“There is supreme talent out there and I don’t want to be an agent. I want to be in the trenches, have fun, and create a show where talent gets paid.”
“I have been producing Comedy Shows at this point for over 15 years,” says Jeff Hammel, aka Charles Penguin. “No one gets paid. I get the old school ways, but there are a lot of great comedians stuck in ruts in cities and towns all over the country.”
Hammel should know. As noted, he’s been in the game for a minute, from bartending to hosting shows. Now, he’s teaming up with DJs Lazyboy and Frank White for a weekly comedy blowout at Silvertone in Downtown Crossing that’s set to tweak the typical comedy routine.
We asked Hammel about this new room and the latest series by Charles Penguin Presents …
We know it’s been a while, but can you recall the first comedy show you ever booked?
The first show I booked was in the South End. Corner of Harrison Ave and East Berkeley Street. I’ll never forget it. We had 110 people, and it was sold out. Lamont Price was the headliner. Learned a lot that night. Tickets were $30; I split the profits with everyone on the show. They were perplexed. Success. Normally comedians get paid $25, $50, $100, etc.; we made bank that night and that set my standard.
Dealing with comedians sounds like a true nightmare. Why choose this hustle?
When I came to Boston it was for ceramics. I’m damn good at it, but it takes a lot of actual time. Like hours for drying out clay and … the whole process. What made me happy was watching standup and late-night Johnny Carson shows … that same effort and diligence is what art is. Call me corny, but I grew up understanding nothing happens without hard work. That’s the epitome of stand up. It takes balls, risk, and determination. Respected that.
Before we go any further, where else might people know you from?
The Boston Globe named me the best up and coming PR marketing person in the city many moons ago. Still shows up on google.com if you type in “Charles Penguin” or “Jeff Hammel Boston.”
Comedy-wise, what have you done in the past couple of years?
I walked into a show at Assaggio Restaurant in the North End of Boston run by comedian Vinnie Favorito. He gave me a shot. I ended up hosting his show for 10 weeks and dusted off the rust coming out of COVID. Now I opened my own perfect room at Silvertone Bar and Grille back room. I call it the Stand Up Room.
What have been your most successful shows?
Hard to pick just one. I would be leaving out a lot of great comics and I’m not here to say who is the best. I’d rather talk about my worst shows and why it’s so hard to keep a constant show that showcases the talent.
What have been your worst shows? And what lessons did you learn?
Worst show. I had to host a Zoom B-I-N-G-O event during the pandemic for a good paycheck. Each ball that came out I was expected to have a joke. Do the math. I sweated through two shirts and didn’t sleep that night. I was well-paid, but felt like a tiger in a traveling circus. That’s not comedy.
Going back however many years you want to, what have been some of the best comedy rooms in Boston as far as you’re concerned? I have fond memories of the Vault, the old Chinese restaurant where Verb is now, and a few others.
Top five in no particular order: Comedy Connection Quincy Market; Grandma’s Basement in the old Howard Johnson’s Fenway; the Vault for sure; Nick’s Comedy Stop; my show at Oberon Theater; Comedy Studio Harvard Square.
What made you decide to go all out with a new comedy spectacle?
There is supreme talent out there and I don’t want to be an agent. I want to be in the trenches, have fun, and create a show where talent gets paid on their own. Everyone can do free shows or $5 to $10 shows. Put your money up and pay the talent. Too many hobbyists need a mic. Good on you. Get the the room, book a show, bomb. Pay the talent that let you bomb. Go broke or go home. Bar owners are also ruining it by treating comedy as if it’s karaoke. Open mics are necessary, but if you suck at comedy and promoting and making money then doing free shows is only hurting the craft. Not every American has talent.
What can people expect?
My show will host the best of the best from all over the country. Drop ins welcome and unpromoted. You have to test material as much as possible. I’m on a mission to bring a new exciting successful pulse back to the Boston comedy scene. Wholesome,fun, and once again paid.
Looking forward a year or two, what are your goals with this project?
Have a stamp on the comedy scene not just in Boston but across the country and not to be famous but to be respected.
Charles Penguin Presents: The Comedy Room Stand Up Special @ Silvertone Bar and Grill. Tickets at eventbrite.com