Metro

‘It was horrible’: Boston comedy show draws ire

Video courtesy of Roger Nicholson.

Denis Leary opened Saturday’s Comics Come Home benefit show at the TD Garden with a performance that mocked both presidential candidates with a not-so-flattering video montage -- including a photo of President-elect Donald Trump next to one of an orangutan, according to people who attended.

“It drew a big laugh,” said George Hamblen, 52, of Plaistow, N.H., who was in the audience with his wife, Lisa.

But when comedian Wanda Sykes later joked “we elected an orangutan to run the country,” she got a very different response, he said.

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“She started to get some boos,” Hamblen said during an interview on Sunday.

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And things just got uglier.

Sykes ranted about Trump and his comments about gays, minorities and women, drawing more boos from the audience, according to the video.

“This is not the first time we’ve elected a racist, sexist, homophobic president,” Sykes says in the clip.

Sykes responded to the boos by uttering an expletive and making an obscene gesture toward the crowd, according to the video.

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Then, Nick DiPaolo took the stage, unleashing a torrent of comments about liberals, Boston women, and Jews, according to attendees.

Some who attended feel that Sykes -- a black lesbian -- was unfairly treated by the crowd on hand for the 22nd annual fund-raiser for the Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care.

“She was expressing that she’s afraid of what Trump’s presidency will mean for her,” said Kim Comatas, 45, of Framingham, who attended with her husband and three other couples. “I feel [the booing] confirmed all the reasons she should be afraid.”

Comatas was so offended, her group left early, she said.

“We went there to laugh and support a great charity,” she said. “I wasn’t going to sit there and watch hate bubble up.”

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DiPaolo drew claps and laughter for his pro-Trump rant filled with coarse language, anti-Semitic references, and jokes about raping women, they said.

“It was horrible,” said Nancy Rogerson, 47, of Framingham, who attended with Comatas. “He joked about raping women on the cobblestone streets of Boston, and people were laughing. That is not something to joke about.”

Sykes and DiPaolo were among eight comedians who performed at the event for the Neely foundation.

In a statement, Leary said comedians who perform at the benefit are “free to speak their mind.”

“For 22 years, we have never censored any performer at Comics Come Home,” Leary said in the statement. “ . . . This has resulted in the longest running stand up charity event in America. Even this past weekend, 6 of the 8 comics received big laughs and rapturous applause.

He added, “As I say each time we do this concert, the Boston audiences are the best in the country and their support of The Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care has been absolutely exceptional. We look forward to Comics Come Home 23 next November.”

Still, some people were clearly unsettled by the performances.

“I’m Jewish,” said Lisa Hamblen, 58. “He called Bernie Sanders an ‘old Jew.’ He could have just called him an ‘old guy.’ ”

DiPaolo also called a woman who tried to rush the stage a “Peabody Jew,” according to the Hamblens and Rogerson. DiPaolo, who grew up in Danvers, was apparently referencing the neighboring North Shore city that has a sizable Jewish population.

“There is a fine line between comedy and hate speech,” George Hamblen said. “On the one hand, you had a very honest reaction from Wanda Sykes about what she’s going through [after the election] and she gets booed.”

DiPaolo and his booking agent, Matt Frost of Creative Artists Agency, did not respond to requests for comment from the Globe, and a representative for Sykes could not be reached.

In a statement, Cam Neely, who is president of the Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care, said the Comics Come Home event has raised more than $10 million in cancer research, treatments, and services.

“Our goal each year is for all of our guests and entertainers to have an enjoyable night raising money for cancer patients and their families,” he said in the statement.

Sean Smyth and Steve Annear of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Kathy McCabe can be reached at Katherine.McCabe@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter@GlobeKMcCabe.