Everyone can benefit from a little comic relief now and then. Here’s a look at a few of the region’s standout stand-up acts.
Local comedians entertain audiences by finding the funny in everyday moments
By Noelle Barbosa
Christine Hurley was not prepared for a decade’s worth of fanfare and comedic success when she first auditioned for Nick at Nite’s Search for the Funniest Mom in America, a national competition her family encouraged her to take part in back in 2005. The Plymouth resident’s gift for finding humor in everyday topics ranging from marriage to motherhood earned her a first runner-up spot, and today the 51-year-old mother of five is a rising star in New England’s vibrant comedy circuit.
“As soon as I went on stage, I just knew comedy was what I wanted to do,” says the former stay-at-home mom.
Hurley’s wit and no-nonsense approach, while not suitable for all ages, primarily focuses on her children (who range in age from 14 to 24 years old) and her longtime marriage to high school sweetheart Jimmy Hurley. When she was a 16-year-old Cardinal Spellman cheerleader, Hurley met her now husband (an Archbishop Williams football player at the time) and she immediately told a friend, “Stick a fork in me. I’m done. He’s as cute as a button,” recalls Hurley with her infamous chuckle. These days, Jimmy Hurley, deputy chief of the Randolph Fire Department, travels across the country with his wife as she lights up the stage from Washington D.C. to Las Vegas.
Christine Hurley often leads her audience into eye-watering hysterics as she describes a uniform of pink baseball hats, Eastern Mountain Sports vests and Lululemon yoga pants worn by fellow “bus stop moms.” “Well, you know why they all dress like that,” she quips on stage, “because they all get up at five in the morning and go to Zumba. I got up at five too, my friends, because my husband left me on the lawn…and the sprinklers went off.”
Last November, Hurley was honored with a set on the 21st annual Comics Come Home show at the TD Garden. “It’s the holy grail of Boston comedy,” raves Hurley who performed alongside Lenny Clarke, Steve Sweeney, Jimmy Fallon and other notables.
Catch Her Act: Hurley performs twice a year at Quan’s Kitchen in Hanover, and is a regular at Giggles Comedy Club in Saugus and Kowloon Komedy in Saugus. christinehurleycomedy.com; Twitter: @churleycomedy
“I have always loved comedy but never thought it was something I could do,” admits Manning. That was until he relocated to Boston and experienced the city’s comedy scene firsthand. He approached the booker at the Comedy Connection, a 500-seat venue in Faneuil Hall that closed in 2008, and asked for stage time. Following a stellar first performance, Manning was hooked, and he began flaunting his shtick at various open mic nights in and around the city.
For the past two years, Manning has focused on drumming up support on the South Shore by partnering with local venues. “This is an area that’s dying for a comedy club,” says the entertainer, who is a regular at City Limits in Randolph and Maggy’s Lounge in Quincy.
But Manning hopes to do more with his talent than just tell jokes on stage. As a person who thrives on experiencing comedy in an intimate atmosphere (like the one offered at Maggy’s Lounge), this aspiring entrepreneur yearns to open a quaint comedy club of his own on the South Shore because, as he explains, some of the best rooms for comedy are small.
Manning delivers material that allows him to open up about his personal experiences – especially what it’s like being a husband and father. He doesn’t hold back too much on stage because he admits that if he curbs his style, he’s unable to speak the truth. “If I censor myself, I can’t be honest,” says Manning. “I’ll throw a few things out there and see how the audience reacts. It’s a dance on stage when I’m performing.”
In addition to being a comic and family man, the Milton resident also holds a full-time position developing mentoring programs from YouthBuild USA, a nonprofit dedicated to helping low-income youth with education, job training and leadership opportunities.
Catch His Act: Manning performs in Rhode Island and Connecticut frequently. This month, you’ll find him on the South Shore at City Limits (February 6) and Maggy’s Lounge (February 21). coreymanning.com; Twitter: @coreymanning
For more than 20 years, Paul Keenan has been dishing out his brilliant satire and unapologetic sarcasm on stages throughout New England. By day, the Whitman native works in telephone programming and by night (or mainly weekends), he describes himself to sold-out crowds as “Peter Griffin from Family Guy.”
“I get most of my material in the bathroom – particularly the shower,” says Keenan. “I’m alone and have nothing but my thoughts. My mind wanders all over the place and when I get out, I write it all down.”
