Hamptons Comedy Festival Doubles Up for Its Fall Return to Bay Street
For a comedian, knowing your audience is key. When you’re producing the event and performing at it, that responsibility doubles. Fortunately for Paul Anthony and the Long Island Comedy Festival, after producing comedy shows across the Island for nearly two decades, they are well-acquainted with their audience.
Paul Anthony founded the successful Long Island Comedy Festival in 2006 and produces a variety of themed shows, such as “The 50+ Comedy Tour,” “Moms’ Night Out Long Island,” “New Year’s Laughin’ Eve,” and more. Their latest offering, “The Hamptons Comedy Festival,” debuted at Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theater in April, and makes its return this fall with one show this Saturday, and another on October 21 that boasts a packed lineup of comedians.
“These are some of the most requested comedians from the Long Island Comedy Festival,” says Anthony, who is also opening and emceeing each evening. “These are comedians that people really love and follow and want to see more of. So, we’re bringing them out to Sag Harbor.”
“Sag Harbor’s a great town, it’s centrally located,” Anthony adds, saying they began planning the series during the pandemic because he thought it’d be great to bring something different out to the East End.
As a Massapequa resident, Anthony draws upon his first-hand knowledge of Long Island to bring the laughs out of his audiences. Many of the comics are also Long Island natives, locals, or just familiar with the area after having performed in one of Long Island Comedy’s other shows, so audiences can expect jokes tailor-made for them. While Anthony says the comedians “generally work very clean,” he notes that as far as relatability is concerned, they are best suited for an adult crowd. Still, while the Hamptons is known to be a mostly affluent enclave, Anthony wants their comedy shows to be accessible to all.
“We try to make the shows as affordable as possible,” he notes, adding that his events, which are generally held in local theaters, are beneficial for thehost venues too. “We tend to draw a more diverse crowd, the theaters like that because they get to be exposed to a whole different audience.”
The experience is mutually beneficial, according to Anthony. For audiences, comedy shows provide an escape from the day-to-day, especially in light of the pandemic and societal tension.
“The bottom line is that people need to laugh more. They’re coming out because everyone’s stressed out, everyone’s tense. Things are going on in the world that are very stressful to the average person,” Anthony explains. “For 90 minutes they want to forget their problems and just laugh.”
“I’ve realized how unifying attending a comedy show is,” he adds. “Everyone’s sitting in the audience, they’re all laughing at the same comedian, at the same comments, because laughter is universal. You can say, oh the country is divided, and people all have their different opinions of things, but when they’re all sitting in a room together watching these comedians, you realize how much everyone has in common as human beings, as Long Islanders, as New Yorkers, as Americans.”
Each night of the Hamptons Comedy Festival features four headlining comics, hosted by Paul Anthony, and they all promise an additional surprise guest.
This Saturday’s show features two stand-up comedians, Eric Haft and Richie Byrne, and an improv duo of Scott Baker and Vinnie Mark. The pair will engage the audience in the show, by asking volunteers to become part of the show.
“It’s outrageous, it’s hilarious, and people absolutely love it,” Anthony promises.
On October 21, there will not be any improv, but it does feature Rob Falcone, who has headlined shows in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, as well as numerous television and film credits, including The Sopranos (HBO) and Money Monster (2016).
“We’re very excited to have him headline the show,” says Anthony. Rounding out the October lineup are three more stand-ups: Art Schill, Raanan Hershberg, and Maria Walsh.
Bringing eight comics out to the Hamptons over two nights is certainly no small task, but Anthony says it was all part of the plan: “When we launched it in the spring, the idea was to grow it. We doubled the show for the fall.” Part of that growth is the addition of a stand-up comedy class beginning on October 16. Led by Anthony, the course will run for seven weeks where performers will develop an act, culminating in a showcase on its last night.
As the face of Long Island Comedy, it is clear Anthony enjoys sharing his love of comedy with his fellow Long Islanders — as a performer, producer, and now, an instructor.
“It’s very rewarding. We’re very grateful that this is what we’re able to do for a living.”
Laugh the night away at the Hamptons Comedy Festival at Bay Street Theater on Saturday, September 23 or October 21, at 8 p.m. Tickets are available by calling 631-725-9500, emailing [email protected], or online at baystreet.org, starting at $35.
Find more Long Island Comedy at longislandcomedy.com.