The Park Theater is the NEW HOME of the RI Comedy Hall of Fame
(Photo Compliments of RI Monthly)
The RI Comedy Hall of Fame began as an idea I had in August of 2011.
It was one of the hottest stickiest nights I can remember.
I was watching television trying to beat the heat and saw a commercial for an upcoming awards show. That was my Eureka moment.
I’d had been doing stand up comedy for 25 years at that point and suddenly realized there were no honors, or accolades for local comedians. Hey Joe, Why not change that?
After writing down some ideas, I called Frank O’Donnell, (a long time friend and mentor,) and brought it to his attention. We spoke for twenty minutes. At the end of our chat, plans were in place for a comedy roast to take place the following year. The first inductee into the Hall? Charlie Hall, of course. That decision was a no-brainer.
I met Charlie in 1985 at the former Periwinkles Comedy Club, which was located in the Arcade Building in Downtown Providence. He was running Charlie Hall’s Talent Night on Wednesday nights. The cover charge was a dollar.
I stand by my belief, that Charlie Hall was the state’s first, and is still the best comedian in RI. No one was more deserving. Charlie would tell you that, himself.
The First RI Comedy Hall of Fame Event
Over 20 comedians and local celebs and politicians and a sold out audience of 300 showed up to pay homage to Charlie, (Creator of the Ocean State Follies, Aging Disgracefully and the author of the state song, RI-It’s for Me,) with a comedy roast in his honor. It was an amazing and highly successful event.
Other comedians followed through the years, each one having provided RI with significant and meaningful contributions to the art.
More RI Comedy Hall of Fame Inductees
John Perrotta, Frank O’Donnell, Ace Aceto, Doreen Collins, Tom Cotter, Bobby Braciola, The Funny 4 Funds Co., and though not officially announced at the time of this article, Ruth Buzzi, of Laugh In fame, who was born in Westerly RI in 1936. Ruth has graciously accepted the honor.
The Hall Grows
Dana Nathanson consented become an officer in the Hall in early 2013.
Dana, a former manager at the Comedy Connection for 20 years, brought a great deal to the table. She’s now my Senior Director and booking agent. Nathanson had been of major assistance to me during my early career, and once again has become extremely valuable to the local comedy scene.
The Home of the RI Comedy Hall of Fame
Until this week, The RI Comedy Hall of Fame had a digital home on the internet. Now, as Ed Brady and Jeff Quinlan resuscitate the historic Park Theater into an entertainment complex, unlike anything the state has seen before. As Brady said in his official press statement on February 22, 2022, “You’re going to see Hollywood magic happening right here in Rhode Island.”
I have no reason to doubt him.
Five Years ago at his company’s induction into the RI Comedy Hall of Fame, Simas made a promise in front of 400 people in East Greenwich to find a permanent home for the Hall.
Simas kept his word.
Bill was instrumental in getting the Hall of Fame into the Park Theater. Brady and Quinlan saw the merits of having the Hall in their venue, and now future RI standups will have a place to see and pay homage to those who paved the way for them.
Sure, thank me for founding the Hall of Fame, but thank Bill Simas, Ed Brady and Jeff Quinlan for giving it a home.
The RI Comedy Hall of Fame is scheduled to open on April 29, 2022.