This New Year’s Eve, as people are getting dressed in their sharpest clothes and heading out to celebrate, comedians all over town will be getting ready for work. It’s the biggest night of the year for comics, with shows in venues large and small, in clubs and theaters, in Boston and farther out in the suburbs.
Veteran Boston comic Tony V has worked the city’s First Night celebration for roughly 15 years, ever since he first proposed stand-up as a part of the schedule, and he’ll do two shows Monday with fellow Boston staple Ken Rogerson. Tony V says he can’t remember a time in his 30-year career when he wasn’t telling jokes on Dec. 31. “If you’re not working New Year’s Eve,” he says, “you can’t really call yourself a working comic.”
On New Year’s Eve, even venues that don't usually feature comedy, like hotels or restaurants, might have one-night-only shows. “It’s easily the biggest night,” says Steve Sweeney, who will play an early show at the Citi Shubert Theatre with Joe Yannetty and Bethany Van Delft before heading to Plymouth Memorial Hall with Yannetty and Will Noonan to headline a second slot. “I turned down a week on a cruise ship because of that one night this year,” Sweeney says.
Cruise ship work can be lucrative, but for Sweeney, the New Year’s Eve gig was better. “Depends on who you are,” he says. “But for me, I can get a weekend’s pay in one night just for a few shows.”
A normal $15 to $20 ticket price might increase to $30 or more on New Year’s Eve, and venues that normally host one show might sell out two or three, offering hats and noisemakers as part of the experience. Where one headlining act is the norm, shows might feature two or even three on New Year’s Eve. The Dedham Community Theatre has three shows, each with the same trio of headliners — Kelly MacFarland, Jimmy Dunn, and Paul D’Angelo. “The talent is usually stacked,” says MacFarland. “And the comics dress up and they want to make it special. It’s their New Year’s Eve, too, so they want to have a good experience with the crowd.”
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