2014-08-07 / Front Page / Around Town

Big Comedy Weekend on Tap

By Barry Bridges

Bill Cosby Bill Cosby The Newport Summer Comedy Series will present a dynamite weekend of stand-up talent when two comedic forces of nature sweep into town to regale waterfront audiences during the weekend of Aug. 15 – 17.

Massachusetts native Mike Birbiglia kicks off the fun on Friday, Aug. 15, at 7:30 p.m. at the Newport Yachting Center with his “Thank God for Jokes” tour.

Birbiglia is a stand-up veteran who decided on a comedy career when, as a teenager, he saw Steven Wright perform at the Cape Cod Melody Tent. Speaking of his younger days, Birbiglia told Newport This Week, “I wasn’t funny in a broad sense, but funny in my group of friends. It may be a perfect metaphor for my popularity now. I think I may be especially entertaining for a certain niche that can appreciate my brand of comedy.”

Although he has recently expanded his repertoire to include the late-night circuit, television, and filmmaking, he is currently focused on his third one-man show, which follows on the heels of his successful “Sleepwalk with Me” and “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend” tours.

“This show is about jokes and how they get us in trouble, but also about how they make us closer,” he said. “In joke telling, there’s always a risk involved, because you don’t know how it will go over or who you will offend.”

BirbigliaBirbigliaBirbiglia continued, “I’m not offended by cursing, but a lot of people are. The show is definitely not raunchy, and I don’t use ‘bad words’ gratuitously, but sometimes they are a natural part of the story.” He says his show is “semi-family friendly.”

That is probably a good thing, since he is expecting a local contingent of friends and relatives to be in attendance in Newport.

Appearing the same weekend is the legendary Bill Cosby, who takes the stage with his “Far From Finished” tour for two separate performances on Sunday, Aug. 17. The shows are at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Although Cosby needs no introduction, he has been in the public eye for over five decades, beginning his stand-up career in the early 60s. His role in the secret-agent show “I Spy” placed Cosby among the earliest African Americans to be featured in a leading role in a television series and earned him three Emmy Awards along the way. He of course enjoyed tremendous acclaim with the most popular program of the 1980s, “The Cosby Show.”

Over the years, Cosby has appeared in almost two dozen movies, has written many books, and has continued to release a string of comedy albums.

In a recent interview with Rhode Island’s WPRO-AM, Cosby emphasized the storytelling nature of his routine. “I might do something where I arrive with my wife in South Africa and we meet Nelson Mandela. I would play all of the characters. And all of this is meant to be smilingly, laughingly funny.”

He also spoke of his place among today’s comedy giants. “I don’t think I have any better allies than Seinfeld, Chris Rock and many, many of the new comedians. It is a pleasure, at the age of 77, to be recognized [by them],” he said.

Cosby looks forward to his visit to Newport’s comedy shindig. “It’ll be perfect. It’ll be just like playing the old-fashioned nightclubs where we can just swing out, and I’m sure there’s gonna be drinks. Because you can’t have a yachting club without busting champagne or something.”

To secure tickets for these performances, contact the Yachting Center box office at 800-745-3000 or visit newportcomedy.com. Tickets for Birbiglia’s re-scheduled July 17 show will be honored with no exchanges necessary.

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