The vaunted Newport Comedy Series, which has brought the likes of Bill Cosby (pre scandal), Jeff Dunham and Cheech and Chong, has moved in more ways than one this year. First, this year it’s mostly in the fall, not summer. That’s a side effect of the other move, from the Newport Yachting Center, the venerable downtown performance venue that was decommissioned early this year, to the Newport Hyatt Regency ballroom.
The change in venue caused delays, but, “Ultimately it seems to be working out well,” says former sportscaster Joe Rocco, one of the event’s organizers. “Audience feedback has been really positive,” he says, after the first show of the revived series, which featured Kathy Griffin. “It’s more comfortable, between the chairs and air conditioning, which is huge. And we’re less weather dependent. Plus here, the front few rows are right up there – you can really see everything the performer does.” Although the venue’s capacity is smaller, it still seats over 1,000.
So far, this year’s approaching performers, in addition to Griffin, are Paula Poundstone and Lenny Clarke. “As entertaining a line-up as we’ve had, laugh-meter-wise,” says Rocco, whose partner, Bill Blumenreich of Boston’s Wilbur Theatre, books the acts. There are also hopes of a Natasha Leggero performance – the rapidly rising actress had to reschedule a planned show because of conflicts with a film and her new sitcom. And more performers may be added.
Praising Poudstone, Rocco notes, “It’s amazing how much she’s done, how many comedy awards she’s won, how many experiences she’s had.” He’s also excited about Lenny Clarke – currently best known for his role on “Rescue Me” with Denis Leary, and perhaps for his thick Boston accent. “Clarke may have been in more failed sitcoms than anyone,” says Rocco. “I counted, and I think he’s been in 52 different TV shows.” If that’s not a recipe for laughs, it’s haahd to imagine what would be. Regional actor/comedian Tony V will open for Clarke – another Bostonian who tends to show up everywhere, from “Brotherhood” to “Seinfeld” and from “Conan O’Brien” to Comedy Central.
Newport (fall) Comedy Series: Paula Poundstone Oct 9; Lenny Clarke Oct 16. 8pm at the Hyatt Regency Newport on Goat Island. Newportcomedy.com