Chaiel Schaffel & Morgan Cowper
Those who don’t like stand-up comedy, raucous applause, or good times in general can pack up and go home. Why? Because laughter is now officially a tradition on Martha’s Vineyard, thanks to the upcoming 5th Annual Martha’s Vineyard Comedy Fest. The island’s very own comedy festival has become a beacon for talent the world over, drawing comedic icons like moths to a megawatt lighthouse. The massively popular stand-up festival has rocked the island every August since 2010, and this year’s Fest promises to be the best one yet. In fact, the Festival’s popularity has garnered the attention of major outlets like HBO, that are sponsoring the event. Comedy Fest is the brainchild of Steve Capers and brought to you from the streets of Chicago by Knock-Knock Productions, Inc. The lineup this season is as good as ever, featuring the “King of Venice Beach” Michael Colyar, Tony Roberts, Damon Williams, and “Honest” John Basinger. Other featured acts include Taneshia “Just Nesh” Rice, Lavar Walker, Mark Simmons, and Meechie Hall. The 5th Annual Martha’s Vineyard Comedy Fest is happening at the Lampost in Oak Bluffs, on August 10-12 and August 17-19. You won’t want to miss this hilarious, one-of-a-kind festival. Each week leading up to the main event, This Week on MV will interview one or more of the Comedy Fest acts. This week, we sat down with “Honest” John Basinger, a co-headliner for the second week of Comedy Fest.
HONEST JOHN THE MOST HONEST STAND UP AROUND
This year, the Martha’s Vineyard’s Comedy Fest is chock full of outstanding talent, including John Basinger. Most know John Basinger as standup comedian Honest John, a writer, singer, and all around creative talent. A former psychiatric nurse, Basinger has made a name for himself in the comedy world, doing many tours in the United States and internationally. Basinger has also won awards for some of his music as well, including an accolade at the 1977 American Song Festival. Now, as has become expected, he will be bringing some good honest jokes to the Vineyard at Comedy Fest.
How did you get involved with this year’s Comedy Fest on Martha’s Vineyard?
JB: I have known Damon Williams for probably at least 20 years now, so he has been a very good friend and always supported my career and me, and so when he called I was excited to do it. Anything that Damon gets involved in is going to be really good.
Have you been to Martha’s Vineyard Before?
JB: No I haven’t, it’s kind of surprising ‘cause I grew up in Rhode Island. I have been to lots of places in that area, so this will be a first for me. I’m excited, I’m a Boston Red Sox fan, and Celtics, and Patriots fan. I’m excited to be back in the area. As a matter of fact, my oldest and dearest friend is coming out to the show. It’s not only going to be great to see the show, I will get to hang out with him for a little bit.
Tell us how you got started in comedy?
JB: I was working as a nurse at the state mental hospital out here in California and happened to be watching [an] improv comedy show that was on. I saw a comic that I thought wasn’t very good and I thought, “I’m funnier than him…I could do comedy!” That’s how I started doing comedy.
So when did you leave the nursing Profession?
JB: [I] left the nursing profession in ‘96, I did Def Jam that year, I was starting to get pretty successful as a comic, and I would be calling out of work saying I couldn’t come in because I was performing in Chicago. I held on to a day job as long as I could. When you first start comedy, the money doesn’t come in that consistently. I’m very glad that I have been able to succeed in comedy. I’m sure that I would probably be a bitter old man if I hadn’t found comedy.
Do you go on tour often?
JB: I have been all over the world. I’ve done a lot of shows for the military, I have been to almost every state. I’m taking care of one of those, I’m going to Omaha. I have been to a lot of Asian countries where we have had military bases, [and] I have been to Iraq, and Afghanistan. Comedy has enabled me to go out and see the world, it has been really cool. Before I got into comedy, I was watching a show on the travel channel ,and I thought, “Gee, I never get to go anywhere!” Then I started comedy, and I got to go everywhere.
Besides comedy, what are some other interests and hobbies?
JB: I actually started off in show business as a singer, in 1977 my brother, myself, and a friend, we were a little three piece band. I even won an award in the American Song Festival. I’m very grateful and amazed [that] I’ve actually been able to make this whole thing work, I know I’m not up there with Kevin Hart or anything. I have some really wonderful fans, I get to travel the world, and get to do what I love.
What exciting experiences have you had while on tour?
JB: I have been very fortunate to do quite a few TV shows, [like] Def Jam [and] Showtime at the Apollo. The first time I have ever performed at Universal, amphitheater at Universal, I did a show in Trinidad and Tobago. [I] spent a little over a week, they did such a great job of publicizing the show [that] as I was going through customs, the guy said ‘…Yes! You are Honest John, I know!’ People would come up to me on the street and people would quote my jokes to me.
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