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John Bruton and a crew of local comedians tell their first jokes of 2019 at Hilarities this weekend, plus shows by Aries Spears and John Caparulo

January 2, 2019

John Bruton and a crew of local comedians tell their first jokes of 2019 at Hilarities this weekend, plus shows by Aries Spears and John Caparulo

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the host of the Laugh Track column, a man whose administration is in flux … Mike McIntyre.

Thank you, Cleveland. If you are interested in applying for chief of staff in the Laugh Track administration, the job is yours, but you must never use your title as a double entendre, whatever that means. Secretary of defensiveness also is available and mainly involves knee-jerk reactions to online comments. Finally, we’re looking for a communications director. Duties include the daunting task of convincing people that this column is worth reading.

A joke is born: Sunday night on the main stage at Hilarities, local comics of varying skill and experience will stand and deliver their first original joke of the year.

Fresh jokes, sans diaper and sash, will set the tone for 2019. Will they be funny? The audience decides.

It’s the second year that Accidental Comedy has mustered a Cleveland version of a national phenomenon that began more than a decade ago in Brooklyn, New York, “50 First Jokes.” This year, it’s billed at Hilarities as “50-ish First Jokes” as there was some overbooking just in case a comic or two doesn’t show.

Local comedian John Bruton, part of the Accidental Comedy collective, booked the comics and will kick off the show. Unlike last year, it won’t start with the least experienced comics and finished with the powerhouses. That made last year’s a rough start. This time, vets will be sprinkled in throughout the show.

Among those delivering first jokes: Rob Allen, Mary Santora, Mike Paramore, Bill Squire, Tabitha Jones, Mike Head, Rob Ward Brian Tidwel and Mike Polk, Jr.

“We’ve also got a couple of guys I don’t even know. It’s not a “no” thing. I want this to be as inclusive as possible,” he said. “I like this lineup because it’s more inclusive of everybody in Cleveland. I reached out to a lot of people.”

Bruton said the show should go rapid fire, with him announcing names from off stage and comics basically telling jokes the length of a tweet. Some my stretch to two minutes, but the idea is to be fast and funny.

The show is at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Hilarities main room at the Pickwick & Frolic complex, 2035 E. 4th St., Cleveland. Tickets are just $5. Call 216-736-4242 or go to pickwickandfrolic.com.

Bruton will be at Pickwick every Sunday from here on out hosting a 9 p.m. comedy showcase in the Cabaret Room (tickets $5, and only $2 if you’ve attended the 7:30 comedy show in the Hilarities main room.) He sees it as Cleveland’s version of a comedy “hang out” room with a relaxed vibe and a variety of comics each week.

Aries at the Improv: When Aries Spears comes to the Improv, the crowds do, too. He delivers, whether it’s his take on relationships or his spot-on impressions of Mike Tyson, Al Pacino, Eddie Murphy and Sylvester Stallone as Rocky.

I caught up with him by phone last week and asked him how he’d describe his act to someone who hasn’t seen him.

“I am like pure Bolivian uncut cocaine,” he said. “One line too many, you could die.”

He said he’s working on some new impressions, including Jason Statham.

“I never want to force anything. If it’s in my range and pitch, If I can do it justice, I go for it,” he said. And because many of his impressions are of timeless characters, they last. “Tyson and Pacino? No one forgets them.”

Spears is becoming more self-referential in his comedy.

“I’m trying to be more of an open book. I don’t usually drill too far into my personal life,” he said. That means talking about his kids, ages 19, 9 and 4.

I noted that’s nice spacing. “It’s a frustrating spacing especially with child support,” he answered.

When not on stage, Spears has a podcast with his comedy opener, Andy Steinberg, aptly titled “Spears & Steinberg.”

“Anything goes. The only thing we won’t do is political correctness,” he said. “Everyone wants to be offended. I’m not having it. I’m the OJ Simpson of comedy.”

Spears headlines at at 7:30 and 10 p.m. Friday, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25. The Improv is at 1148 Main Ave., next to Shooter’s on the west bank of Cleveland’s Flats. Call 216-696-4677 or go to clevelandimprov.com.

Get tickets now for next week’s Improv headliner, DeRay Davis (Jan. 10-13), by calling the club or go here for online tickets.

Cap returns: East Liverpool native and Kent State University grad John Caparulo is back from LA for three days of shows at Hilarities.

He’s come a long way since his start in 1997, while still at Kent, performing open mic shows at the former Mad Hatters in Painesville and then at the clubs in Cleveland. He was a “Big Chuck & Lil John Show” intern before heading to LA in 1999 where he cut grass at a golf course and was the doorman at the Comedy Store. In 2018, he worked a standing Thursday through Sunday at Harrah’s Las Vegas, with one week off each month to tour. He wears a ball cap and jeans and just relates to people about marriage, parenthood, politics and life in general.

Caparulo performs at 8 p.m. Thursday ($25) 7:30 and 10 p.m. Friday ($28), and 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday ($30). Call 216-736-4242 or go to pickwickandfrolic.com.

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