Highlights: The Magners Comedy Festival
What better way to kick off the third-annual Magners Comedy Festival than a hilarious, raunchy retelling of some of William Shakespeare’s most-beloved works? That’s exactly how the ORFEO Group set the tone, and tonight, the festival begins in earnest with the Upright Citizens Brigade Touring Company at the Wilbur, the Improv Asylum’s main-stage show “Life Before Sext,” and the annual standup contest semi-finals at Nick’s Comedy Stop. The finals of the “Stand-Off” will be held on Saturday, and the winner gets to perform at the Glasgow International Comedy Festival.
The festival heats up on Friday with Marc Maron, a comedian who got his start in Boston more than 20 years ago, who brings a standup show and live taping of his WTFpod podcast to the Wilbur. I spoke to Maron in L.A. a bit over a week ago, and he’s excited to pay tribute to his Boston origins by inviting a collection of the comics he used to open for onstage for the live podcast panel, including Kenny Rogerson, Tony V, Barry Crimmins, Mike Donovan, Jimmy Tingle, and Frank Santorelli.
Saturday is another huge night with a pair of Boston’s very own successful comics: Steve Sweeney and Joe Wong, who take their sets to Nick’s Comedy Stop. Alternative/indi comedy hero Eugene Mirman, who also got his start in Boston, returns triumphantly to Mottley’s for a sold-out gig. But you can still get tickets to The Amazing Jonathan and Tom Papa’s shows at the Wilbur. The Amazing Jonathan really is amazing — I’ve seen his ever-changing act several times, and you’re guaranteed to have a great time at his show, which sometimes has magic but is always hilarious. Papa, currently the host of NBC’s “The Marriage Ref,” also puts on a great show and just released a new special, “Tom Papa, Live In New York City,” directed by Rob Zombie. From what I’ve read on Twitter, Papa has been preparing for his Wilbur show by hitting all the clubs in New York to wide acclaim. If there’s someone who can bring a club act to TV or a stage the size of the Wilbur, it’s Tom Papa.
The festival draws to a close with Colin Quinn’s Broadway show, “Colin Quinn: Long Story Short,” to the Wilbur. It’s a pretty big deal as this critically-acclaimed show has done very well as a traveling endeavor and HBO special. Sure, Quinn discusses history, but it’s through his jaded, jaundiced, yet spectacularly funny sense of humor that make his work really stand out.
It’s quite the line-up over the next four nights, but that’s one of the big reasons that Magners is on track to become one of the region’s premiere destination comedy festivals. ($20-$70, Wednesday, January 25, through Sunday, January 29, venues include Improv Asylum, Mottley’s Comedy Club, Nick’s Comedy Stop, Oberon, and the Wilbur Theatre. Check the website for dates, times, tickets, and prices.)