Wakefield’s Paul D’Angelo among comedians

Having established a solid reputation for its professional dramatic and musical theater productions, Stoneham Theatre continues to expand the variety of its entertainment offerings. This week, Stoneham Theatre ventures into the world of stand up comedy, as Sandy Hackett’s Comedy Festival brings to the stage ten of the top comedians from the Boston area and around the country.

Stoneham Theatre will present its first ever comedy festival Thursday, July 26 through Saturday, July 28. Hosted by Sandy Hackett, writer, comedian actor and the son of legendary comedian Buddy Hackett, each show will present a sampling of the best professional comedians from Boston and around the country.

Thursday’s show features Wakefield native Paul D’Angelo, along with Kelly MacFarland and Jim McCue. On Friday, Mike McDonald, Patty Ross and Jimmy Dunn will perform, and Saturday’s bill showcases Kevin Knox, Jane Condon and Rick Beretta.

D’Angelo and Hackett have appeared previously at Stoneham Theatre, and both told the Item that they are looking forward to returning to the Stoneham stage for this week’s Comedy Festival.

Hackett was last seen at Stoneham Theatre playing the part of Joey Bishop in his revue, “The Rat Pack Returns,” a Las Vegas-based show he wrote and produced that continues to play to packed houses in Las Vegas and around the country.

“This is going to be a lot of laughs,” Hackett predicted. “We have great, wonderfully funny and talented comedians on the shows. I’m really looking forward to coming back and performing for the wonderful audiences I’ve experienced in Stoneham.”

Asked about the genesis of the Comedy Festival, Hackett quipped, “In the beginning there was darkness and no comedy. Stoneham Theatre said ‘Let there be comedy,’ and they contacted me.” On a more serious note, Hackett explained that he then asked agent/booker Buck Spurr to procure the best talent he could find.

D’Angelo said that he was contacted by Spurr, who was familiar with his work from a one-man show that D’Angelo did at Stoneham Theatre a couple of years ago.

“It’s a fantastic venue,” said D’Angelo, a Wakefield native who points out that he is “proudly living in ‘The Gulch’ once again.”

D’Angelo describes his comedy as that of “a frustrated ‘everyman’ who vents about the same social issues that aggravate us all, and fights back with sarcasm.” More of an animated story-teller than a comic who delivers one-liners, D’Angelo says that his material is “clean with an edge to it. I try to write clever, intelligent humor that is easy to understand.”

D’Angelo grew up in Wakefield and got his start moonlighting in the Boston comedy clubs even as he was working as an Essex County Assistant District Attorney. D’Angelo says that he makes some local references in his act, but since he performs all over the country including national corporate conventions, he prefers to write material that everyone can relate to, regardless of their age, social status or where they are from.

Asked about his comic influences, D’Angelo doesn’t rattle off the expected list of famous comedians.

“I used to answer that question by listing any number of the comedians on the Ed Sullivan Show, as well as Bill Cosby,” D’Angelo said. Then he realized that his biggest influences were a lot closer to home. It was his late father, former Wakefield Selectman Jack Murphy, who would get him out of bed to watch all those old comedians, D’Angelo recalls. And he “stole” those Bill Cosby albums that he listened to ad infinitum from his uncle, Vito Longo.

“It was those two men who were truly my biggest comedic influences,” D’Angelo says. “My dad was an amazing joke-teller, my uncle a great story-teller. And I experienced their live ‘performances’ on a regular basis growing up. Their love of humor and their outgoing personalities obviously rubbed off on me.”

Hackett also boasts some unique comedy roots. The son of legendary comic Buddy Hackett, Sandy grew up knowing many of his father’s comedy contemporaries, especially his father’s good friend Joey Bishop. Sandy Hackett lists his other influences as Jack Benny, George Burns, Jackie Gleason and Johnny Carson.

The Sandy Hackett Comedy Festival opens Thursday with Paul D’Angelo, Jim McCue and Kelly MacFarland. McCue has been featured on Comedy Central and recently returned from entertaining the troops in Iraq. Audiences may remember MacFarland from season one of NBC’s hit reality series, “The Biggest Loser.” She will be appearing this fall on Comedy Central’s “Premium Blend.”

Friday night’s bill features Mike McDonald, Patty Ross and Jimmy Dunn. A Boston comedy legend, McDonald has been performing standup for over 25 years with appearances on HBO, Showtime, Comedy Central and MTV. Ross’s television appearances include guest starring roles on “Rosanne.” On stage, she has opened for Andrew Dice Clay, Pat Cooper and Jackie Mason. Dunn has made several appearances on Comedy Central and is the host of the “Fan Attic” on NESN.

Saturday evening’s lineup includes Kevin Knox, Jane Condon and Rick Beretta. Known as “The Wild Man of Comedy,” Knox has been called “a high energy bag of fun” by the Boston Globe. Condon has appeared on ABC-TV’s “The View,” Lifetime’s “Girls’ Night Out,” and NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.” Beretta has appeared on Comedy Central and is a regular headliner at comedy clubs all over New England.

Hackett will emcee all three of this week’s shows at Stoneham Theatre, 395 Main St., Stoneham. Show times are: Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; and Saturday at 7 p.m. For tickets, go online at or phone 781-279-2200.

[This story originally appeared in the July 24, 2007 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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