Comic Jimmy Tingle gets serious about helping Community Services

Comic Jimmy Tingle hopes to take the Possible Dreams auction in new directions as the guest auctioneer. — Photo by Steve Myrick

Jimmy Tingle is a funny, funny guy, but he is serious about reaching fundraising goals for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services programs that help more than 6,000 Island residents each year. He is working up a new stand-up routine for his inaugural stint as the auctioneer of the Art Buchwald Possible Dreams Auction on July 28. While careful not to give away too many punch lines, Mr. Tingle said if donors fall short of the mark, his remedy could involve toll booths, and it might be expensive to get into Chilmark. It might be more expensive to get out.

The Cambridge-born comic visited the Island Tuesday to help promote this year’s auction.

“I’ve been coming here since the Hot Tin Roof,” Mr. Tingle said. He has performed at the Wintertide Coffee House, the Old Whaling Church, and The Vineyard Playhouse over the years. Last fall he hosted his latest film, “Jimmy Tingle’s American Dream,” at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. His career has taken him to the top of the stand-up comedy world and included stints on CBS 60 Minutes II, PBS, and an HBO special.

Humor and heart

When auction organizers approached him about carrying forward the legacy of long-time auctioneer Art Buchwald, he jumped at the chance.

“I’m creating some customized Vineyard material, to encourage people to open their wallets and open their hearts,” Mr. Tingle said. “Maybe we can’t do anything about the Middle East, or Egypt, or all the trouble spots, but we can do something here, in our community, in our own neighborhood.”

Like Mr. Buchwald, he is a keen observer of current events and politics. He sees a reflection of political reality in the audiences that come to see his stand-up comedy act.

“I find the audiences themselves divided, just like the political climate is divided, more starkly than it has been in 20 years,” Mr. Tingle said. “The less I talk about people, or parties, the better it is for people to laugh.”

Mr. Tingle lives in Cambridge, and has a home in Wellfleet. He said he finds local summer audiences receptive to his brand of humor.

“They’re on vacation but they’re still in Massachusetts,” he said. “I’m doing material that I’m comfortable with, with people who get it, or are willing to get it because now they’re in Massachusetts and they’ve got to kind of pay attention to things that are going on that people from Massachusetts are focused on.”

New direction

There are many changes to the auction this year. The 35th annual Art Buchwald Possible Dreams Auction, renamed in honor of its longtime auctioneer, will be held at the Winnetu Resort in the Katama section of Edgartown near South Beach on Sunday, July 28, instead of the first Monday in August, as has traditionally been the case.

The auction formula, which has raised millions of dollars for the Island’s social services umbrella organization, offers participants a chance to bid on “dream” items that include outings with celebrities of the international and local variety.

One of the notable items up for auction this year is not a dream, but the actual “blinker,” that for years guided motorists through the intersection of Barnes Road and Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. The flashing red light became obsolete when the new roundabout opened.

Also up for bid is tea with five of the Island’s most accomplished literary lights, including award winning poet Rose Styron; Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks; popular Island story teller, editor, and author Susan Klein; noted children’s book author Kate Feiffer; and Rachel Baird, the first seasonal poet laureate of Martha’s Vineyard.

Other items on the auction block are a poker tournament hosted by Jesse Sylvia, the West Tisbury native who was second in last year’s World Series of Poker; a week-long vacation in Abruzzo, Italy; and a visit to secret, prehistoric art caves near Paris, France.

Martha’s Vineyard Community Services delivers a wide array of programs and services to more than 6,000 people annually, according to a press release. It includes the Island Counseling Center, which offers behavioral health and substance abuse treatment; Early Childhood Programs, including Head Start, child care services, and education and support through the MV Family Center; CONNECT to End Violence, a Domestic Violence Rape Crisis Center providing free and confidential services; and Disability Services, which offers programs for persons living with disabilities and their families.

The agency also runs the Thrift Shop in Vineyard Haven, known to many Islanders as “Chicken Alley,” which sells recycled clothing and household items.