LAUGHS AT THE LUNA: This Monday night at the Luna Theater in Lowell s Mill No. 5 features headliner Emily Ruskowski,  a staple on the Boston stand-up scene
LAUGHS AT THE LUNA: This Monday night at the Luna Theater in Lowell s Mill No. 5 features headliner Emily Ruskowski, a staple on the Boston stand-up scene and a semifinalist in the 2016 Boston Comedy Festival; Mike Holmes, a regular at Mohegan Sun who has hosted at almost every major club in New England and has been invited to showcase at Gotham Comedy Club in New York; and Rasheed Townes, of the Comedy Studio in Harvard Square. PHOTO COURTESY LUNA THEATER

Comedian Greg Boggis had always kept his eyes open for new venues and locations, so when he visited Lowell's Luna Theater in Mill No. 5 for an event last year, the connection was instant.

"When I went to Mill No. 5, I just fell in love with the whole place," he said. "It's kind of the perfect place."

Management at the theater was willing to expand the lineup to include comedy, so Boggis began running "Mondo Mondays" on the third Monday of every month. He hosts each show, often performing himself, and draws comedians from around New England to perform.

The idea took off: Boggis said the event regularly draws crowds of about 50 people -- including more than a dozen nearby residents who all walk over for each installation -- and in April, he will celebrate the show's first anniversary.

Rasheed Townes
Rasheed Townes

The Luna's next Mondo Monday is this coming Monday, March 20. Emily Ruskowski, a stand-up comedian who was a semifinalist in the 2016 Boston Comedy Festival, will headline, and Mike Holmes and Rasheed Townes will also perform.

"Monday night is not a big comedy night, so these comics can say, 'Hey, yeah, I can be available,'" Boggis said.

While the comedy scene may not be as extensive in Greater Lowell as in Boston or another large metropolis, Boggis and other comedians show that there are options for those who want to enjoy laughs without traveling too far.

"If you go into Boston, you're going to pay extraordinary parking prices, $14 a drink, heavy prices for admission," said Johnny Pizzi, who runs the Lots of Laughs Comedy Lounge at North Andover's China Blossom restaurant.


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He said that along with China Blossom, the Princeton Station in Chelmsford -- where Boston favorite Lenny Clarke killed recently -- are good places to see comedy and not spend a lot of money.

"Without even buying food, you're a couple of hundred dollars in the hole. You go to Princeton Station, you go to China Blossom, and for $65 for two people, both of you just got a comedy show and (dinner)."

Greg Boggis: Luna Theater  kind of the perfect place  for comedy.
Greg Boggis: Luna Theater kind of the perfect place for comedy. (PHOTO COURTESY LUNA THEATER)

Pizzi has been doing comedy himself for about 35 years and running the lounge for six years. The lounge is one of the most frequent comedy hotspots in the area, with shows booked every Saturday night and special events on certain Fridays.

Other locations will hold occasional comedy nights among various other types of events. Lowell's Back Page in Kearney Square occasionally hosts comedy shows to complement a steady lineup of live music, while A-Brews Tap and Grill in Dracut has recently held comedy competitions on Sunday nights.

Johnny Joyce of Dracut hosts comedy competitions Sunday nights at A-Brews Tap and Grill.
Johnny Joyce of Dracut hosts comedy competitions Sunday nights at A-Brews Tap and Grill. (PHOTO COURTESY LUNA THEATER)

Johnny Joyce, another longtime local comedian who lives in Dracut and who has performed at The Back Page, runs those competitions. He also manages a website called Boston's Best Comedians, which helps book shows in the Merrimack Valley and Greater Lowell area. About once a month, the group brings Frank Santorelli, a comic who played Georgie the bartender in "The Sopranos," to perform at Scola's in Dracut.

"It's a great way to keep folks in the Merrimack Valley well-tapped in comedy," Joyce said.

Some, like Wilmington comic (and School Committee member) Steve Bjork will organize shows as fundraisers. Last weekend, Bjork performed at a fundraiser for the Billerica girls softball league in front of almost 400 people.

Steve Bjork is a comedian and a member of the Wilmington school board.
Steve Bjork is a comedian and a member of the Wilmington school board. (PHOTO COURTESY LUNA THEATER)

"Just about every town does comedy fundraisers," he said. "Those are a great place to see a show."

However, local comedy is not without its challenges. One of the greatest obstacles, those in the industry said, is simply building proper lineups of high-quality talent.

Failure to do so can cause a vicious cycle: suburban audience members who had not been exposed to comedy previously may see a lackluster show, then think all comedy shows are underwhelming, making it challenging to build continued interest.

"For the general public, it's very tough for them to distinguish between who's legitimate and who's not until they go there and don't laugh," Bjork said.

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisLisinski. 

 

Where to Go When You're In Need of a Chuckle

LOTS OF LAUGHS COMEDY LOUNGE

Where: China Blossom Restaurant and Lounge, 946 Osgood St., North Andover

When: Comedy events almost every weekend in the lounge attached to the restaurant

Website: chinablossom.com/ lots-of-laughs-comedy-lounge

LUNA THEATER

Where: 250 Jackson St., Lowell (inside Mill No. 5 on the fourth floor)

When: Third Monday of each month

Website: lunalowell.com

PRINCETON STATION

Where: 147 Princeton St., Chelmsford

When: Frequent events in the ballroom

Website: princetonstation.com

A-BREWS TAP AND GRILL

Where: 1794 Bridge St., Dracut

When: Sunday contests run by Johnny Joyce

Website: abrews.com

THE BACK PAGE

Where: 15 Kearney Square, Lowell,

When: Occasional events

Website: backpagelowell.com