2017-02-16 / Front Page

Griffin Brings Laughs to Goat Island

By James Merolla

Nick Griffin has the elfish look of the kid just handsome enough to get away with stuff all his life, but wise enough – and funny enough – to share his take on the world.

He’s one of us, yes, yet his wide-ranging observations of the mundanely funny things in life clearly show he’s in a different league.

A comic for more than a quarter century but still carrying some boyish pluck, his smart, sarcastic style has landed him appearances on “Conan,” “The Late Late Show,” and “Late Night with David Letterman.” He also has had specials of his own on Comedy Central.

Originally from Kansas City, Griffin now lives in New York City where he is a regular performer at the most popular clubs.

He will headline the Feb. 24 Newport Winter Comedy Festival at Gurney’s Newport Resort (formerly the Hyatt Regency) on Goat Island, bringing his offbeat eye to Aquidneck Island.

Generous with his time, Griffin gave an extensive interview with Newport This Week, saying Newport looked “like a really cool gig” that he was excited to play.

Nothing will throw him after leaping from the horizontal of the prairie to the vertical of New York.

“Yeah, Kansas was a lot different from NYC. And I got run over at first. I got mugged. I got screwed on apartments. I ran out of money. But I got a lot better as a comic,” said Griffin. “I was surrounded by all these amazing young comics. Louis CK, Dave Attell, Sarah Silverman, Jon Stewart, Kevin James, Ray Romano. It really forced me to commit to my work and to challenge myself.”

Griffin says he pretty much has a set act, but it changes a bit night to night, depending on the circumstances. “As for my set in Newport, I’ll be doing my best stuff, my newest stuff. A lot of material on relationships, dealing with other people, petty frustrations. All the biggies!” he laughed.

A voracious and eclectic reader, he passes time and draws characterizations and even comic inspiration from a wide range of authors – Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving, and just about anything by (surprise!) Stephen King.

“Does my reading inspire my humor? I think so. I tend to be pessimistic and those are the kind of authors I like. But there’s always hope, always a crack. Also, I’m a huge horror fan, so I think some of Stephen King’s subject matter sneaks into the act subconsciously: zombies, werewolves, etc. They are cool images to draw from,” he said.

“I wanted to be a writer before I became a comic. So I guess it does help me to be well read. I really enjoy writing material, weaving it in and out. All that stuff I read has given me ideas on how to do that better.”

From watching his stand-up routines, one sees that Griffin segments his work into familiar categories: observational from the weirdness of humankind, and quirks specific to him and his own haphazard existence. (“They say to live your life like it’s the last day on earth … (pause). So, I’ve been crying a lot lately.”)

“The jokes I like best are ones that say something personal. I was a huge Richard Lewis fan, and Woody Allen, Richard Pryor, and Garry Shandling. They always seem to be confessing stuff in a hilarious way,” added Griffin.

Whatever he observes and shares, it hits a chord. After 25 years on stage, he says he is still growing. He surprises audiences and they often surprise him.

“Every time I think I’ve had the best crowd ever, another crowd tops. But I must say I got to open a couple of theater shows for Louis CK last year and it was amazing. Those people were so dialed in. But I also had a couple shows of around 80 people that blew me away.”

He has great riffs on celebrities. His observations on Brad Pitt, for instance, will induce tears.

“Think about Brad Pitt. Handsome. Rich. Famous. Oscar-nominated.

Sleeping with Angelina Jolie. Wow! What did this guy do? Pull a thorn out of God’s paw?”

So, have any of the celebs he’s gently skewered ever responded to his act?

“Ha ha. No, none of the famous people that I reference in my act have ever contacted me. I wish they would, though. I did some Brad Pitt material in front of Matt Damon once and he seemed to really like it. Maybe he passed the good word on,” he smiled. “I mean, Brad Pitt, he’s got those kids, good for him. He said, ‘The kids taught me responsibility.’ Yeah, so you learn responsibility, but you still have the kid. I’d have a kid, too, if I could learn something I want to learn, like karate or Spanish.”

But Griffin is not as jealous as he lets on. “I’m lucky. I still love what I do. I’m still improving. I’m still getting cool gigs here and there, like the one in Newport. So sign me up for five more years. I’ll re-evaluate then.”

Plymouth’s Christine Hurley will lead off the double headliner show She has been called the funniest female comic in Massachusetts, if not all of New England.

Hurley is a Boston screamer and fashion maven who draws her comedy from the antics of her five children and her firefighter husband, who is also her career-launching manager and the vodka to her SlimFast (her staple drink).

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