People laugh and the dollars flow when comedian Bucky Lewis comes to town
"For 36 years, I've raised thousands and thousands of dollars for fundraisers," Lewis told The Eagle during a recent telephone interview.
He's also a comedian, one-time Pittsfield resident and a former volunteer firefighter in Antrim, N.H.
Take all of these characteristics into account and Lewis is more than qualified to headline Friday night's Pittsfield Firefighters' Night of Comedy at The Colonial Theatre. Presented by Pittsfield Firefighters Local #2647, the benefit event will feature three comedians — Lewis, Mark Scalia and Kristine Blinn.
"It's sort of like a homecoming," said Lewis, who has lived in multiple Berkshire towns and now lives in Franklin, N.H.
Lewis' act is a mixture of standup jokes, music and acting. In one standard bit, Lewis brings an audience member onstage to drape a beige coat over the comedian's shoulders. The audience member then stands behind Lewis and slides his or her arms through the coat's sleeves. (Lewis keeps his arms tucked at his sides.) As Lewis narrates a story, his assistant gestures accordingly, creating a compelling interplay between Lewis' expectations for corresponding gestures and the audience member's actual movements.
"That's an old vaudeville routine. It goes way, way back," Lewis said.
A childhood spent performing in various locales introduced him to similar acts.
"We learned a lot of that interactive stuff from people. And when you can get people to get up onstage and just have fun with them, and they're a team — I've used that routine in motivational seminars for companies, big companies, small companies — ... it's marvelous," he said. "It's totally spontaneous, and spontaneous humor is very funny."
Characters are also a specialty. Lewis' rural New Hampshire upbringing often influences them, he said. Sometimes, they can rankle. A bit involving a caricature of an Asian man, for example, drew some criticism in 2015 before a show in Plattsburgh, N.Y. While Lewis said he's been known to push the envelope with his acts, he said he won't be performing that sketch on Friday night.
"I don't need to do it to be funny. I don't need to do it to send a message. I have a totally clean show. Most of my shows nowadays are totally PG. With my corporate shows, I never do any of that stuff. That just happens to be a bit that's out there. And, as a matter of fact, I'm probably going to take it down [online] because I don't need any aggravation," he said on Tuesday.
Scalia, a Salem-based funnyman, said that 90 percent of his act is adaptable. It allows him to perform at numerous benefit events, including those for local law enforcers and firefighters. Scalia said he also has had to make adjustments over the 28 years he's been doing standup. Dating and drinking jokes are out; health concerns and marriage anecdotes are in.
"You have to widen your vision," Scalia said by phone.
Blinn is at an earlier stage in her career. The Springfield-based comedian has been performing for four years.
"I've been obsessed with comedies since I can remember but didn't get the guts to get on stage until I was 33," Blinn wrote in an email.
In her act, she focuses on dating, her family and her experiences as a high school teacher. Two of her uncles and a grandfather were firefighters.
"A lot of respect is due to such a selfless group of people," Blinn wrote.
Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at email@example.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.
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