Behind the Scenes with John Tobin and Comedy Nights at the BrickBox

Lisa Condit, vice president of communications for The Hanover Theatre, spoke with John Tobin, presenter of two Comedy Night at the BrickBox events. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Then tune in to WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.

Lisa: Tell us a little bit about what audiences might be able to expect.

John: I grew up in Boston. It was just mostly white male voices speaking. I think I really got a sense of what things were about when I went to the Colonial Theatre years ago. I’m a lifelong Bostonian, and for the first time, in Boston, I was the distinct minority in the crowd. At one point during the show, they ask, “Where my Puerto Ricans at? Where my Dominicans at? Where my Colombians at?” Just large groups of people cheering in the crowd. I’d never been witness to something like that in Boston, but it really gave me the sense moving forward, as a producer of comedy shows, that there are so many different voices that need to be heard from. If you put those shows together, people will come out and see them.

We’ve done shows at Laugh Boston with Russian comedians, with Chinese comedians, with the Muslim community, all doing stuff in their native tongue, and people come from all over the place to come see them. I don’t speak any of those languages, but I know the language of laughter. When you hear 300 people – I don’t understand the words coming out – and they’re being entertained, that warms your heart, and it makes you feel good about what you’re doing.

I think we always try and bring that kind of focus to our shows and have a mixed group of voices from different points of view. You don’t always have to agree with the comic. There are a lot of great comedians who don’t exactly care if you agree with them or not. They just want to make you laugh.

Enjoy performances from four of New England's best stand-up comedians: Christine Hurley, Corey Rodrigues, Tooky Kavanagh and Will Noonan.

Four Comedians, One Night Only

John: With the January 23 lineup, with Christine Hurley, she came on the scene in 2005. She’s our most requested comedian by far. She has five kids, she and her husband Jimmy. Jimmy just retired as the lieutenant of the Randolph Fire Department, and he is a great father for all of her jokes, but he’s awesome. Great family. Great couple. Christine entered the “Funniest Moms” contest for Nickelodeon at Night because all her friends said, “You should be on stage.” She went and did it, and she won the contest. She’s just been taking places by storm ever since. I love working with her.

Cory Rodrigues is a kid from Milton, Mass. who has been at it for a long time and just grinds away. He does a lot of cruise ships. I just love working with him. I love his point of view, his observational comedy.

Tooky Kavanagh is rather new. She’s a comedian, plus an actress. She’s in a new film called “The Salesman,” starring a bunch of Boston comedians. We’re actually going to be representing Tooky at a production company that’s going to present other voices from Boston and from the region that have not necessarily been presented before on film. Excited about that.

Will Noonan is not only one of my favorite comedians, but one of my favorite people on earth. I’ve known him and worked with him for about 15 years. He’s probably the hardest working comedian I know, constantly writing, constantly developing and trying new things. He was early on the podcast game. People will recognize him. He’s actually the New England voice and face of Honda. That’s Will Noonan. He’s been doing those commercials for three or four years, which is just great. He gets recognized a lot now as the Honda guy, but I think, with each of these comedians, the best is yet to come.

Jimmy Cash, Kathe Farris, Sam Ike and Tony V livestream direct from our new BrickBox Theater at the Jean McDonough Arts Center.

Your Funny Valentine

Lisa: Tell us a little bit about the February 14 lineup.

John: Sam Ike is relatively new. Well, he’s been doing it for six or seven years. He’s established himself very well, hard worker, gone out there and gets up on stage and always working. He’s a delightful voice to be up on stage.

Kathe Farris is America’s funniest mom. Great mom of a couple of kids. Lives in Medfield with her husband and was a real big fan of comedy before she got into comedy, going to the clubs and things like that. I think, like some folks, stood at the back of clubs and said, “You know what? I’m going to take a shot at that.” It doesn’t always work, but it’s worked for Kathe very well.

Last, but certainly not least, is Worcester’s own Jimmy Cash, who is actually a custodian of the Worcester Public School System and is just awesome. If you go on Jimmy Cash’s social media, you’ll see a lot of his video clips that are just absolutely hysterical that combine comedy with his janitorial duties. On stage and live he is just awesome. He has a very endearing personality. He is Central Mass. and Worcester, through and through, but it does transcend to other crowds, other places. I had him open up for Bill Burr for us a couple of years ago at Laugh Boston and it was just awesome to see him introduce one of Boston’s most famous comedians and certainly one of the world’s most successful comedians. Jimmy’s put himself in that position by always working hard.

New England comedian Tony V will also join the February 14 lineup.

Why Laughter is Needed During the Pandemic

John: We’d prefer to be doing these shows with crowds. Just understand that comedians, this is their only line of income for most of them, and they’re depending on these shows, these virtual shows. You’ll be entertained, I can assure you of that, but you’re also putting some money into pockets of the comedians so they can help with their expenses and their families as well. It’s critical that we help them.

It’s really incumbent upon us to present shows virtually, to provide people with some laughter… they need it more than ever.

But also, it’s really important during the issues that are going on in our country right now… to me, comedians are the biggest truth tellers there are. They question the absurd. The status quo. They’re smart. Don’t let any comedian tell you they’re dumb. They’re very intelligent. They have a point of view. We need their voices more than ever. Any mechanism we have to present them, we need to be doing so. I’m just so delighted that we’re able to partner with The Hanover Theatre in hopes that this is just the appetizer to present live events at the JMAC.

Lisa: It’s about the performing arts and getting people to gather and see the similarities, as well as being able to laugh at some of the differences.