Cider Mill packs them in for its first-ever ‘Comedy Night’ fundraiser

By Nancy Oliveri

With comedians from New York City, Syracuse and Binghamton, the Cider Mill Playhouse presented its first-ever fundraiser and stand-up comedy night on March 1.

Thinking I had all the time in the world to secure a seat, assuming stand-up might not be that large a draw in Endicott and Saturday being the sacrosanct “Parade Day” in Binghamton, I waited until the day before the show to call Joe Bardales in the box office to get a ticket.

Well, we all know what they say about those who assume.  Joe had exactly ONE ticket left!  “I’ll take it,” I said.

As I made my way to my top row seat at table 56, the other tables in the Cider Mill rapidly began to fill up.  Three ladies had already taken their seats at what was now my table, too, and while I was not too keen on crashing their girls’ night out, as Joe had said, my seat was the only seat left in the house. So I shoehorned myself and my chair into the space on the far right corner of their half-moon table, thanking them for letting me cram in beside them and eat some of their free popcorn.

Within a few minutes, all four of us were laughing like old friends. The women were three generations of one family, and all ogling the same man down in the front row, deeming him “cute, good looking and hot” — and all of that before the first comedian set foot on the platform below us.

Then the house music softened to nothing and the spotlight landed on the gleaming pate of our host for the evening, Lance Weiss. He sported hipster spectacles that lent him, for a brief moment, an air of intellectualism. This acerbic comic from New York was pretty funny and got the crowd going with some good opening zingers, none of which I can remember at the moment.

Comedians left to right,  Brendan Fitzgibbons (NYC), Dan McCort (Syracuse), Maryann Donnelly (Binghamton), host Lance Weiss (NYC) and  Cory Jarvis (NYC). Not pictured, Nathan Macintosh (NYC).

Comedians left to right, Brendan Fitzgibbons (NYC), Dan McCort (Syracuse), Maryann Donnelly (Binghamton), host Lance Weiss (NYC) and Cory Jarvis (NYC).
Not pictured, Nathan Macintosh (NYC).

Comedy Night had great laugh potential, based first and foremost on ticket sales. Everyone there was ready to be entertained, and laughter can be as infectious as the sneeze from that guy in the seat next to you, but even more so in the dead of this long, cruel season of salt, slush and single digits. It might have just been me, but I had a little trouble hearing Weiss when the raucous crowd hooted and hollered so loud that he was all but drowned out during his introductions of the next comic:

“Let’s give it up for blahbluiennjheudn!”

Thankfully, the pictures in the program helped identify each performer, and each is easily Google-able.

Five more comedians each performed a 30-minute routine.  I must have thought that my own foray into stand-up comedy (five full minutes at a dive back in November) somehow qualified me to report on this event, but this was much closer to the big leagues. My own experience, however small, did give me a new appreciation for the work involved. A comedian has to talk continuously, usually while walking back and forth, for a good half hour and sound like he or she just came up with this stuff, while stopping only long enough to allow the hoped-for response from the audience. Some of the Cider Mill performers pulled it off better than others. Funniest to me were Nathan Macintosh, Brendan Fitzgibbons and Cory Jarvis.

One comic gave the people in the front row a little primer on stand-up — “If you sit in the front row, you are going to be targeted” — and they were.

Another audience member on the other side of the house was razzed for apparently not getting a joke that had to do with poverty, and the standing-room-only crowd was questioned about its lack of diversity.

Endicott took a few hits, as in, “Where the hell are we?”  But most of the comics, it seemed, appreciated the turnout and also were impressed by the enthusiasm and open mindedness that kept everyone in their seat until the last raunchy, often politically incorrect joke was told.

One lady, who I think must have been a ringer in the audience, was called a name after her fifth or sixth inexplicable whoop. If she wasn’t a plant, then she may have been a straggler from Parade Day, but either way, the comedian who delivered her rebuke received thunderous applause after she was silenced.

Don’t get me wrong: I had a blast, and, as they say on Facebook, I was LMAO, or maybe ROFL. Well, one way or the other, I had fun and, apparently, so did everyone else. I can see this being an annual event.

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