I love John Lennon, but the dude lied when he wrote “all you need is love.” Love doesn’t pay the bills. You know what does pay the bills? Comedy. No, I don’t mean it pays the bills of standup comics. That’s just ridiculous. But comics can use their craft to pay the bills of someone in need. And that’s exactly what local comedians Big Daddy Irish (aka Walter Bachelder), Bryce Hanson, and Stephen Cloutier will be doing this Friday, May 4th at Events on Broadway in South Portland as they help raise money for Jeannie and Doug Arnold (more on their story below).
All comics recently competed in the Comedy Connection‘s Portland’s Funniest Professional Contest, and while they didn’t win (Jordan Handren-Seavey did), when I caught up with Big Daddy Irish and Stephen Cloutier earlier this week, they had (almost) nothing but positive things to say about their experience in the contest, the local comedy community, Jordan Handren-Seavey’s blazer, and this weekend’s benefit show.
Ali Donahue: You guys are doing a comedy show this weekend for a great cause. Tell me a little about the cause and how you guys got involved.
Big Daddy Irish: This week’s benefit is to raise money for a local couple, Jeannie and Doug Arnold. Jeannie works at Events On Broadway and the community knows and loves her well. With her disability affecting her abilitiy to walk well, she had been taking time off to recuperate. However, in the beginning of NASCAR season, her husband Doug was setting up his garage loft for his annual opening day NASCAR party, when the loft collapsed and he was left with a spinal injury. I was in the office with Events On Broadway’s events specialist Brenda, booking a completely different comedy show, when she shared the story with me about Doug and Jeannie. Taken aback by the Arnold’s situation, I scratched my idea of the original comedy show and offered to throw the benefit to help the Arnolds in their rehabilitation efforts. We are working on getting them the necessary equipment to live as normal as possible and make their house handicapped accessible. I’m kind of a softy when it comes to charity and helping out the community where I can. That’s my story. [Stephen Cloutier and Bryce Hanson] were just outside holding signs that day that read: “Will tell jokes for food.”
Stephen Cloutier: I would do standup for any cause or anybody willing to give me stage time!
AD: Ok, so you were contestants in this year’s “Portland’s Funniest Professional Contest” at the Comedy Connection. What was that experience like in terms of impacting your careers as comics?
BDI: It wasn’t until I stepped on the Comedy Connection stage, under the tanning ability lights, trying to keep the butterflies and moths from flying out of my stomach and onto the stage, that I officially felt all my attempts had finally begun to pay off. Since the PFP experience I have been able to work with these guys and other local comedians on some great shows that have been put together for great causes within New England. Who wouldn’t wanna work with Stephen Cloutier, who runs a great impression of the Hip-hop scene in Bar Harbor?
SC: It’s always a pleasure to perform at the Comedy Connection, but winning or losing any contest does not make you a good or bad comedian…I mean if you win it looks good on your resume, but if you don’t win it does not mean you can’t make people laugh!!!!!
AD: While I write about comedy in Maine, I don’t do standup (because I’d fail miserably and probably cry a lot on stage–I’m a really ugly crier); it seems like the scariest thing in the world. How did you guys get involved in the whole getting on stage and telling jokes biz?
BDI: I grew up in Boston’s North End and started out on the entertainment business as a resident DJ to a lot of the area’s night clubs. Being the center of attention came easy to me. Known as the “attention whore of the DJ Booth,” I usually tried to take my MCing from the DJ booth to other area events. My first joke was told in 2004 on the stage of the Paws Off Party for Breast Cancer. I asked a Playboy playmate if she wanted me to “stir her drink from the stage, make it a real cocktail.” The crowd of over 300 guests roared laughing, and I just took it and ran with it. Then I got into hosting and MCing events, mixing comedy into each one. It wasn’t until December of 2011 I decided to put down seven Lobster Ales at Slainte in Portland and finally try my official “Stand Up Comedy” routine. It was actually Bryce Hanson who was hosting that night!
SC: I always wanted to perform on stage since I was 12 or so. And I loved standup comedy but was scared to do it. When I was 38 (he’s 40 now), I saw an ad for an open mic. I finally said to myself “hell, I want to check it out.” I went and watched the show, saw some horrible acts, but the audience still clapped and was very supportive. So I thought, “I can’t do any worse than anybody here.” Finally, I got the courage from a couple of Coors Lights. After my one minute bit, somebody said “that was good” and invited me back the next week. Next thing you know, I was doing 5 minute sets at “real” shows!!!
AD: Because I write for Dispatch, I’ve gotten to know a lot of comedians in the last year. I’ve noticed this awesome sense of camaraderie amongst the comics in Maine/New England. Do you think this “we’re all in it together” attitude is unique to the region, or is this a thing with comedians in general? Or am I effing crazy and you all hate each other and constantly stab one another in the back and hit on each other’s wives?
BDI: New England is great on the comedic camaraderie. You’re not going to find someone in this area that is going to tell you “you suck,” unless you really need help with your sets and you’re not putting in the work to get there. But even then, they’re still willing to get you to a place where you’re comfortable. Even the bigger names in comedy have taken time to sit with me and chat about this whole tour I put together. Greats such as Bob Marley, Jim Lauletta and Dennis Fogg sat with me and listened, passed on the experience, and sent me on my way with this new excitement. But if anyone sleeps with my wife, please let me know so I can meet her eventually.
SC: Yes! It’s both ways! Basically it’s like, “Yes, I will give you a reach around ’cause it will be easier to stab you in the back!”
AD: Speaking of camaraderie–do you wanna punch Jordan in the face for winning the Portland’s Funniest Professional Contest $1000? And do you think he won because he wore a snazzy blazer?
BDI: If you have been witness to one of Cloutier’s hats, you would know it is not the clothes that make the man (or woman) in this business. It’s the delivery, the material, and the stage presence. And a few other things Rich Pickford told me but I wasn’t listening to him; I was preoccupied by that week’s episode of Glee. I mean, err, that week’s episode of Hillbilly Handfishing (I love you Rachel, Call me).
SC: NO. I am a lover, not a fighter! That snazzy blazer cost him $500, I heard. So he really only won $500. Then after state taxes and paying off the judges, he only won like $5 or so…
AD: Well I was one of the judges and I don’t remember getting paid off. This is bullcorn.
For more information on the Big Daddy Irish Tour, click here.
And don’t forget to head to the Events on Broadway in South Portland this Friday, May 4th at 6 pm to laugh in the name of good. Tickets are $17 and can be purchased the Events on Broadway box office.