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Old School Meets New School

Lenny Clarke channels styles of multiple eras at Comix

Veteran Boston stand-up comedian Lenny Clarke has an oddly calibrated act -- his material and his perspective is very much in an old-school Don Rickles vein, but his attitude is very much that of a quick-witted young comic. This contrast comes wrapped in a conversational, deceptively genial delivery, with just brief moments of clowning.

Seen at Comix on September 24 in the first night of a weekend set of shows, Clarke punctuates topical bits like his take on Bernie Madoff with some of those old-school style quick jokes. Clarke takes an everyman approach to his pieces on the news, like fellow Bostonian Jay Leno, only a lot more acidic. Of Madoff, he said, “They sentenced him to 108 years. He’s 78 years old. How long do they think this guy’s gonna live?”

Clarke is also unpredictable in a very good way on stage -- you don’t know where he’s going to go next, and as he said at one point in the night’s set, neither does he. “It’s never the same show twice … because I can’t remember what worked from night to the next!” He also challenged the audience to keep up at times, and some of the quips fell out of his mouth so nonchalantly that it took even the sharpest observer a moment or two to catch them. “I can’t dumb it down any more than that,” he remarked at one point after backing off a little.

This veteran also had a lot of fun with a slightly less topical piece, on the epidemic of teachers sleeping with students in recent years. Here’s where Clarke melds the old school delivery with newer kinds of humor. Talking about the attractive blonde Florida teacher involved in one of those cases, he said, “Boy if that was my kid, I would have said, ‘Your mother’s going out of town. Bring her over for dinner.’” And about Pamela Smart, the New Hampshire teacher who got a student to kill her husband, Clarke said, “If I was getting some from a teacher, I would have killed the whole school for her!”

Having made his name as a “saloon” comic in 1980s Boston, Clarke’s meld of styles stays true to those roots and brings that character with him wherever he appears. He’s a unique and funny performer and when he’s here in New York, truly worth catching.




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