From Beantown to Edgartown, Boston comics enliven Vineyard winter

The Harbor View crowd enjoyed some laughs at last Friday night's comedy night. — Photo by Susan Safford

Edgartown has become comedy central this winter. In an effort to attract some new off-season clientele, the Harbor View Hotel has experimented with nightclub style entertainment, including comedy nights in their Water Street Restaurant.

And the experiment has paid off. The first two comedy nights, as well as two cabaret style shows featuring singer Jill Zadeh and a New Year’s Eve party with The Sultans of Swing, have played to packed, appreciative houses. The third in the comedy series, last weekend, though not a sellout, still attracted a good-sized crowd of comedy fans.

“It’s introduced us to a different clientele and given people another reason to visit the Harbor View,” said Elizabeth Rothwell, the hotel’s director of marketing and events. “We’ve been having a lot of fun doing it.”

The three comedians who performed last Friday night, March 30, were all of the regular guy variety, albeit regular guys with a twisted outlook on life.

First up in the lineup was Taylor Connelly, a young comic from Somerville. Clean-cut and fresh-faced, Mr. Connelly looked exactly like the former boy scout and choir boy that he described himself as. He warmed the crowd with material covering, among other things, skateboarding, awkward job interviews, theme parks, and his Catholic upbringing. “One of the apostles saw Jesus walking on ice and said, ‘Yeah-ah, technically,'” he said, describing his skepticism about the miracles described in The Bible.

In one of Mr. Connelly’s funniest riffs, he described being led astray by his GPS. “Run the red light. Nobody’s looking. Local bar in .5 miles. Don’t you want a beer? Do donuts, they’re fun.”

The second comedian, Mike Whitman, had a tendency to poke fun at the audience and he particularly had fun with a party sitting right up front. Some of the wide range of things that Mr. Whitman, a semi-finalist of the 2008 Boston Comedy Festival, commented on were working in an office, his hairy back, and a trip to a remote area of Vermont. “Ever travel for like eight hours and the interstate turns into gravel?” He also made some funny impromptu remarks about the Vineyard and Vineyarders.

The headliner of the evening, Joe Larson, was the veteran of the group. He has won a number of awards for his stand up, played a number of times in Vegas, and was a finalist in last year’s Johnny Carson’s Great American Comedy Festival. He also has numerous television appearances to his credit.

Mr. Larson drew a lot from married life and new fatherhood for his material. He also proved very entertaining when making fun of himself. “When I was a kid I was convinced I had superpowers. It turned out to be a lazy eye.” He got the biggest laugh of the evening describing his emotional problems.

“I have both ADD and depression. Every time I go to kill myself – I get distracted. The car’s running I might as well go somewhere. Why am I just sitting in the garage with the engine running?”

Jennifer Marcus of West Tisbury was attending the Harbor View’s comedy night for the first time on the recommendation of friends. She intentionally sat in front with her husband and friends and was involved in some back and forth with each of the comics. “I wanted to have that interaction with the comedians,” she said. “I especially like their take on the Vineyard. It was really interesting.”

Ms. Marcus, who said she enjoys watching comedians on TV, enjoyed the added element of the live experience. “You want to laugh to show your appreciation and egg them on,” she said. “You sense that they want that encouragement, that interplay, that dynamic.”

The idea for hosting comedy nights at the Harbor View came from food and beverage manager Bob Forbes. He has been working with Dick and Kathy Doherty of Dick Doherty’s Beantown Comedy Clubs of Boston to select a different lineup each time from their roster of comics for hire.

The hotel will host one more comedy night, on April 27. They also have a handful of other special events scheduled, including a community Easter Egg hunt this Sunday, April 8, and a concert by local electronic pop unit Kodacrome on May 17.

Ms. Rothwell is hoping to provide other entertainment options up until Water Street opens for business on Memorial Day weekend. Based on the response this year, the comedy series will definitely resume next winter. “The community has been very supportive of the events we’ve been having,” she said.

Edgartown Town administrator Pam Dolby is happy to see something new going on in a town that is otherwise pretty quiet in the winter. “I think they’re doing a great job,” she said. “Elizabeth Rothwell has made a world of difference. It’s kind of exciting to have a different place to go.”