Friday, November 16, 2007
Live Review: Comics Come Home XIII
If you’re Denis Leary, you’ve just seen your FX series, Rescue Me, renewed for a new season with twice as many episodes as previous seasons, your Red Sox have just won their second World Series in three years, and you’re celebrating the thirteenth year of your annual charity event, Comics Come Home, which benefits the Cam Neely Foundation for Cander Care. So what is there to be angry about? Well, you’re Denis Leary, so you’ll find something.
Opening the show Saturday at BU’s Agganis Arena, Leary said that, after his fiftieth birthday this year, he was going to try to turn over a new leaf, to try not to spew hate on those who don’t deserve it, until he saw Paul McCartney’s ex-wife Heather Mills on TV. He marveled at amount of money he heard she was asking for, saying, “Ringo was in the band and he didn’t get that much fucking money.”
Most of Leary’s ire Saturday was directed at celebrities and senators. Amy Winehouse and Larry Craig both had their images shown on two giant screens as Leary blurted his immediate thoughts, a burst of sunshine, as usual. The high/low point came when Leary showed an infamous paparazzi photo of Britney Spears getting out of her limo sans undies, with a star over the naughty bits. Leary asked the screen operators to show the picture uncensored, after which a picture of Bobby Brown came up on the screen. Just when you thought it was safe, there was the pic, uncensored, about twenty feet high. “That’s actual size, by the way,” Leary commented.
Leary then went into an extended riff about his own penis, perhaps just to balance the genitalia content. Suddenly self-conscious that his son was present, and had played guitar with the band during the opening, Leary said, “My son’s backstage right now goin’, ‘That’s my dad.’”
But as much as Leary’s star has risen over the past few years, Comics Come Home is rarely about him, and more about the talent that show attracts. Joe Yannetty had a great set of local humor, managing to make old premises like the Big Dig and driving to the airport fresh and funny. “Have you been to the airport to pick somebody up lately?” he said. “There’s a platoon of State Troopers, ‘Don’t stop! Don’t stop! Don’t stop!’ She can’t walk that fast! She’s right there! She’s got bags.”
Faux band Crack Hip Hop made a surprise appearance, wringing a surprising amount of laughs out of a song in which they count from one to one hundred. Artie Lange opened his set by declaring himself a Yankees fan, and then explaining to a round of boos presumably from Red Sox fans, “We have something in common. We both hate A-Rod.” Jim Norton, coming in hot with a new HBO special and bestselling book, and Medford native Robert Kelly, who’s set to release a new Comedy Central CD/DVD within the next coupel of months, both turned solid sets.
And it wouldn’t be Comics Come Home without Cambridge native Lenny Clarke, and the crowd started cheering at the mere inference that he was coming up. “I’m gonna bring out a fat guy, how’s that?” said Leary. Apparently, due to his many sitcom appearances and his role as Uncle Teddy on “Rescue Me,” Clarke provokes a similar reaction in New York City now, too, something that troubled Leary. Citing how much Clarke is a Boston guy, Leary said, “That pisses me off in a way. I love Lenny, but it’s wrong for people in New York to love Lenny.”
Clarke, who actually walked out a bit slimmer, got laughs out of the recent scandal involving Duane Chapman (a.k.a. Dogg the Bounty Hunter) and his phone message racial slurs, and a riff on smoking bans and illegal immigration. Clarke’s said he’d help the effort to curb illegal immigration by handing out cigarettes at the border. “They will be thrown out of this fucking country by sundown.”
The biggest splashes of the night were the two first-timers, Pete Correale and Mike Birbiglia. Correale’s best bits were about drinking, delivered in a pained, sarcastic Long Island accent. “A guy I went to high school with calls up recently and says, ‘My wife and I are having a party, but there’s no alcohol,’” said Correale. “I’m like, ‘Then your having a meeting.’” He also took exception to the idea that if doing shots to get drunk might make you an alcoholic. “If you do shots for any reason but to get drunk then I think you’re kind of missing the whole point of the shot,” he said. “Very few people have ever done a shot of whiskey and went, ‘Mmmm. It’s delicious. I love the way it burns your throat on the way down.’”
Mike Birbiglia is the comic to watch for. Leary, a graduate of Saint Peter-Marian High School in Worcester, saved a little ire for Shrewsbury native and St. John’s High School graduate Birbiglia in his introduction. Apparently Birbiglia, making his first appearance at Comics Come Home, was unaware of Leary’s alma mater, and asked if he could mention Birbiglia went to Saint John’s when Leary brought him out. “We hated two things – the nuns, and fucking St. John’s High School,” said Leary, busting his chops. “Please welcome to the stage a guy who’s taping his third record-setting fucking bullshit Comedy Central faggoty-ass special this week, a very funny guy, Mike Birbiglia.”
Birbiglia was on the spot and responded with material about going to a Catholic high school, and then a Catholic college. “They didn’t sell condoms on campus to teach us a lesson – to save up for the abortion,” he said of his college. “If you put a bunch of 19-year-olds in dorms together they’re not going to be like, ‘I guess since we don’t have condoms we’ll just play Pictionary!’”
Drawing mostly from his two albums, Two Drink Mike and his recent My Secret Public Journal Live, Birbiglia did his “A” set. Though he doesn’t often do political material, his “Whiffleball Tony” bit, comparing George Bush to an overenthusiastic guest at a cookout who starts a preemptive hamburger-chucking war with the neighbors is one of his funniest, mostly because Birbiglia’s good-natured everyman stance makes it impossible to call it a partisan attack. People in the crowd that night will surely be watching for his next special, which should air early next year.
By the end of the night, Leary’s voice was wrecked, but he still struggled through his show-ending tune, “The Asshole Song,” another staple of Comics Come Home. The audience seemed to appreciate hearing it, but after a two-and-a-half hour marathon, it was time for the audience to go home.