If you’re not laughing this summer, you haven’t been getting out much.
For example, The Martha’s Vineyard Comedy Fest, sponsored by HBO, will present Damon Williams and Rudy Rush at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven Friday and Saturday nights, Aug. 18 and 19, with two shows each evening.
Knock-Knock Productions, a Chicago-based producer of corporate and performance live stand-up comedy events, has produced shows at the Katharine Cornell this season and will return for a second season in 2012, president Steve Capers told The Times last week. “HBO has signed on again as our sponsor, based on results from our first season on the Island.”
Mr. Williams is a former Subway sandwich shop owner from Chicago whose numerous contributions include writing for and appearing on BET’s “Comicview,” including his own one-hour special. He’s been featured on BET LIVE, Comedy Central’s “Premium Blend,” “The Tom Joyner Skyshow” on TV ONE, and HBO’s “P Diddy Presents the Bad Boys of Comedy.” Mr. Williams also hosted several episodes of the popular “Showtime at the Apollo,” the longest running African-American syndicated show.
In 1999, Mr. Williams performed for more than 300,000 fans as the opening act for the highly successful Kings of Comedy Tour establishing him as one of the elite comics in the nation. He is a veteran of the US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, and he headlined the Cedric the Entertainer Comedy Revue. He is a crowd favorite on the college, club, and concert circuit and also performs internationally with regular appearances in Canada with stops in Vancouver, Montreal, and Edmonton.
He gears his material for universal appeal and for all ages. Mr. Williams’ appeal has provided him the opportunity to work with some of the biggest stars in the business and to host a campaign brunch for then-U.S. Senator Obama. He has worked with Aretha Franklin, Pattie Labelle, Luther Vandross, Ray Charles, Harry Belafonte, Chris Rock, James Brown, Jamie Foxx, and even Little Richard.
A 15-year comedy tour veteran, Rudy Rush has experienced the full spectrum of the entertainment business, from colleges and clubs, and he became the youngest host of “Showtime at the Apollo.”
Mr. Rush has worked with Dave Chappelle and Martin Lawrence on major projects while also appearing on shows featuring up-and-coming comics such as “Def Comedy Jam,” Jamie Foxx’s “Laff-A-Palooza,” and “Premium Blend.”
Mr. Rush appears every weekday afternoon on “The Ride” with Doug & Dede on the syndicated Doug Banks Show.
Tickets for the 7:30 and 9 pm shows range from $27.50 and $40 and are available online at marthasvineyardcomedy.com or at the door. Mr. Capers recommends the online route. “We started slowly, but once word got out the shows have been filling up. We expect sellouts this weekend,” he said.
So it’s been a laughable summer for comedy on the Island. Earlier this month, Tim Conway and Louise DuArt did a one-night show at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School to benefit the Network of Neighbors service group. The Boston Comedy Festival launched its own Island comedy tour last week, culminating in an award presentation on Monday night in the name of John Belushi to his widow and Island resident Judy Belushi-Pisano. The comedy group plans to present the award annually to the comedian who best represents Mr. Belushi’s contribution to the comic form.
But wait … there’s more.
Island resident Lenny Clarke will return this Sunday, Aug. 21, to Seasons Restaurant and Pub on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs for his second appearance of the season. Mr. Clarke then heads to Los Angeles to begin filming a new sitcom, “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea,” based on the book by Chelsea Handler.
Comedians Tony V. and Paul D’Angelo will appear with Mr. Clarke. Prepared by a UMass master’s degree in psychology, Tony V has a string of major movie and TV series credits in addition to major club work. Mr. D’Angelo was a successful Massachusetts criminal prosecutor for more than 10 years before going in front of the mike full-time. Tickets for the 9:30 pm show are available at Seasons or by calling 508-693-7129.
Nectar’s got a case of the ha-ha’s as well, featuring a comedy show earlier in the season and serving as one of the venues for the Boston Comedy Festival tour.
Even Shakespeare’s on the bus. The Vineyard Playhouse staged “The Comedy of Errors” at the Tisbury Amphitheater for three weeks in July and August.
Could be that comedy today, like the lavish Depression-era Hollywood musicals, has struck a responsive chord in difficult times. Funny, isn’t it?