The Ding Ho restaurant in Cambridge had a short run as a comedy club. But it had an outsized influence on the careers of Boston comedians.
And Friday night a flock of them, including many who went from Boston to national fame, will unite for a virtual tribute to the Ding Ho.
Two of the comedians involved in the event are Bobcat Goldthwait — who was known for his screaming, unhinged act and has since built a career in television and film — and the event's host, Jimmy Tingle, whose comedy success in Boston led to a gig doing commentary on network TV. They say planning for the pandemic-style — a.k.a. from a distance — comedy show isn't all that different from the live, in-person stuff.
"It has been total chaos, horribly run and hilarious. So it couldn't be a bigger tribute to the Ding Ho — because that's basically what a night at the Ding Ho was," Goldthwait says.
"Our rehearsals are so seamless. ... Last night it took us an hour to get 25 people on the call," adds Tingle.
The event featuring comedy and conversation celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Ding Ho. And it honors the memory of the late comedian Barry Crimmins, who brought stand-up to the club. Funds raised from the virtual night of comedy will support Crimmins' wife Helen, who's in treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Goldthwait and Tingle say the Ding Ho had a character all its own.
"The Ding Ho was originally a country-western club where they had line dancing and country music. ... So it was like a cowboy bar that was a Chinese restaurant," Goldthwait recalls. "You know, we had wagon wheel. The wall was all wood. And some of the chairs were like swivel cowboy chairs."
Tingle adds that the other side — the restaurant — had Chinese wallpaper.
"Yeah, that's true," Goldthwait says. "The main Ding Ho comedy club, though, was still a cowboy bar. Because I remember that time in Inman Square that there was a lot of cattle ... a lot of shootings."
The Ding Ho comedy club only lasted about five years after Barry Crimmins started it in 1979. Tingle and Goldthwait spoke with WBUR's Sharon Brody on All Things Considered about how the club achieved its legendary status.
This segment aired on July 3, 2020.