Fistful of Jokes: A Benefit for Bonnie L. Taylor
Mon., July 16, 7:30 p.m. $5. With Dan Soder, Mike Finoia, Roger Miller, Vinnie Pagano, Andrew Morgan, Rob Pugliese, hosted by Jerry Morgan. Café Nine, 250 State St., New Haven. (203) 789-8281, cafenine.com.
Jerry Morgan has played Café Nine many a time with his various bands, the most recent being the hard-edged, post-hardcore-influenced group (for lack of a better description) Wry. Morgan's recognizable bearded face has graced all the usual stages in town over the past decade at some point. But a little over a year ago, he set out on a new path along with his brother, Andrew Morgan: stand-up comedy. Not only telling jokes, but organizing an entire series celebrating local comedians, held the third Monday of every month at Café Nine. It's called Fistful of Jokes, and they recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.
The transition from playing with a full band to being alone with just a microphone was a bit jarring at first.
"When playing music I didn't want to be the front man for years because I didn't want to deal with that," says Jerry. "But eventually I got over it. And now there's no guitar to hide behind either so at first when I got up there I tried an approach that allowed for a more shy or subtle way to go about it. One-liners, quiet talking a la Steven Wright or something, or Zach Galifianakis. But then I took the advice of a friend of mine which was, 'Jerry, you're a great storyteller. I hear you tell the same stories for years and I never get tired of it but here you are stifling that part of yourself.'"
One of Jerry's current stories involves not getting his favorite stall in a public bathroom he frequents (it's large and luxurious but not labeled handicapped, so there's no guilt in using it), while Andrew pokes fun at his wife's jealousy over hypothetical attractive women at a "Spanish Hooters" he invented for a joke.
"This is a fictional place that I have just then concocted and I am not allowed to go there," says Andrew. "Women's jealousy of other hot women has no bounds."
The next Fistful of Jokes show, this Monday night, is going to be a benefit for Bonnie Taylor, mother of Ryan, Chris and Adam Taylor (Ryan plays drums and Adam plays bass in Wry with Jerry), since she's taken a turn for the worse in a long battle with cancer. Both local comedy and music fans are expected to turn out in support.
"The similarity between the Connecticut music scene and our shows is that we have the dedication and consistent support from the fans of both scenes," says Andrew. "Doing the shows at Cafe Nine, we have fused the scenes in a way. Jerry and I have many friends from the music scene that love to go to the club and are willing to support us. They've now become our base and we have added from there. Without them, we would be not nearly as successful."
According to the Morgan brothers, some of the funniest locals include folks like John Romanoff, Dave Moon, "Beecher," Rob Santos, Mike Finoia and Vinnie Pagano, the last two of whom will be performing at Monday's show.
"We've come to realize that you have to keep it inexpensive and not go too crazy with how long the show is because I don't care who you are — most people don't want to see comedy for three hours," says Jerry.
Usually the shows are about 90 minutes to two hours long, there are drink specials and admission is just $3 (the benefit is $5 because… well, it's a benefit).
"We wanted to make it cheap enough that people would take a chance on us and grow with us as newer comics," says Andrew. "We handpick the comics every month so as to always keep the lineups fresh even if you come to the show every month. …We have lots of funny people to choose from and we are grateful for that."