100 Comics Tell 100 First Jokes Of 2012

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Dana Jay Bein, left, and Zach Ward of ImprovBoston. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)
Dana Jay Bein, left, and Zach Ward of ImprovBoston. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)

New Year’s Day. For some it conjures images of new beginnings, clean slates, happiness, health –- maybe hangovers. But what about laughter? One hundred Boston-area comedians have resolved to kick off 2012 with 100 new jokes delivered on stage Jan. 1 at ImprovBoston in Cambridge.

Just picture it. One hundred comics walk into a 100-seat comedy club to tell their first funny lines. For Zach Ward this New Year’s Day event made perfect sense.

“Everybody is looking for the first baby of the year, the first this of the year, the first that of the year, so why not jokes?" he said.

The “100 First Jokes” show was Ward’s idea. He’s managing director at the nonprofit comedy club, so I figured he’d be willing to crack a few for this story — as kind of a preview — but I had no idea what I was up against.

“How about I resolve to tell you a joke later?” he said coyly, then added, “That’s all I got,” punctuated with his own version of a drum and cymbal crashing.

Their unique styles and jokes will showcase the Boston comedy scene’s full spectrum, according to the show's creator, from family-friendly humor to the crudest of crude.

Then I tried Dana Jay Bein, head of standup at the theater. He’s Ward’s co-host Sunday night. I was met with this response: “If we were to give away our joke now, what would be the incentive to come to the show?”

Point taken. But since I promised to bring my editor a story laced with jokes, I gave it one more shot.

“The one pre-qualification for the show is these jokes cannot have been on stage before, and now you’re trying to eke out our jokes before the show! I feel a little strangled, Andrea,” Bein said.

Then Ward leaned into my microphone and warned, “Andrea let go of his shirt, let go of his shirt,” before they both giggled at each other, and me.

For the record, we public radio reporters generally do not get physically aggressive with reluctant interview subjects. It was clear these two would not give up a joke — but they were willing to talk about how they rallied together an army of Boston’s best comics on one of the quietest holidays of the year.

“As soon as we put out the call Dana kept emailing me, 'I got another five comics, I got another 10 comics, I got another 20 comics,' ” Ward said.

Then Bein picked up the tale.

“I was hoping maybe we’d get 40 comics who’d maybe tell two jokes if we didn’t get enough. I’m not kidding you, including the hosts we have 102 comics!”

And, in a comedy-world version of "speed dating," each of the 100 performers will have only two minutes to bring audience members to their knees.

“Some people will have one-liners, some comics will have a two-minute bit,” Ward said.

“We’ve got local legends Tony V and Paul D'Angelo, we’ve got local favorites Matt D, Lamont Price, Steve Macone, Maria Ciampa, Bethany Van Delft,” Bein said.

And there will be 93 others. Their unique styles and jokes will showcase the Boston comedy scene’s full spectrum, according to Ward, from family-friendly humor to the crudest of crude.

“Anything goes,” he said.

What about the likely topics? Knowing their crowd well, Ward and Bein had a few predictions.

“We got the primaries for the GOP. All these celebrities who have passed on, and unfortunately, comics take advantage of that when that happens,” Bein said.

“We just pulled out our troops in Iraq, we have the Occupy movement,” Ward said.

OK. Ward must have a joke about the Occupy movement.

“If you want to hear a joke about Occupy you’re going to have to camp out for it!” he said as Bein egged him on.

While Ward is willing to kid about Occupy, he’s actually very serious about keeping Boston’s comedic legacy alive. He evokes its past success stories (Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien) and fantasizes that Louis C.K. might make a surprise appearance at the "100 First Jokes" if he’s home in Massachusetts for the holidays — and perhaps catches this story.

But Ward does have a New Year’s resolution of his own, in addition to eating more vegetables: If tonight’s comic pow-wow is a success he promises make more of them happen at ImprovBoston in 2012.

ImprovBoston’s “100 First Jokes” shows are Sunday, Jan. 1 at 7 and 9 p.m. with 50 comics performing in each show.

This program aired on January 1, 2012.

Headshot of Andrea Shea

Andrea Shea Correspondent, Arts & Culture
Andrea Shea is a correspondent for WBUR's arts & culture reporter.



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