By PAM SCHIFF
Cooperstown, New York, has the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, Cleveland, Ohio, has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they cannot compete with Cranston, Rhode Island, and the …
By PAM SCHIFF
Cooperstown, New York, has the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, Cleveland, Ohio, has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they cannot compete with Cranston, Rhode Island, and the brand new home of the Rhode Island Comedy Hall Fame inside the Comedy Park at the Historic Park Theatre and Events Center.
Comedian Bill Simas worked alongside Ed Brady and Jeff Quinlan to open the brand new comedy room called "The Comedy Park" inside the newly renovated and refurbished historic Park Theatre. And, inside the Comedy Park, is the Rhode Island Comedy Hall of Fame.
Having a place to actually call home has been a long time coming for local comic, Joe Hebert.
"The physical home for the HOF is important because it makes us legitimate. We now have credibility. Prior to the Park Theatre, we were just a website, anyone can have a website. During the Funny4Funds induction five years ago, Bill Simas, (owner of both Funny4Funds and the Comedy Park) promised me in front of an audience of 400 people he would soon have a physical home for us. He more than delivered," said Hebert.
"I've been doing stand up since June of 1985. So, I've seen the good, bad and ugly of the comedy scene," Hebert said.
When asked about why even do a Hall of Fame for comedy, Hebert felt comedy needed its respect.
"Why not the HOF? We have a million of them here in RI already. Music, Broadcasters, Tennis, Heritage, etc. The RICHOF is a pat on the back for comics who have worked hard over the years. Don't forget, before Charlie Hall and Frank O'Donnell, there really were no comedians here. They all came out if Boston and New York. Charlie, Frank, Al Ducharme, John Pertotta and even myself to some degree are comedy pioneers. I want the HOF to be a place where young comics can go to see the people who came before them. The people who paved the way. I want them to work just as hard and someday find their faces on that wall," he said.
Hanging on the wall as soon as you walk into the Comedy Park, is the Hall of Fame, Wall of Fame. Drawn by Charlie Hall, are caricatures of all the HoF inductees as well as Hebert. Next to each painting, is a small biography and head shot of each person.
The current list of inductees include Charlie Hall, 2012; John Perrotta, 2012; Tom Cotter, 2014; Frank O'Donnell, 2014; Doreen Collins, 2015; Ace Aceto, 2016; Funny4Funds, 2016; Bobby Braciola, 2021; and Ruth Buzzi, 2022.
In July, Cranstonian, Al Ducharme will receive his own picture on the wall, and induction.
"There is a RI Comedy Hall of Fame wish list. They include, (in no particular order,) The Farrelly Brothers, Jay Leno, Seth McFarland, Charlie Day of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," Debra Messing and Hypnotist, Frank Santos, Sr., (RIP)," he said.
They all have a RI connection, and Hebert doesn't have to explain to anyone why they're funny.
Hosted by local comedy legend Charlie Hall, the comedy showcase on April 29 was a star-studded event.
Along with lifetime sponsor, Bananagrams, other businesses that have promised their support are The Comedy Factory -- John Perrotta, Superior Lawn Maintenance, The Carpenters, RE/MAX Preferred Luca/Marano Team, Main Street Pub, Denny DeHoney @Ameripride, Chapel View Wealth Management, Escada Bar, Lynn Forlini @Right Realty, Mr. J's Cigar Bar, DB Live Fire, Kenny $ Ruth Adomides, TOP SECRET Bookkeeping and Sue & Craig Carpenter.
As is the norm in Rhode Island, The CEO of Bananagrams, Rena Nathanson, and her sisters, Dana and Brenda, all graduated from Cranston East. And, their father, Abe was the creator of the Bananagrams game.
Several of the inductees shared what being inducted into the Rhode Island Comedy Hall of Fame has meant to them.
Hall had several reasons to be excited.
"I was the first to be inducted, I am debuting an art exhibit and I am hosting. This will go down as one the greatest nights of my life. It is a huge night," he said.
Perrotta, the second inductee, was very humble in his remarks.
"It means the world to me that, when I'm gone, people can look at my plaque on that wall and hopefully remember a time that I them laugh," he said.
While not at the show, O'Donnell kept his remarks short.
"It's nice to have something to show to my kids, 'See, I told you I was funny'," O'Donnell quipped.
Ace Aceto, whose induction ceremony was at a bowling alley, gave very heartfelt comments.
"It didn't fully hit me until I was talking to John (Perrotta) and Billy (Simas). When John said what he said, it really made me think about my legacy as a Rhode Island comic will live on after I'm gone. I never thought I would achieve an honor like this. And, to be honored along side my biggest mentors like Charlie (Hall), Frank, Tom (Cotter), Ruth (Buzzi) just makes the honor that much more meaningful," Aceto said.
Bill Simas, who was the catalyst behind the whole Comedy Park was inducted with his Funny4Funds partner, Mike Murray.
"For Mike Murray and I to be inducted as a company with Funny4Funds is amazing. Just to know that the laughs we delivered, and the money (over seven million dollars) we helped raise for so many groups and causes has been recognized and honored by our peers. It is a great achievement," said Simas.
While not a comedian in the traditional sense, Terry McEnaney, aka Bobby Braciola was happy to be honored.
"To be recognized for my work as a comedic rapper, especially among such, such talented standup comics is an honor that I and my family will always treasure. My Bobby Braciola character is 100% Rhode Island paisan," he said.
Doreen Collins held the title of first female inductee for seven years.
"I've always been honored and humbled to be the first female. It is a crowning achievement to be recognized for performing comedy in multi mediums. And, now to have my picture hanging on a wall other than in a post office or police station -- I am thrilled," she joked.
Prior to the show starting, Hebert took time to celebrate all the inductees with the unveiling of their one-of-a-kind caricatures.
As he revealed each picture, he gave genuine compliments to each person, and the impact they have had on comedy in Rhode Island.
Before Hall officially kicked off the comedy show, Simas took to the stage to give some remarks.
"This club represents our blood, sweat and tears. I am truly blessed to partner with Ed (Brady) and Jeff (Quinlan). All of us have been burning the midnight oil to get to this point tonight," he said.
Aceto, Collins, Hebert, Perrotta, Braciola and Simas all took to the stage to show their gratitude and make the audience howl.
Braciola brought the whole room to their feet, to teach them how to go from "Chooch to Gooch" in only 10 steps.
Hebert's wife, Ana knew what the opening truly meant to him.
"This is his baby. It literally is his dream(s) come true. He was teased for so long on social media and now can finally shut them down. Billy promised Joe he would/could do this, and he delivered. I have never seen him so happy, and that makes me happy for him," Ana said.
For more information on the RICHOF, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 401-261-3120 or visit Facebook.com/rodeislandcomedy -- just look for Ruth Buzzi's Facebook.