Nothing moves on the roads, and yet far in the distance we see lights amid the frozen tundra. Villagers gather and laughter rings out. Is this a scene from Beowulf? On the contrary, it’s happening at least 12 centuries later — in fact, this Friday night, Feb. 27, at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown: It’s the (almost) annual Evening of Comedy to blast us out of our frigid-season lethargy.
The regional director of marketing for the hotel, Elizabeth Rothwell (also dear to our hearts as a graduate of MVRHS, class of ’97), first organized this event in the winter of 2012, then again in 2013. Busy with other happenings, she skipped the show in 2014, only to have avid fans clamor for a comeback.
To book the event’s trio of Boston comics, Ms. Rothwell turns to Dick and Kathy Doherty of Beantown Comedy, with two clubs, one in Boston, the other in Worcester. For decades Boston has been known for more than its tales of Paul Revere and bowls of clam “chowdah.” The town’s funnymen (and hilarious women, of course) have created a special niche for their homegrown humor: Brash, rowdy, and innovative are words commonly used to describe their style.
Boston comedian Fran Solomita devoted a full documentary to the subject, When Stand Up Stood Out. He attributes the iconic humor to a melting pot of intelligent and gritty working-class youth up against the hip college crowd: “Those two things right next to each other created an odd vibe — really smart people who also understand a dollar earned. The comedy just sort of percolated.”
Mr. Solomita referred to what are considered the glory days of Boston comedy, the ’80s and ’90s, but clearly the continuing success of comedy clubs in the metropolis and surrounding areas — including ours in Edgartown this Friday night — lets us know that Boston humor as an industry is alive and well.
Ms. Doherty of Beantown Comedy told The Times by phone this week, “Although there are fewer comedy clubs in Boston, there are just as many people going to the shows. The quality of Boston comedy remains elite at a national level.”
The Harbor View evening spotlights Orlando Baxter, a finalist in NBC’s Stand Up For Diversity Showcase; Amy Tee, who, according to Beantown Comedy’s press release, “brings boyish charm and dry wit to her experiences with alcoholism and bipolar disorder with stigma-bursting honesty”; and Shaun Bedgood, who was featured in a Boston Globe article in 2005 as “one of Boston’s best young comics.”
The main show starts at 9 pm this Friday, but for Islanders keen to clear out of their cold dark houses earlier, a new warm-up portion of the show has been added to the program. Island merrymakers Dan Cassidy, maestro for years of weekly trivia night at the Wharf, and local hotelier and entertainer Johnny Showtime (John Tiernan), the master of revels behind the Wharf’s bingo nights (“Not your grandma’s bingo night,” he calls it), will be putting together, for Vineyarders’ delectation, a comedy-driven trivia contest. (The Wharf is closed for cleaning this month, and Mr. Cassidy and Mr. Tiernan are aware of trivia addicts dying a slow death everywhere on the Island. Knowing themselves to be arguably the sole delivery system at this time of year, they’re rushing to fill the void.)
Mr. Tiernan, reached by phone this week said, “I’m not a comedian.” Then he paused for a second before adding, “But I’m very funny!” He maintains that his goal in life has always been to work as a concierge in a hotel. Not too long ago, longtime hotelier Caleb Caldwell approached him about buying the Dockside Inn together, on the harbor in Oak Bluffs. Mr. Tiernan confided, “So now I’m a concierge, all right. With a mortgage.” His dream is real, however, as in the summer he jokes and chats with his guests all the livelong day.
Tickets for Friday’s events are priced at $25. Admission along with a prix-fixe meal in the luxe and cheerful dining room of the Water Street Restaurant within the hotel is $55. For those wishing to attend without dinner, drinks and a snacks menu will be available.
Ms. Rothwell, sailing into her 11th season at the Harbor View, is pleased to see how well her open-seating arrangement has worked out for the show: “People find themselves at tables with interesting strangers or folks they haven’t seen all winter. There’s a fun meet-and-greet aspect to the evening.”
As a final memo to our communal mental health at the end of this long winter: We’re constantly exhorted to “live, laugh, and love,” and if we had to choose just one of those three activities, we’d probably, in all honesty, go for “laugh,” which in turn makes the living and loving mo’ better. Or mo’ “bettah!” as Boston comics would say.
Tickets for Friday night’s Evening of Comedy are available by calling 508-627-7000, or online at hvcomedy-show.brownpapertickets.com. Event is 18-plus.