A Funny Thing Happened: Stories from New Hampshire Comedians

Eight of the state's funniest up and comers share their favorite tales of life on the road



Meet 8 april fools, starting with...

Juston McKinney

He lives in that twilight between success and stardom. He's appeared on both the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and on the "Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien." He toured as part of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour and has numerous appearances on Comedy Central, including his own one-hour special, "A Middle Class Hole." He's also about as local as it gets. Born in Portsmouth, in 5th grade he moved to Kittery. But, he says, "When you're in Kittery you are really in Portsmouth, 'cause there's nothing in Kittery." Now he's back in Portsmouth when he's not touring the country doing stand up or filming one of his comedy specials.

While most of the April Fools we interviewed are on their way to the top, McKinney has been riding high for quite a while, which means that he had plenty to say about the trials and tribulations of stand up.

New Hampshire comedian Juston McKinney
Juston McKinney
Courtesy photo

For one thing, says McKinney, every gig is different. "You could be doing one show and they are putting you up at the Ritz Carlton and it's five-star treatment. Then a week later you can be at the Sunrise Motel in a dive. You can be in a state-of-the-art theater one week and then find yourself on the dance floor of an Elks Club with no microphone and no lights," he explains. "That's an interesting dynamic."

Exhaustion takes a toll. A few weeks ago on a trip to Naples, Florida, he recalls, "I'm at Boston Logan Airport and I'm standing up in one of the stalls using the restroom. When I get done doing my business I turn around and there's a big female TSA officer standing by my bag next to the sink. She's looking at me with this dirty look. I go, 'Yeah, that's my bag.' She goes, 'You're in the ladies room.'"

Of course, stuff like this finds its way into his act. "If I were going to make that a joke, I'd say I saw her standing there and said, 'Is there a problem with my bag?' and she'd say 'You're in the ladies room,' and I'd say, 'Oh, then there's a problem with my package.'"

Even when you are playing in the big leagues, you encounter some fouls. McKinney's first-ever TV show was on "Premium Blend," which was filmed in Harlem. Tommy Davidson from TV's "In Living Color" was the emcee. McKinney recalls, "When he introduced me, he goes this guy is really funny he's done this and done that and he used to be a cop. Then he made this face like 'What do you think of that, room full of black people who've been mistreated by cops for the past 100 years?' You could actually hear some people go 'Ohh, oooh.' I did great, but he definitely didn't do me any favors. It was like, 'Please welcome ... the White Guy.'"

This year he'll be back in Manchester at the Palace Theatre Oct. 19. You can find links to his comedy specials and other stuff by going to justonmckinney.com and he'll soon be posting his latest special that was filmed at the Palace last October.

...And 7 other road stories:

“A blizzard erupted and the conditions turned the trip into a white-knuckle death ride. I stopped and asked a Mainer at a store how far to Calais. She snorted out her cigarette smoke and said, 'You ever driven to Calais in a snowstorm? Good luck! '” – Greg Boggis
New Hampshire comedian Jim McCue
Jim McCue
Courtesy photo

Jim McCue

He's famous for his ability to work the crowds both in the Boston comedy scene and nationally. He really takes his show on the road both on cruise ships and for the US troops at more than 100 bases around the world.

I have had a lot of weird beats while doing stand-up comedy. Once while entertaining the troops we were flying in a Black Hawk helicopter, as we ready our descent, I realize that I've seen this place before. We never receive an advance itinerary, but this is still a total surprise. It is the most recognizable stop on the trip, thanks to the avalanche of negative press about the place. As we scurry from the Black Hawk to a couple of waiting vans, someone from our welcoming committee sticks a hand out and offers a firm handshake.

"Welcome to Abu Ghraib Prison," he says. A gated community.

Catch McCue each November at the Boston Comedy Festival, which he runs, and at jimmccue.com.

 


 

New Hampshire comedian Jimmy Dunn
Jimmy Dunn
Courtesy photo

Jimmy Dunn

A regular at top comedy clubs across the country, Dunn has made numerous TV appearances and was the Boston correspondent for "Jimmy Kimmel Live" for the historic 2004 Sox-Yankees series. His latest book is "Boat Hack: A Stand-up Comic's Farewell to the Cruise Industry."

Many, many years ago, I received a last-minute call to open up for REO Speedwagon at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, a big gig for a new comic in NH. Problem was, I had already booked a gig that evening at a tourist trap in Wells, Maine, called the Laughing Lobster. The timing worked out so I could double up but the window was small, so after a great set in front of 2,000 people, I raced to Maine to find six people waiting for a comedy show. The owner, a shady-looking, cigar-chomping cat, made me do the full show to get paid, so I did. Three days later, I heard that the Laughing Lobster had burned to the ground.

