. Organizing high to low by talent reduces the chance of one night being heavy with quality and another less competitive. This happened a few years ago at a different event — not Grove’s — and he doesn’t want to repeat that mistake.
One comic bowed out at the last minute after seeing the brackets. “He literally quit on his stool,” says Grove.
Fifteen minutes before showtime, the comics are wrapped up in subdued conversation. Men’s Olympics beach volleyball plays silently on one TV, while the Red Sox guard a seventh inning lead in the other corner. But when Blay steps on stage the level goes down a bit; it seems that people may actually be here for the show. That sense lasts only through Blay’s set; when the first comic falters, bar conversation begins to drown him out.
Matt Barry follows with a powerful six minutes that by night’s end will propel him to a spot in the finals. One of his best jokes deals with ways his perception of employment changed when he hit his twenties — a job with benefits meant a female boss with a good body and no drug test at age 16. Barry’s fast, popping delivery garners a good audience response.
Lauren Bancroft is 23 years old and driven by a desire to make the cast of Saturday Night Live by the time she’s 30. Her set is good by comedy standards, esoteric and imaginative. But she can’t break through the rowdy bar crowd. Bancroft also performs Wednesday nights at the Shaskeen in downtown Manchester and at Fody’s in Nashua on the second and fourth Thursdays. At those venues, unlike Penuche’s, people can choose to watch comedy — the Shaskeen meets in a back room, Fody’s in a basement.
Over the two years since Punchlines began on Monday nights, the regulars warmed up to their role as a fifth wall, says Grove. Succeed in that milieu, and you can make it anywhere. “There is a rhythm to being a bar comic, and I can deal with any crowd. Every week, someone tries to shout me down and I love it — it makes you so sharp. On the road, you run into those people who are annoyed because they don’t expect you or they’re having dinner. ... The bar comic contest celebrates those comics who are able to come in and win them over.”
Star of the show
To the hungry toilers at Penuche’s, Lenny Clarke represents a pretty solid definition of success. “Comedy has been very good to me,” he says during a backstage cigar break at the Palace Theatre, where he’s topping a bill dubbed Lenny Clarke and His Cast of Characters, along with four fellow Boston comics.
Puffing on an Arturo Fuente robusto (he’s friends with the rolling plant’s owner), Clarke talks about multiple decades telling jokes for a living — on stages, movies like There’s Something About Mary and Fever Pitch, and television shows — he played Uncle Teddy in Rescue Me and most recently worked on the sitcom, Are You There, Chelsea?
The show began on a high note, as Clarke opened with a set that drew considerably from his miraculous experience on Weight Watchers — he shed 182 pounds. It’s not typical for a headliner to lead off the night, but Clarke was unconcerned. “Over the years, you just kind of figure out who the top dog is going to be,” he says.
With a house on Martha’s Vineyard where he lives year round and his newfound health, Clarke is quite relaxed. The camaraderie with his friends also performing that night is obvious. Tony V. says backstage that his friend has done “literally everything” for him. “If it weren’t for Lenny, I wouldn’t be here.”
Like Marley and McKinney, the Boston-bred Clarke manages to do things on his own terms, and mostly in his home region. McKinney has two kids, 2 and 3 years old, so it’s a matter of family for him. “I would rather have a good career and be a great dad than have a great career and be a good dad,” he says. “I want to make sure I am here for my kids.” Marley likes being able to drive home from work most nights.
Stuck in an airport waiting for a delayed flight, a stressed-out Burr couldn’t agree more, proving that even if a comedian makes it to the top of the world, there’s still a chance someone will lose his luggage.
“Right now is when I don’t want to do it anymore,” he sputters. “Honestly. I want to work at a grocery store and bag groceries and live in an apartment above the grocery store and not travel. If you can be in this business and live in New England, you’ve won,” he says. “I live in a desert and I have to fly everywhere. If you ever want a day of misery, fly from South Bend to Hartford via Detroit on Delta.”
|®2013 Hippo Press.