Matt Braunger and Ms. Pat Headline Boston Comedy Festival, Disagree About Merits of Zumba

Somerville’s Arts at the Armory is a tough venue to describe. Somehow both cavernous and intimate, it defies most descriptions of its feel. But managed to nail it during his headlining set on a Boston Comedy Festival Friday: “festive AA meeting.”

Braunger’s set, preceded by sets from local Boston icons Tony V and Jim McCue, filled the space with laughter as he shared bits on Japanese children in themed hats, a Dominos delivery call that came to resemble a crisis negotiation, an unforgettable moment in a 24-Hour Fitness “sink room,” and the audacious white privilege of the Gin Blossom’s “Hey Jealousy. Of that last bit, he wished, “I do that joke in my new special, and I really hope they see it.” And in this back-to-school season, there’s an Emerson freshman who was stationed in the front row who is about to be very popular; his status as a Comedic Arts major drew an understandable bit of curiosity from not just Braunger (“I’ve got a PhD in comedy! You have to learn to do this!”) but also McCue and Tony V. The latter who quipped, “They just wanted you out of the house.”

Now, I didn’t expect to find any overlap between Braunger’s jokes and those of the other headliner that evening, Ms. Pat. But there was…over Zumba, of all things; for the record, Braunger likes it, Pat does not. The and Roast Battle alum and new author did her first of three shows for the festival, and did so with an awesome start.

Her set, delivered to a packed house at Somerville’s The Rockwell theater. In a set with jokes about growing up in Atlanta as a teen mom, serving time for drug trafficking, and dealing with getting shot (“it was my fault, I duck slow”), I worried at time she was losing the often more conservative crowd of Boston. Her story about being a Falcons fan at the Super Bowl drew some strong responses from the crowd, a reaction she was ready for: “I know where I am, you think I don’t know where I am?” But she ultimately won their affection, in large part through a heartfelt interaction with an older woman in the front row who hadn’t yet come out to some of her family. Insisting “you can’t worry about what others think about you!” she then volunteered to talk to him on the phone, even on a holiday: “You should do it on Thanksgiving!”

In addition to Ms. Pat, the show also served as a nice showcase for younger comics looking for their own break at the weekend’s festivities. Boston Comedy Festival competitors Sherlonda Sharp, Brent Terhune, Jeff Pfoser, and 2009 Boston Comedy Festival winner Dave McDonough opened the show, giving them exposure to an additional prospective fan base. After several shows to narrow the field, the competition wraps up tomorrow at the Festival finale and award show. will be receiving the Comedian of the Year award, while will be honored for Lifetime Achievement. It’s

After several shows to narrow the field, the competition wraps up tomorrow at the Festival finale and award show. Robert Kelly will be receiving the Comedian of the Year award, while Barry Crimmins will be honored for Lifetime Achievement. It’s an elegant bookending to honor some of the most time-honored talent while also crowning a $10,000 win and head start to one of its newest.

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Amma Marfo

Amma Marfo is a writer, speaker, and podcaster based in Boston, MA. Her writing has appeared in Femsplain, The Good Men Project, Pacific Standard, and Talking Points Memo. Chances are good that as you're reading this, she's somewhere laughing.