Catch Dunn at the Hampton Beach Comedy Festival, which he organizes, and he'll appear at the Borgata Comedy Club in Atlantic City, May 13-19. jimmydunn.com

 


 

New Hampshire comedian Carolyn Plummer
Carolyn Plummer
Courtesy photo

Carolyn Plummer

She pulls material from the hum-drum, day-to-day monotony of the life of everyman. And she does it well. She leaves audiences shaking heads in agreement with her assessment that the world is indeed a very funny place.

In the early years I did a lot of gigs at various dead animal lodges named after moose, elk, bears, eagles, Italian Americans, French and loyal order of the squirrel. They are usually conveniently located just shy of Canada on a back road that you wouldn't go down in bright sunlight let alone a dark, moonless winter night. But here I was at a lodge to tell my jokes and hone my craft. The best ones are locked from the outside and require a secret knock or a phone call to the inside to get in; smoking is not only allowed but encouraged. After a particularly good show I was by the bar when a gentleman in plaid flannel, suspenders and a John Deere hat sidled up to me and tapped me on the shoulder and said, "You know what? You're one real funny bitch!" I thanked him. I figured it was the right thing to do but I'm still not sure if he meant it as a compliment. I will never forget him or the fact that some of the best gigs are in the least likely of places.

Check out Plummer's MySpace page for upcoming shows: myspace.com/funnybch.

 


 

New Hampshire comedian Mike Cote
Mike Cote
Courtesy photo

Mike Cote

During the last election he earned the reputation as the "premier Mitt Romney impersonator," creating the viral "Rombo" commercial and even being featured on the cover of Atlantic Magazine. After the election, Cote took off his magic underwear and returned to stand up.

I went to an open-mic at the Grille 93 in Andover, Mass., around the time when Versace, the clothing designer, had been murdered. There was an all-out manhunt for the suspect. This killer had also been linked to the murders of two or three other people so the authorities wanted to nab this guy quickly. Well, it turns out that I resembled the guy they were hunting, and they believed he could be in the New England area. Before I went on stage, some woman called the police and reported that the guy everyone is looking for is right here at Grille 93. Within minutes, police and SWAT teams were there. Not until I finished my set and left the stage did I learn what had happened. The other comics had apparently convinced the police that I was not the perpetrator. I guess the woman who made the call may have overheard me tell one of the other comics "I am hoping to kill tonight."

Check out Cote's future bookings at mikecote.com or download his CD from iTunes.

 


 

New Hampshire comedian Matt D.
Matt D.
Courtesy photo

Matt D.

In 2012 Comedy Central named him one of 10 "Comics to Watch." He's a character on the new Jonathan Katz series "Explosion Bus," and after winning the 2012 Magner's Comedy Festival he was invited to perform in the Glasgow International Comedy Festival in Scotland.

I assumed my worst gig would be my first, but it was four years in. After getting booked for a show in NH with few details, I realized I had no idea what I was walking into. Elks Club? Fundraiser? Pagan ritual sacrifice? From the outside I assumed college, but was greeted with "Hello-I'm-Susanne-the-event-coordinator-nice-to-meet you- this-is-a-high-school-for-troubled-kids-and-it's-their-Parents'-Weekend-please-keep-it-completely-clean-have-a-good-show!" As you know, kids are most ready to laugh when sitting next to their parents. I know some of my most uproarious high school moments were spent with my mom and dad in the cafeteria of a correctional facility as a comedian talked about sexting. It actually went well except I ran out of "clean" jokes early and had nothing to end with. Pacing around, checking my notes, I misjudged where the stage ended and fell off. Been trying to get a laugh that big ever since.

Matt D. will perform at Foxwoods May 6-8. Check his website simplymattd.com for more dates.

 


 

New Hampshire comedian Lauren Verge
Lauren Verge
Courtesy photo

Lauren Verge

This Bedford native is a fixture on the local comedy scene and a corporate agent at APB Speakers. Being a female comedian has its unique drawbacks, as illustrated in her road story.

I was doing a showcase at the old Faneuil Hall Comedy Connection for a group of network scouts from NBC. There were 20 comics in the lineup and we were told we had NO MORE than TWO MINUTES EXACTLY to impress them. The very second I stepped out under the blinding stage lights I hear a male voice from the crowd right of the stage say "I've got a present for you!" I can barely see a hand reach up and hand me a cellophane-covered box. By the time I could distinguish what it was I realize it's a very large and anatomically correct ... um ... "sex toy." By now the audience is giggling nervously and I am completely torn by my burning desire to get my own sitcom, and the relentless and burning curiosity to find out how and why a 20-something guy who is there with a group of all-male friends walked in with a party favor like this to one of the world's largest comedy clubs! I looked at the guys, looked at the judges, shrugged apologetically and WENT OFF on the guy with every insult I could conjure until the crowd was screaming with laughter and the guy's face looked like a beet. Then I simply threw it at the guy and walked off.

