Louis C.K.’s surprise shows at the Somerville Theatre on November 22-23 took Boston by storm, as the superstar Newton native gave audiences four shows in two days featuring over an hour of new, polished material. It was a treat for those lucky enough to snag tickets, not to mention a great deal of pressure on his opening acts who must already contend with being seen as “that guy we saw while waiting for Louis C.K.”
Fortunately for C.K. and for comedy fans, the two talented performers chosen to kick things off rose to the occasion, going beyond the call of duty as “warm-up” acts by making lasting impressions on an already eager crowd as local comics to watch for. We caught up with Dan Boulger and Gary Petersen to chat about their recent gigs and where to find them next.
DAN BOULGER (Saturday 11.22)
Where you may have seen him: Dan won the 2006 Boston Comedy Festival, and has been featured on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham, the HBO Aspen Comedy Festival, and has appeared multiple times on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
On getting the offer: “It was extremely short notice. I think I found out about it Thursday [two days before the show] … It was funny, I was supposed to be in Hyannis that night, so I opened the first show by explaining to the crowd that the bonus for me was that I was just not in an Elks Lodge in Hyannis. Instead, I was there. It’s a rare opportunity to open for a guy like [Louis C.K.], so you can’t really pass it up.”
On comedy at the Somerville Theatre: “It’s amazing how much quicker an audience is to a warm up in a theater as compared to even a comedy club. One, there are so many people that if you make half of them laugh, it’s going to sound better. But people aren’t ordering drinks and stuff, so you know you can jump right into it.”
On opening for a comedy superstar: “I’ve opened for a lot of cool people, I’ve opened for Craig Ferguson, and Ben Stiller. I opened for Galifianakis right before The Hangover. As great as those guys are, there really was almost an energy in the room for Louis, like you were seeing a band. There were people outside scalping even, which I’ve never seen at a comedy show before. I’ve opened for Burr, and they’re all amazing comics, but just his level of fame right now is really unique for a comedian … The thing with all those guys that’s the same is I find the audience is really inclined to like you. With the sold out show, there’s more of an energy in the room when you’re opening for guys like that. Usually, the 15 minutes of a comedy [club] show is warming up the crowd. But with shows like that, from the first joke, they’re engaged.”
Check Dan out this New Years Eve at the Davis Square Theatre.
GARY PETERSEN (Sunday 11.23)
Where you may have seen him: A fixture on the Boston comedy scene, Gary appeared at the 2012 Great American Comedy Festival in Norfolk, NE, as well as DigBoston presents… at Laugh Boston.
On getting the offer: ‘I got a text message from Louis’s agent the day before the event, 3:00 pm on Saturday: ‘I’m Louis’s agent. I was recommended you by Rick Jenkins from the Comedy Studio, and I was wondering if you’re open to do the two shows for Louis tomorrow.’ I thought it was a lie. Like, I have self esteem, but at the same time, I’m like, ‘Who’s fucking with me right now? What does my enemies list look like, and who would be at the top of it?’ So I started Google researching, the agent was real. And I was like, ‘Oh shit, it checks out. Yeah, I guess I’m open. I’ll open for the biggest comic in the world.’
On opening for a comedy superstar: ‘Everyone in that theater is there to see Louis C.K, not Louis C.K.’s opener. So you only have a 10-
second grace period. If you don’t do anything worthwhile, you’ve already lost. And I kept that in mind with the first five, six minutes of the set, because if I could keep them laughing and enjoying themselves, it wasn’t like I was in the way of what they wanted to see … I didn’t want to be a burden on the audience. I wanted to do well for Louis’s sake, I wanted to crack the crowd, get them going, but I also wanted to do a couple things on my end to just make sure I let the audience know A) I’m funny, and B) I’m only here for a few minutes, and I’ll make this as good as I can.’
On serendipity: ‘[Six years ago], I got an opportunity to host the Comedy Studio. It was the first time I had ever hosted anything, ever. It was a Red Sox-Yankees game on Friday night. It was in the summer, so the students had left. The Comedy Studio had seven or eight people with tickets already bought … A week before, I had seen Louis C.K. do his ‘Chewed Up’ special at Berklee Performance Center. I was absolutely blown away. I was just like, ‘This guy is unreal. Just amazing, pound for pound, every time I see him. I wish I was alongside that guy, like, someday, working with him.
‘Then that night, I thought the owner, Rick Jenkins, was fucking with me, because he was like, ‘Yeah, Louis might come by and work something onstage. He’ll do 20 minutes. And maybe Eugene Mirman too.’ And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I get it. I’m the new guy, I get it. Good joke, OK. There’s 10 people here, why the fuck is Louis C.K. going to come up?’ And then he did. I had already done my best three minutes of material at the time, which I think has all since been scrapped in the garbage, where they belong. They’re terrible jokes. They were awful, awful. I had a thin mustache, like a Larry Bird mustache. And I was wearing a suit jacket from Building 19. And my father’s 1970s senior picture collared shirt. So Louis showed up, and he was like, ‘Hello. I’m going to do some time.’ And I was like, ‘Sure.’ And he went up and did 25 brand new minutes. Just had it ready, and he had just filmed. I watched him film an hour and a half six days earlier …
‘I felt like I didn’t do my job, like I didn’t have any jokes, I wasn’t working hard enough. And from then on, I stepped it up. I said, ‘Well, I can’t just be onstage and wear an outfit. I have to put more effort into what I’m saying and be more critical, look at what I’m saying, have some different ideas fixed together, look at different comics … So it was a very, very influential night for me, just working with him once, and being shitty in front of him once. So six or seven years later, I got to open for him.”
Gary will launch his upcoming podcast this December, followed by appearances at the Comedy Studio and the Armory this January. For updates, check out Gary’s website and Twitter @garyjpetersen.
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