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Catch a rising star

Local standup talents to watch
By SARA FAITH ALTERMAN  |  September 17, 2008

Funny business: With all of the changes a’brewin’ on the local stand-up scene, audiences want to know:whaaaaat is thedeeeeal with Boston comedy? By Sara Faith Alterman
Boston is lousy with talented stand-ups — the following performers just happen to be a few jokes closer than the rest to the top of Comedy Mountain. They’re not all natives, but they’ve all honed their skills here, so we’re taking the credit, thanks.

VIDEO: Shane Mauss on Late Night with Conan O'Brien

Shane Mauss’s Wisconsin corn-fed looks and molasses charm belie a sharp wit and sharper tongue. In the past two years, he’s transitioned from drunk roofer/part-time comedian to a thisclosetostardom comedy wunderkind who may or may not be a stalking target of obsessed fan Conan O’Brien. Credits that you care about include Comedy Central, Showtime, and the pinnacle of any comedian’s career, Playboy TV.

BREAKTHROUGH MOMENT Winning the 2007 HBO Aspen Comedy Festival. “It’s changed everything completely. I got some of the best representation that a comedian can have, I got on Conan. Now I’m a regular, it appears. I’m now a national headliner. I didn’t expect for everything to happen as fast as it did. It’s kind of overwhelming, but it’s a good problem to have.”

TURN ON, TUNE IN Mauss will appear on Showtime’s Comics Without Borders on September 18 and, for the third time, on Late Night with Conan O’Brien on September 19.

For all of you morons who think that chicks aren’t funny, spend one minute with Kelly MacFarland. If she doesn’t knock you on your ass with hilarity, she could knock you on your ass for realsies, thanks to a newly badass physique (acquired, in part, from competing on the first season of NBC’s The Biggest Loser). A native Mainer, MacFarland has already taken national television by storm, and is much, much beloved on both the local and national club circuit.

COMMUTER PERILS One of the first Boston shows that MacFarland did was at Harvard Square’s The Comedy Studio. “You can’t park there on the weekends. I drove down from Maine, and then had to drive around and around Cambridge for half an hour, and finally, I paid $35 to park in a garage, all for five minutes of stage time. And I loved every second of it.”

BRAGGING RIGHTS Her résumé includes Comedy Central’s Premium Blend, CNN’s Larry King Live, the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, ABC’s The View, CBS’s The Tyra Banks Show, NBC’s The Today Show and The Biggest Loser, and, despite having lady parts, “Puppetry of the Penis.”

TEARS OF RELIEF In an early chapter of her career, MacFarland came offstage and saw that her mother, in the audience, was crying. “I thought it was really sweet, that she was so proud, until she said, ‘Oh thank God! Your father and I weren’t sure how to tell you that you’re not funny. But you were actually funny this time!’ ”

VIDEO: The Walsh Brothers, "Levitator"

Though Chris and David Walsh fled Boston for the sunny skies and Botoxed eyes of Los Angeles, these Charlestown natives (and real, live siblings) sharpened their stand-up and sketch skills right here in everyone’s favorite starter city. Bonus: they look stunning in gold lamé. Come home. Please?

TINGLES OF ANTICIPATION “A definitive breakthrough for us was when we put up our first two-man shows at Jimmy Tingle’s Theater in Davis Square. All the shows sold out and we did everything we love to do: stand-up, sketch, characters, video. We went from weird, goofy guys to legitimate weird, goofy guys.”

SCREW YOUTUBE The Walshies are working on big-time online projects galore, guaranteed to tickle your Interwebs (dirty!). First up? “The Ramada Boys; it’s us playing Joey and Johnny Ramada — heirs to the Ramada Inn motel fortune. Depending on how it’s received, we’ll talk to the President of Show Business about developing it for television.”

VIDEO: MC Mr. Napkins, "Irrevocability"

After years perfecting his sketch comedy skills as one-third of the beloved comedy troupe, The Late Night Players, MC Mr. Napkins exploded onto the stand-up scene last year, and is now considered by fans and comedy peers to be one of Boston’s hottest must-see acts. The not-just-another-white-rapper white rapper manages to find comedy in, of all things, a sphygmomanometer. Whatever that is. 

NONSENSE NOMENCLATURE “I went through some atrocious MC aliases (Z-Stylez, Zach the Ripper) before I thought of MC Mr. Napkins.  But one day I was washing dishes and the name suddenly struck me, like a bolt of lightning from Rap God. I was sold on it immediately.”

GIVIN’ BLUES Mr. Napkins wasn’t always a rap-parody superstar.  He got his start as a sucka MC.  “For years and years, I had been writing earnest raps about what a great MC I was.  But one week, I had two ideas for funny raps, so I wrote them up and tried them out at an open mike, with a "for-real" rap sandwiched in between. The comedy raps went over pretty well, but the crowd could not have cared less about the one in which I bragged about my MCing skills. So the next week, I did three raps, all comedy, and got a great response.”

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