Sharks comedy show is always a hit

Lenny Clarke, Christine Hurley, and Jackie Martling are all in the starting lineup.

Lenny Clarke often jumps in to help out Martha's Vineyard causes, such as at this event to raise money for the ice arena. -File photo, Ralph Stewart

When Lenny Clarke takes the stage Sunday night, August 6, it will be a collision of two of his favorite things — baseball and Martha’s Vineyard.

Mr. Clarke, the popular Boston standup comic with a slew of movies and TV shows to his credit, headlines the “Grand Slam Comedy Night” at the Portuguese-American Club, 137 Vineyard Ave., Oak Bluffs, at 8:30 pm. Tickets are $35 at the door and $50 for reserved seats, and the proceeds will benefit the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks, the Island baseball team that pulls together some of the best collegiate ballplayers in the country.

“I went down to a couple of games; I was really impressed with these kids,” Mr. Clarke, a Chilmark resident, told The Times. “It’s a great night out. We’re lucky to have this team on the Island.”

Mr. Clarke is a Boston Red Sox fan, and he had pointed comments for the other members of Red Sox Nation. “What kills me, everyone is bitching and moaning, and we’re in first place. First place,” he says, his voice rising like it does during one of his gigs. (At the time of the interview, the Sox were still in first place, but they’ve since dropped to second.) “Your team is in first place, show them a little support. My God almighty, try to enjoy that.”

Like the Red Sox, there is a special place in Mr. Clarke’s heart for year-round Vineyarders. “The people that live here year-round, they are just a special breed of people,” he said. “I like being here in the winter. I got stopped by a cop and I said, ‘Why you’d pull me over?’ He told me, ‘I was lonely.’”

Living in Chilmark, Mr. Clarke has felt the effects of presidential visits. He says he’s always taken the Secret Service stops in stride, he said. “They’d say, ‘Tell me a joke, funny man,’” Mr. Clarke said.

He did have an opportunity to meet President Barack Obama, and found him to be engaging.

“I didn’t agree with a lot of things President Obama did or said, but I respect the man and the office,” he said. “I found him to be a charming man, very nice, a hard guy not to like. It was an enjoyable evening.”

On an Island of what he calls A-listers, ticking off names like Larry David, Meg Ryan, and Dan Akroyd, Mr. Clarke said he gets approached occasionally on the beach. “One woman came up to me, I was at the beach with my nieces and nephews, and she said, ‘I’ve never met a celebrity before. You’re Lenny Clarke. I’ve seen you on TV and in movies.’ I pointed down the beach, ‘James Taylor just walked by.’ He didn’t, but …”

Mr. Clarke talked to The Times just before heading off-Island to perform some comedy shows. “I’m packing my bag,” he said. “In order to live here, I have to leave here.”

After a brief stint on the road, Mr. Clarke is looking forward to returning to raise money for the Sharks with his friends Christine Hurley, who he calls the “Queen of Comedy,” and Jackie “the Jokeman” Martling, of “Howard Stern Show” fame.

Ms. Hurley has local roots, too. She lives in Plymouth, where her husband and their five children are the fodder for her comedy.

“They’re apathetic to the whole thing,” she said. “Some people have moms who are nurses, they know their mom is a comedian.”

Ms. Hurley said she enjoys coming to the Vineyard, and especially enjoys helping to raise money for the Sharks.

“This might be my fourth year doing this performance. I love it and look forward to it,” Ms. Hurley told The Times. “The audiences seem better, they’re there for a purpose.”

Ms. Hurley said while she’s on the Island, she plays the role of tourist. “It’s a blast. We’re complete fan people. We do the touring, the bike riding, we do the beaches. We try to squeeze it all in,” she said. “It’s literally one of our favorite places on the planet.”

Getting her start at what she describes as neighborhood cookouts and cookie swaps, Ms. Hurley said she recognized her ability to make others laugh. So she entered a contest with Nickelodeon, and came out on top out of 1,200 contestants. The rest is comedic history, history that now has her as the opening act for Lenny Clarke on a regular basis.

“He is a legend,” Ms. Hurley said. “I tour with him every week. I was lucky for that to happen four or five years ago. He’s the one that gets me these sweet gigs. He’s so generous, making sure I’m in the best light.”

For Mr. Clarke, the feeling is mutual. “I predict big things for this girl,” he said. “She’s the funniest woman I’ve seen since Roseanne, before Roseanne went crazy.”

Like he did for those Red Sox fans who are seeing the glass half-full these days, Mr. Clarke has a message for people coming to his Vineyard show. “Leave your political correctness at home,” he said. “They’re jokes, people, jokes.”

 

Tickets for the “Grand Slam Comedy Night,” Sunday, Aug. 6, are $35 at the door, $50 for reserved seats. Tickets are available at MVSharks.com, TicketsMV.com, and Vineyard Baseball Park. On the day of the show, any remaining tickets will be on sale at the P.A. Club starting at 3 pm.