Boston's annual comedy festival competition, much like its comedy scene, is an odd mix of college-aged joketellers, strong writers, aspiring upstarts and wily veterans who for some reason have flown under the national radar. In 2008, Dwight Slade (a teen comedy peer of the late Bill Hicks) entered and won the contest. This year, 30-year-old Marshfield native Dave McDonough took the trophy (is there a trophy? methinks not, but there is $5,000) with a set of dark but strong, clever jokes. His win made many local comedians happy, not just for him, but what it meant for the scene to have one of its own beat out 95 other contestants for the top prize. Which, to me, made this a clear echo of Dan Boulger's victory here in 2006.
In fact, the top three places in this year's Boston Comedy Festival contest went to locals. Kelly MacFarland took home the $2,500 runner-up prize, while Lamont Price finished third, receiving $1,000. Ryan Hamilton led the remaining finalists -- Paul Myrehaug, Danny Bevins, Auggie Smith and Mehran -- who split the remaining prize money.
McDonough told me afterward that he doesn't get onstage as often as he could or should, as the Braintree resident still works as a roofer. When he does perform, he tends to work rooms in the South Shore, and he did win a South Shore comedy contest earlier this year. And I'm told he is related to one of Boston's most wily of stand-up vets in Don Gavin. As for McDonough, if you look for examples of his comedy online, you're not going to find a lot just yet. A YouTube video of his set from the Comedy Studio in Cambridge -- which includes many of the jokes he told in the contest -- dates back two years (that's as old as my most recent stand-up video, and I barely perform anymore). Here's a taste of him. Bear in mind that his delivery and wording of a few of these jokes has gotten stronger since this recording, though he still tends to stare down at the floor (a la Mitch Hedberg):
As I type this, I'm still in NYC, taking care of a few last-minute details at HQ before heading over to Port Authority for the overnight bus to Boston. But the 2009 Boston Comedy Festival stand-up contest continued with the first half of the semifinal brackets. Comedians from the eight prelims got sorted out into four new groups for the semis. And the initial reports are in from Thursday night's first two semis.
Moving on to Saturday's finals...
They outscored Mike Whitman, Sean Sullivan, Joe List, Kevin Kneuer, Orlando Baxter and Alycia Cooper.
They outlasted Tyler Boeh, Justin Williams, Alvin David, Karen Rontowski, Harrison Greenbaum and Anton Shuford.
Two more semifinal groups of eight comedians apiece will face off tonight at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Want to know who moved on from Tuesday night's preliminary rounds of the stand-up contest for the 2009 Boston Comedy Festival? Well, here you go (and according to this news, apparently some comedians I know, and some comedians I don't know but know are funny, also did not advance to the semis, not to take anything away from the comedians I know who are funny and did advance! get it? got it? good!):
Prelim 4 is when everything you thought you knew about the Boston Comedy Festival contest went out the window and onto the bricks and cobblestones below. A much stronger field of contenders — perhaps five or six of the 12 comics could’ve landed the two semifinalist slots. And yet. Well…let’s go to the recap.
In order of appearance:
1) Jim Tews: Remarks on his Coast Guard past and how that’s not exactly the best thing to have on his resume. Has interesting uses for the memo line on checks. Being poor is the difference between bologna and ham. “Bologna tastes like failure.” Closes with a letter he wrote to cigarettes not long after quitting smoking. Understated, but quite funny.
2) Stewart Huff: Looks like a mini-Me Mitch Hedberg, but with a Tennessee drawl (and lots of other differences, but enough about that). His mic gets disconnected early on, which could spell trouble (they eventually trade out mics later in the show). Most of his set revolves around hick gas stations — the “pump-n-munch” — but it’s a fully-formed, solid routine. A good start to the show.
3) Benjamin Roy: Drinking, jail, sex, in that order. It’s funny, yes, but too raw for this type of contest.
4) Danny Rouhier: If you go to his Web page, you’ll see a Current TV video titled: “Are you a hack?” Rouhier ends his set by mocking the Boston accent and its misuse of the letter ‘R.’ I’ll now refer you back two sentences.
5) Mike Baker: Apparently, Mike has sex on the brain. Audience members want to make out with him, but he’s married. With kids. And that’s a problem. Because they’re cockblockers. Can I say that on this blog? Can he devote almost his entire set to not having sex with his wife and make it to the semis? Stay tuned.
6) Adam Ginivisian: I can describe his set in one word. Emersonian.
7) David Powell: Wry observations, one after the other. Each one of them quite funny. The kind of set that wins comedy contests. And yet…
8) Brent Sullivan: Acts out a delightful scene depicting how you’d react to a raccoon in your trash can, and suggested an intriguing telephone game to try out. The game: “Who would you rather f—?” “Try to keep them on the phone for at least three names,” Sullivan advised. It was funnier than it looks here on non-paper.
9) Murv Seymour: Why is Sinbad cursing onstage? What, that’s not Sinbad. My sin. My bad. Otherwise good jokes about black people going to Denny’s, shark safety tips (in both cases, why? and why? respectively).
10) Kelly MacFarland: Gets an applause break for her bit on running. Infectious personality. Funny stuff. Like I said, this judging will be interesting. Afterward, her quote to me: “Kelly MacFarland was funny, in a kind of cutesy way. And she had nice hair.”
11) Bob Gautreau: Calls himself an “impressionist,” which is another of the most overused, misused phrases in comedy, if not the world, since he is an impersonator. Monet was an Impressionist. Gautreau impersonates Robert DeNiro AND Sylvester Stallone. Can you believe that? Wow. I’m going to stop now and let Mike Baker take over: “If Kelly and I lose to Bob Gautreau, I’m going to…” Let me stop Baker right there, since he has eaten those words.
12) Tim Kaelin: Devotes almost his entire set to drinking and driving. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
For time-killing, Mr. Juston McKinney. Good stuff from the former Mainer. Although, as my memory recalls, in 2002 in Aspen, he won the festival prize for cleanest stand-up. Times have changed.
The judges have tallied the scores. Your prelim 4 winners, Huff and Gautreau. May I refer you to my first-night remarks on comedy contests and judging. Thank you.