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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

How local comedy clubs give back on holidays and year-round

Comedy and charity go together like eating turkey and passing out afterwards on the couch watching football. They are all very satisfying. It feels good to laugh, it feels good to give back, and it feels good to be on a construction of pillows when that tryptophan kicks in.
Boston is No. 1 in the nation for charities having comedy shows according to Forbes magazine. OK, I made that up, but if there was actual data kept on that I’d put my money on Boston.
This is the time of year we give thanks for what we have and try to give a little more than what we take. How is comedy around Boston embracing the spirit of giving?
Well, on Dec 3 at 6 p.m., Laugh Boston is doing a show called “Canned Laughter.” Instead of a ticket purchase and the staple two drink minimum that most clubs require for a night of comedy, Laugh Boston will let you in the doors for just two canned goods.
“All the food we collect that night will go to the mayor’s Can Share Program,” says John Tobin, part owner of the new comedy club in Boston’s waterfront and a University of Massachusetts Boston alumnus.
The venue seats 300 people, and according to my calculator, that means that at least 600 cans could be donated that night. This would help to replenish the 82 food pantries around Boston which the mayor’s program is all about.
Tobin, who went from a kid sneaking into his basement to listen to Steve Martin albums, to getting paid $7 an hour as a doorman for a comedy club on a boat near the Museum of Science, to managing a club, to now a part owner of a comedy club, is thrilled to have a venue to hold this kind of event. Even more so, he sees the person standing behind the mic as a bigger reason why these charities have comedy shows.
“This doesn’t happen without the generosity of the talent. It’s always amazing to me. There is not a more generous group of people than stand up comedians,” says Tobin.
Performing for the “Canned Laughter” show is Tony Viveiros, another UMass Boston alum and a 31-year veteran of comedy who is donating his time that night. For a guy that does 300 shows a year, a third of those are charity shows. Viveiros says half of those charity shows he does for free. “I don’t shy away from any good cause. How could you say no. If I can help in any small way I try. Name a charity around here and I’ve done it,” says the comedian who isn’t kidding about the amount of charities he’s done. Boasting he’s performed for over 1,000 benefit type shows, he begins to rattle off a list of the institutions he’s worked for that would exceed the 600 word requirement of this article.
Viveiros has Thanksgiving off, but the night before he’ll be at Giggles Comedy Club on Rt. 1 in Saugus for “Pie Night” where comedians bring pie to the show. Viveiros speaks of “Pie Night” like a boy going to a candy store and predicts there will be 28 pies this year. Tickets are sold out. The night isn’t a charity event but Giggles does lots and lots and lots of charity events. According to Giggles owner Mike Clarke, they do around 400 charity events a year.
“Lacrosse programs, to swim teams or football teams, we have a lot of high schools,” says Clark on what a lot of the fundraising shows are for.
On why comedy shows are such a popular way to raise money, Mike Clarke says “As for Giggles you’ll get a pretty good comedy show and pizza and you’re supporting their cause. It’s not like donating 25 bucks and not getting anything.”
Maybe the only comedy show happening on Thanksgiving is The Comedy Studio on the 3rd floor of the Hong Kong in Harvard Square. After the show, club owner Rick Jenkins will ask patrons to throw some money in a box to go to the charity the club is sponsoring that month. They’ve been sponsoring a charity every month since 2012.
“Ticket prices are so cheap we figured we could give back and help out,” said Jenkins, who wife influenced him to start the once a month sponsorship.
Jenkins usually tries to support local charities “where a couple of dollars will make a difference,” like when the club raised enough money to refurnish the Cambridge Community Center’s gym floor. It’s more than a “couple of bucks.” Jenkins figures they raise $750 a month and it’s not always local. One month the charity was to support a comedian who was a victim of the shooting at a theater in Colorado.
“I’m very proud. We’ve been able to do some pretty good stuff with people kicking in a buck or two on their way out,” said Jenkins.
Now go out and get couple of laughs and give a lot more back. Happy Thanksgiving!