So much for Hollywood ... some things just cannot wait.

Verge performs regularly at Boston venues like Giggles Comedy Club in Saugus, with Boston comics Lenny Clarke, Steve Sweeney and Tony V and is a favorite at Boynton's Taproom in Manchester.

 


 

New Hampshire comedian Greg Boggis
Greg Boggis
Courtesy photo

Greg Boggis

A former class clown at the Milford Area High School, Boggis has been a staple of the NH comedy scene since the early 1990s. He's performed thousands of shows through New England and has appeared in numerous commercials, print, Internet ads and films.

I had a gig in far eastern Maine back in the stone age days before cellphones and GPS, when finding a gig meant getting written directions and stopping to use phone booths when lost. An hour into the trip and a blizzard erupted and the conditions turned the trip into a white-knuckle death ride. I stopped and asked a Mainer at a store how far to Calais. She snorted out her cigarette smoke and said, "You ever driven to Calais in a snowstorm? Good luck!" The tiny road turned into a luge run and every half an hour we'd almost get run off the road by a tractor trailer. We pulled into the motor inn two hours late, snow so high that I drove over a curb without seeing it. We ran into the packed room and the manager said "Get on stage now, the crowd is turning." They stood and applauded wildly. I asked them why they were so happy being that we were late and one guy in the back stood up and said: "We wanted to see if you would live to make it to the show."

Find Boggis' upcoming shows at engfant.dotster.com/gregboggis.

 


Finding the Funny

Comic relief can be hard to find in the Granite State with only one dedicated comedy venue: Headliners at the Center of NH in Manch-Vegas. But if you keep your eyes (and ears) open there are a host of on-again, off-again spots, big venues for major acts and even a regular open-mic comedy night at the Shaskeen (Manch-Vegas again) for beginners and some semi-pros working to keep their material fresh. Here's a guide to some of the regular spots and a few of the comedy events scheduled for the month of April Foolery.

Venues

Headliners Comedy Club
The Radisson 
700 Elm St., Manchester
Friday 9 p.m., Saturday 8:30 p.m.
headlinerscomedyclub.com
Advertised as New Hampshire's ONLY Comedy Club

Fody's Great American Tavern
9 Clinton St., Railroad Square
Downtown Nashua 
(603) 577-9015
fodystavern.com
Features regular stand-up comedy and cabaret-style theater shows

The Shaskeen
909 Elm St., Manchester
(603) 625-0246
shaskeenpub.com
There's an open mic every Wednesday.

Events in April

Brian Regan
The Capitol Center for the Arts
44 S. Main St., Concord
April 4, 7:30 p.m. 
$42.50
ccanh.com

Brian Regan has distinguished himself as one of the premier comedians in the country. Regan's non-stop theater tour has visited more than 80 cities each year since 2005 and continues through 2013. The perfect balance of sophisticated writing and physicality, Regan consistently fills theaters nationwide with fervent fans that span generations.

The Second City: Laughing Matters
The Music Hall
28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth
April 6, 8 p.m. 
$25-$35.
themusichall.org

Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, John Belushi - these are just a few of the alumni of the most famous brand in improvisational live comedy. Funny and fast-paced, The Second City is always topical, highly interactive and sure to have audiences rolling in the aisles as they create sketch comedy to satirize politics, culture and news of the day.

Comedian Bob Marley
Palace Theatre
80 Hanover St., Manchester
April 12, 8 p.m. 
April 13, 7 p.m. & 9 p.m. 
$27
palacetheatre.org

Comedian Bob Marley returns to the Palace stage this spring. Celebrating 15 years as a stand-up comic, he is one of the hottest and most sought-after comedians in the country. Marley uses biographical and observational material for his high-energy routines. He began his career in his hometown of Portland, and then moved to Boston to gain experience in a city known for spawning comedy all-stars.

Tupelo Night of Comedy: Featuring Kenny Rogerson and Jimmy "PJ" Walsh
Tupelo Music Hall
2 Young Rd., Londonderry
April 13. 8 p.m. $18
tupelohall.com

Ken Rogerson is described as "the funniest man you've never heard of," and while they aren't always household names, all of the comedians booked at the Tupelo are successful acts that have paid their dues on the road and attained enough comedy cred to have appeared on Letterman, Leno, Conan and other programs.

Paula Poundstone
The Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center
39 S. Main St., Plymouth
April 26, 7:30 p.m. 
$27.50
flyingmonkeynh.com

Appearing on stage with a stool, a microphone and a can of Diet Pepsi, comedian Paula Poundstone is famous for her razor-sharp wit and spontaneity. The Boston Globe said, "Poundstone improvises with a crowd like a Jazz musician ... swinging in unexpected directions without a plan, without a net." Her comedy show contains adult material.

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