The story of Boston comedy is the story of turning anger into humor. Find an enemy, then give ’em lip till you’ve taken them out at the knees.
This winter, we have a common enemy, and it is about 7 feet tall and doesn’t want us to be happy.
“It reminds me of Suffolk Downs — a community where everyone is losing and there’s a connection of misery,” said the comedian Steve Sweeney. “Mother Nature’s got her foot on our throat and is delivering an old-fashioned beat-down.”
And so in this, our annus horribilis of snow, we went to the experts, the professional complainers — our local stand-up comedians — for some levity on a situation that has become laughably bad.
“I say we let it pile up and then just dig tunnels through the snow, a series of Habitrails so you never have to go out and see the mayhem,” said Tony V, a veteran stand-up who lives in Charlestown. “Every once in a while you could have a dome where several tunnels meet so you could hang out and have a cigar, talk to your neighbors, then go back home. We’ll live like ferrets.”
In Dorchester, Bethany Van Delft said the unrelenting beat-down led her to develop a case of Stockholm syndrome. “I was eating breakfast, watching the snow fall, giant snowflakes, and I started thinking ‘It’s really not the snow’s fault that it’s falling. It’s just trying to be pretty and hang out. It’s not the snow’s fault that my street isn’t plowed and the MBTA stopped running.’ ”
Once she started siding with her captor, Van Delft said, everything changed. “I used to think about moving somewhere warm, but now that I’ve realized my captor doesn’t mean me any harm, we’re doing traumatic bonding.”
Artie Januario is not just a stand-up comic; he’s also a pharmacist at the Stop & Shop on Route 1 in Saugus, which means he has a front-row view of the “bread and milk people” who clog the store at the first mention of “10-day forecast.”
“They think if they don’t have enough food, they’ll have to eat their pets,” said Januario, whose strategy for coping does not involve food, but crutches.
“I’m the only one in my neighborhood that doesn’t have a snow blower, so I have a crutch I break out in storms. ‘I sprained my knee. If you don’t mind, can you snow-blow my parking spot?’ It works, but I’ve got to keep the limp up for a couple months. I get them all gift cards to the Cheesecake Factory.”
Lenny Clarke, who lives on Martha’s Vineyard but “winters” in Somerville, said the only solution is to dump all of the snow in the ocean. “I don’t care what all those tree-hugging wackos say. They all whine about the sand and salt. What do you think the ocean is? Sand and salt,” he said. “And if not the ocean, how about the Charles River? Anything living in the Charles River deserves to be killed.”
And then there is the old “it could be worse” approach to coping, which gets a little weird in the hands of Mike Donovan, who has spent three decades writing a mostly true book about US history that is already twice the length of the Bible (that is not a joke).
He points to a soldier in Korea who was asked to throw a grenade in the winter mountains: “In the one minute it took to take off his gloves and throw the grenade, he got severe frostbite and won a Purple Heart for his purple fingers.”
It’s unclear whether the story is entirely true. It’s hard to tell with Donovan. That’s kind of his thing.
As a group, comedians get to travel a lot, often to warmer locales in winter. But Jim Colliton said that’s just a recipe to get everyone back home to hate you.
“When you call home in that situation, nothing you say is the right thing,” said Colliton, who recently left his wife and three kids in Wakefield to perform on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. “Have you ever tried to coach your wife to start a snow blower over the phone?”
Yet we trudge on “until three weeks of shoveling and two hundred pounds of rock salt have us snapping at everyone,” said Jimmy Tingle, who has had to get aggressive to save his parking spot in Cambridge.
“Excuse me, miss, but you can’t you park there. That is my space! I spent two hours shoveling it out,” Tingle said in re-creating one encounter. “I’m sorry, miss! I don’t care if we’re married. It’s my space!”
But the best strategy for dealing with it may come from Lamont Price, who says his fundamental strength is that he’s fundamentally lazy.
“That way, when the governor or the mayor comes on the TV and tells people to stay inside, I say, ‘That’s cool. Thank you for making it illegal for me to be motivated,’ ” Price said from his couch in Brighton.
“Who am I? I’m one man. I can’t change the laws.”