Just thinking: If Lenny Clarke is half the man he used to be, does that make him twice as funny?
Answer: Yes. Hollywood, the networks, and the comedy circuit can’t get enough of him.
Find out yourself Sunday at Seasons Restaurant and Pub in Oak Bluffs. The now wicked-svelte Cambridge native and well known comedian/actor (down 191 pounds to 197 pounds) takes a break from a five-city Northeast tour promoting the seventh season and final (Sept. 7) episode of FX sitcom “Rescue Me” to team with lunatic ventriloquist Otto and George, and Boston funnyman and sports guy Gregg Murphy to play on the Island.
“Otto is the greatest ventriloquist I’ve ever seen. Look, I’m not really a puppet guy, but I waited 20 years to be able to see his act and it was worth every minute. George Carlin once drove three hours in a snowstorm to see him.
“I can’t believe we were able to get him to come to the Island,” Mr. Clarke said last Friday while prepping for his two-man show with longtime friend Denis Leary at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. “Otto’s edgy, he’s funny, and he’s filthy,” Mr. Clarke summarized.
“I’m telling you, get your tickets early. We’re playing to 8,000 seats here but I don’t think Mike Santoro can get that many people into Seasons,” Mr. Clarke joked, noting that Gregg Murphy, who’s played Seasons before, has combined his zany life perspective with his sports hunger to also get radio work with WEEI-FM, the Boston leviathan sports talk station.
As a Boston native and longtime Island resident, Mr. Clarke knows his audience. “Wait’ll you hear Murphy do his Bob Kraft [New England Patriots owner] and Tito Francona [Boston Red Sox manager] imitations. Cracks me up every time,” he said.
After Sunday, Mr. Clarke has a couple of weeks on his beloved Island, then back to L.A. to begin shooting a new television series, “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea,” as series star Chelsea Handler’s dad. From NBC’s description of Chelsea’s on-air persona, it’s probably a good thing her “dad” is in good shape.
“Chelsea is young, strong-willed, and a force of nature determined to live life to the fullest and make no apologies,” reads NBC’s official description for the show. “Her friends are along for the ride, but they all know it’s Chelsea’s way or the highway.” The show is based on Ms. Handler’s best-selling memoir of the same name.
“We shot the pilot and we’re ready to film episodes now. One of the reasons I really enjoy this show is that it’s produced by Tom Werner [a Red Sox team owner]. A good guy, and he’s produced a long list of successful TV series, like ’3rd Rock from the Sun,’ not to mention two Red Sox World Championships,” Mr. Clarke said.
“Are You There…” is the latest in a string of acting roles for Mr. Clarke. People familiar with Boston neighborhoods particularly treasure his roles in “Monument Ave.” and “Southie,” paeans to the dark side of tribal Irish Boston.
He is less well-known for his habit of extending a quiet helping hand in addition to high-profile charity work for a variety of causes. Gratitude often rears its head in conversation. “Denis [Leary] has always been there. He jump-started my career when I was struggling in the comedy clubs years ago,” Mr. Clarke said on Friday.
He admits his sleek new frame is a bit of a head-scratcher. “Below 200 pounds? I never thought I’d get below 300 pounds. Credit Weight Watchers and trainer Brad Hill. He deserves the credit, he and the new Y [YMCA of M.V.]. I worked out there perpetually with him,” Mr. Clarke said.
So we get another chance to see Mr. Clarke and friends Sunday night. So, repeat after me: Otto is the comedian, George is the puppet. You already know Lenny Clarke is very funny.
An Evening with Lenny Clarke and Friends, 9:30 pm, Sunday, July 17, Seasons Restaurant and Pub, Oak Bluffs. For tickets: 508-693-7129 ext. 13.