The 6’4” entertainer with a boyish face strives to steer clear of controversial subjects that may seriously insult people, but feels that many people are offended too easily nowadays. “I push the line with my jokes, but try not to make them outright offensive,” explains Keenan. “I don’t want to alienate my audience.” Keenan draws inspiration from comedian, producer and Massachusetts native Steven Wright, a role model he says is deep and philosophical. Another captivating performer this Abington resident admires is the late Mitch Hedberg, who he describes as a “laid-back stoner.”
Catch His Act: Keenan is a regular at the Dalton Club in Holbrook and Quan’s Kitchen in Hanover. You’ll also find him at Giggles Comedy Club in Saugus, Kowloon Komedy in Saugus, Nick’s Comedy Stop in Boston and other venues throughout the Northeast. paulkeenancomedy.com; Twitter: @KeenanComic
Milton’s own Will Noonan began telling jokes nine years ago when he was a struggling actor in New York City. “I was a lifelong fan of stand-up and once I tried it, I had a total corny Oprah eureka moment. I knew I had found home,” says Noonan.
Noonan is known for a podcast titled “High Pathetically with Will Noonan,” an expletive-filled poem he wrote about last year’s excessive snow fall and his infatuation with trees. “I’m a big hiker and nature guy. If you ask most comics about me, they’ll say ‘He likes his trees,’” says Noonan.
Catch His Act: February 25 to 27 at Laugh Boston or if you’re in Milton, you can spot him jogging in (what he calls) ridiculous clothing most days of the week. willnoonan.com; Twitter: @willnoonan
When Marine veteran turned comedian Bill Farrell of Holbrook first heard about a comedy class seeking funny individuals, he jumped at the chance to take the 5-week course. This husband and father of two first stepped on stage nearly 11 years ago at the former Jimbo’s Steak & Fin restaurant in Braintree and has been entertaining audiences ever since. In January 2015, Farrell established a comedy night at the American Legion Dalton Post 137 Bar & Grill in his hometown. The show has garnered overwhelming support in the community and welcomed acclaimed comedians Paul D’Angelo and Dan Miller last month (January, 2016).
“I’m bringing Boston shows to the South Shore,” says Farrell. “I’m keeping it local, and there’s free parking and good dining.”
“I’m known for being a good guy. Seriously,” says Farrell.
Catch His Act: February 13 at the Pembroke Country Club and February 27 at the American Legion Dalton Post 137 Bar & Grill in Holbrook. billfarrellcomedy.com
Comedian, writer and radio personality Jerry Thornton first took to the stage 25 years ago at Nick’s Comedy Stop in Boston. “I got enough laughs that they encouraged me to come back,” says Thornton who later won WBCN’s Boston Comedy Riot in 1991. The local competition was a major stepping stone towards his comedic career. Thornton, who’s lived in Hanover for two decades, admits he identifies more with Weymouth. “It’s one of those places that never leave you,” says Thornton, who grew up near Columbian Square and South Shore Hospital.
On stage, Thornton is known for talking about real life situations that involve his wife and kids. “I figure if I can’t glean comedy out of being a lazy, sarcastic, suburban dad, I don’t belong in the business,” says Thornton. In 2014, he joined the Dale & Holley Show on WEEI radio where he adds a comic’s prospective and observational humor to the conversation. Thornton also writes the blog Thornography blog on WEEI.com: thornography.weei.com/sports/boston/author/jthornton
Catch His Act: February 13 at the Knights of Columbus in Weymouth. Twitter: @jerrythorton1
Don Gavin has been entertaining crowds for more than three decades. Originally from the South Shore where he worked as an English teacher at Weymouth High School, this critically acclaimed comic did double duty as an educator and performer for a few years until telling jokes eventually took center stage. “They [comedy and teaching] weren’t really compatible because I was getting home at 2:30 a.m. and I had to wake up at 6:30 a.m. to teach. Something had to give,” says Gavin.
Dubbed the Godfather of Boston Comedy, Gavin was one of the original founders of the famous Ding-Ho Comedy Club in Cambridge, a launching pad for some of the most talented comics in the country. He was also involved in the inception of two popular spots in Boston, the Comedy Connection and Nick’s Comedy Stop.
Catch His Act: Today, Gavin travels around the globe and performs for the USO (United Service Organizations). He also loves entertaining on cruise ships. When he’s stateside, he tears up the stage from Atlantic City to Las Vegas. Locally, he works the room at Laugh Boston, Giggles Comedy Club in Saugus and Kowloon Komedy in Saugus. On the South Shore, you’ll find him donating his time and talent to support comedy fundraisers. dongavincomedy.com