Shelly and Bob O’Neil have experienced the benefit of laughter in their lives and they’re about to provide guffaws for us with an eight-week season beginning Saturday, July 3, showcasing more than a dozen of America’s best-known stand-up comics.
Their effort is part of an entertainment renaissance of sorts on the Island this summer, with Nectars in Edgartown booking its first full season under new ownership and multi-floor expansion of entertainment at The Lampost in Oak Bluffs.
The comedy lineup includes two shows by Island resident Lenny Clarke in his only Island appearances this season, and Boston, New York, and Las Vegas headliners including Tony V, Kenny Rogerson, and Jimmy Dunn. More names include Graig Murphy, Paul D’Angelo, Brad Mastrangelo, Jackie Flynn, Don Gavin, Johnny Pizzi, Frank Santorelli, Sal Votano, and Jim Lauletta. Boston comedy king Steve Sweeny headlines the final show of the season on August 20.
The O’Neil’s are beginning their sixth season operating David Ryan’s, the landmark two-story restaurant on North Water Street in Edgartown. Beginning tomorrow night, they will convert the upstairs dining space into comedy central after dining hours each Saturday.
Next weekend, Lenny Clarke and friends will do two shows a night on Friday, July 9 and Saturday, July 10. Mr. Clarke is a familiar figure on late-night TV and has starred in several movies and sitcoms. He is beloved in Red Sox Nation for zany in-game appearances several times each season in the Fenway Park TV broadcast booth.
Ms. O’Neil said last week in an interview that the idea for comedy night came from her experience with severe but successfully treated health issues several years ago.
“When we found out I had some cancer issues, I said ‘No tears, no crying, we are going to laugh.’ And we did. We went to comedy clubs, became aware of the comedy night to benefit the Cam Neely House, which supports breast cancer patients and their families. So I just thought, this year we are going to provide some laughs for others. God knows, the world needs some laughter right now.”
Laughs there should be. In addition to legends like Steve Sweeny and Don Gavin, the bill includes young standup talent, such as Jimmy Dunn, who’s seen as the irreverent cabdriver in Sports Authority TV spots. He treasures his moments sharing a jail cell with Matt Damon in “Stuck On You.”
The O’Neil’s credit Island impresario Joe McCarthy with help in bringing marquee comic talent to the Island. Despite his limitations — he is a rabid New York Yankee fan — Mr. McCarthy is nonetheless well regarded here for his service and charitable work with Island organizations. Mr. McCarthy is also busy booking his own wedding this fall to Heather O’Donnell, longtime dispenser of food and advice at Linda Jean’s restaurant in Oak Bluffs.
The comedic resumes he’s assembled are impressive: Prepared with a University of Massachusetts Master’s psychology degree, Tony V has a string of major movie and TV series credits. In addition to major club work, Mr. V also starred unforgettably as the voice of the American Tourister gorilla in its long-running TV ads series.
New voice Graig Murphy features impressions of Boston sports and political figures. He’s often heard on WEEI-FM sports radio. Working profanity-free, Mr. Murphy works L.A., Las Vegas, and Atlantic City. Brad Mastrangelo writes monologue material for Jay Leno and first took the stage on a dare in 1991. Mr. Mastrangelo attended six New England colleges in search of a meaningful career.
The talent also includes second-careerists such as Paul D’Angelo, who was a successful state criminal prosecutor for more than 10 years before going in front of the mike fulltime. Frank Santorelli has more than two dozen film and TV series credits, including Georgie the bartender in “The Sopranos.” He has a one-man show titled “A Life Making People Laugh.”
Newcomer Sal Votano learned his comedy craft entertaining fellow construction workers on job sites in New England. Jim Lauletta counts King Kong Bundy and George Lucas among his favorite people. Chicago-born Kenny Rogerson was once touted as “the funniest man you’ve never heard of,” before his standup, TV, and film work. Now American Express advertises its Zync Card on his website.
“You know, this will probably be the smallest room any of these guys will play,” Mr. O’Neil observed.
Dinner service downstairs at David Ryan’s continues without change but on Comedy Upstairs night, the second floor room will serve a regular dinner menu until show time, then switch to “comedy food,” as Mr. O’Neil put it, a “noiseless noshing” light menu with items such as crab cakes and chicken fingers. “We’ll also be concocting some special comedy drinks like the Rimshot, a salted margarita,” he added. All shows are 21+. For more information, call the comedy hotline at 508-627-9673.
Jack Shea is a regular contributor to The Times.