Lately, he says, he's become tired of some of the baggage that comes with his self-created comic character, Roadsteamer — the lugnut loudmouth, festooned with tattoos, bellowing with mock-menace and machismo. He's grown weary of performing on booze cruises and promo events at butthead bars, of the beery dudes in sideways caps, sidling up to him and parroting lyrics from his songs: "Steamah! 'Put the tip in!' "
Potylo's far more simpatico with the small group of people who make up Boston's alt-comedy scene, the folks who clutch microphones night after night in such clubs as the Comedy Studio in Harvard Square; the new Mottley's, near Faneuil Hall; and, sometimes, rock clubs like Great Scott in Allston — performers, he says, who are "not doing it because they're looking for five minutes on Leno. They're trying to perfect their art."
So Potylo compiled a roster of comedians — every one of whom is "near and dear to me" — for an event meant to show off some of the provocative and envelope-pushing acts that exist right in our own back yard.
"Boston is small and supportive," says stand-up comedian Shane Webb, who lived with Potylo for a spell in Allston before moving to Brooklyn. "Ten times more supportive than New York, where there's not much support at all."
It's also, well, funnier. "A lot of [comedians] call me from New York and LA," notes Potylo, "and they're like, 'Dude, it's nothing like Boston! The comedians are twice as better up there!' "
You'll remember, of course, that Boston comedy enjoyed quite a heyday back in the Reagan years — Steven Wright, Janeane Garofalo, Bobcat Goldthwait, and the like. New York and LA were major players, sure, but it was the stand-ups from the Hub who commanded the most attention in that vaunted comedy explosion.
The problem is the scene was a victim of its own success. "Comedy had this big boom in the '80s, where allllll these comedy clubs opened up, and allllll this shitty comedy went out there," says Potylo. "There were like 10 shitty open-mic nights [a week]."
That's partly the reason, two decades on, why huge swathes of the general public are still circumspect about spending an evening — never mind their hard-earned bucks, especially in this economy — at a comedy club.
"Comedy is the red-headed stepchild of the entertainment business," notes Mauss.
Which is to say nothing of the other distractions that conspire to keep people out of clubs. Even as the Internet helps comedians corral fans via MySpace and Facebook, and broadcasts their routines online for free via YouTube, for instance, it also keeps legions of potential audience members at home every night, bathed in the dull glow of, well, MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube. "Technology helps us," says Potylo's good friend and fellow performer Chris Coxen, "but we're also competing against it because there are a lot of lazy bastards out there who don't want to go out and see a live show."
Bostonians would do well to heed the genre-busting (and gut-busting) alt-comedy scene developing right here at home. And if it hasn't exactly caught the world by storm yet, that's why it's nice to have a guy like Potylo around town to act as a hoarse-voiced cheerleader. "You think he's like a wild maniac, but he knows exactly what's up," says Coxen. "He's very aware. He's doing it for the love of it, and to do the best job he can."