If you think of the Boston Comedy Festival stand-up contest within the frame of a March Madness bracket, it would be obvious that things are getting pretty spicy around Davis Square.
On Thursday night (September 13), the search began for the final eight comics that will eventually take the Somerville Theatre stage at Boston Comedy Festival Saturday night finale, and judging by the performances that took place during the first semifinal round at The Rockwell, it’s sure looking like the final assortment will be a real doozy full of comedy power.
Hosted by Corey Rodrigues, the first semifinal round had contestants cranking it to 10 — meaning the lineup had to deliver their best 10 minute sets, as opposed to the first round’s five-minute cap — and once Ohio native Mike Paramore took the mic, there was no question they were going to be up for the challenge.
Each comic brought something different to the table for the pivotal showcase, and in the process, everyone who took the mic stated a viable case as to why they should advance.
From Paramore periodically cracking himself up while simultaneously making the crowd erupt in chuckles as he riffed on the joys of tripping little kids, Salem native Nick Ortolani bringing the heat with some top-shelf self-deprecation in the style of a boxing announcer, and Vancouver native Byron Bertram waxing on the similarities between his native land and the city of Boston (“We’re both waterfront cities, and we’re both cities where you can get drunk in the morning, sober up, and get back to your job as a cop…”), the penchant for comedic storytelling, as opposed to old-fashioned punchlines, was strong with these yucksters.
Although the crowd found it appropriate to climb over seats and interrupt the flow of the show on a number of occasions, a few of the contestants, like Nancy Norton, still made it a point to include on-lookers, while folks like Alex Velluto, Jason Banks and Dan Hall slayed with their practiced and well-executed sets chock full of hilarious observations, and at times, cringeworthy experiences.
When local phenom Orlando Baxter took the mic to slang some funnies while the judges tallied up their scores, he unintentionally painted a before-and-after picture of sorts, showing what happens when you pay your comedy dues in the stand-up contest circuit. Although his closing set was ended abruptly as Rodrigues received the final tallies, the vibe left by the Worcester native was electric enough to give the winners a continuous standing O.
In the end, it was Velluto and Norton who prevailed as the first semifinal round victors at the Rockwell last night, with Emily Ruskowski and Alex Falcone taking the title in the second round.
The number dwindles from here, but there’s no denying that every comic who has put themselves out there this year has fought hard for their chance to climb the mountain (or the Rockwell’s staircase, at the very least), so be sure not to miss the final selection on Saturday night as they continue to creep ever so closely to those 10 GG’s.