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Robby Roadsteamer's good intentions

The Greater Boston Alternative-Comedy Festival
By MIKE MILIARD  |  December 12, 2008

VIDEO: Robby Roadsteamer's Alternative Comedy Festival

Robby Roadsteamer + Seven on his friends = Hilarity
In the few years since Roadsteamer (a/k/a Rob Potylo) and Mauss first met, at an open-mic night at the Emerald Isle in Dorchester, the latter has appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien three times, won the Best Stand Up Comic award at the 2007 US Comedy Arts Festival, and was called (by this paper), "the man who could put Boston's comedy scene back on the map."

THE WALSH BROTHERS Former Charlestownians David and Chris — masters of the sketch and the shaggy-dog story both — are "hands down my favorite," says Potylo. "In terms of a duo act, in terms of chemistry, of knowing when to shut up when the other one's talking. I saw them at Jimmy Tingle's just telling about going to Montreal trying to get into the comedy festival, and everybody's gut laughing for two-and-a-half hours."

CHRIS COXEN His one-man troupe, Chris Coxen's League of Characters, includes "combat dancer Danny Morsel, Revere Beach meathead Ripps McCoxen, self-help guru Stever Pate, and "Future Queer" — a man in a rubber wig whose mission, says Potylo, is to "alert everybody that the future's going to be very gay!"

THE ANDERSON COMEDY GROUP "I love them because they're trying to create a comedy scene in Allston," says Potylo. "They're not afraid to try to plant seeds where otherwise it's a bunch of douchebags in seashell necklaces and untucked dress shirts fighting for Zimas at the dance clubs."

MEHRAN KHAGHANI He was two classes behind Eugene Mirman at Lexington High School — must be something in the water. He's gay. He's Iranian. Get used to it. "I would put my money on Mehran as the secret breakout," says Potylo. "He's larger than life. There's no off switch."

BETHANY VAN DELFT "Absolutely a godsend," Potylo calls her, a pointed antidote to "the same six to seven guys with bad Boston accents basically getting up and saying a variation on a theme."

SHANE WEBB The evening's MC, Webb was Potylo's roommate for a year or so before recently moving to Brooklyn. "She's hilarious," he says, adding, cryptically: "she's from Virginia, but you'd think she was born and raised in Allston."

"He's beyond passionate — it's almost to the brink of sanity with him," says stand-up comedian Shane Mauss about his pal, fellow stand-up — and musician, performance artist, erstwhile shock jock, prolific YouTube auteur, Sox Appeal sex symbol, and expert Duck Hunt marksman — Robby Roadsteamer.

Specifically, Mauss is speaking about the intense loyalty and reverence Roadsteamer (a/k/a Rob Potylo) feels for the tiny but tight-knit Boston alternative-comedy scene — and why he's put together the Greater Boston Alternative Comedy Festival, which brings himself and seven other area-bred comedy acts (see sidebar), and one rock band (Campaign for Real-Time), to the Paradise on December 17.

Leaning forward over a plate of half-eaten Mexican food at Boca Grande in Kenmore Square, a knit Red Sox cap pulled low over his stubbly face, Potylo's dark eyes blaze as he explains — with wild gesticulations — how he came to curate this comedy showcase.

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.

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Related: Tinseltown East, MySpace pimpin', Master of Hub hits, More more >
  Topics: Comedy , Boston, Robby Roadsteamer, Rob Potylo,  More more >
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