The Hippo


May 28, 2020








 Will Noonan

When: Saturday, Aug. 8, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Headliners Comedy Club, 
Radisson Hotel, 700 Elm St., Manchester
Tickets: $20 at

Headlining Headliners
Will Noonan tops the bill in Manchester

By Michael Witthaus

 Will Noonan is in a good place these days. The comic has appeared on national television and tops the bill in places he once opened, like the showcase room in Manchester he’ll appear at Aug. 8. 

“I’ve been middling at the Radisson for years, but this is my first time headlining Headliners,” Noonan said in a recent phone interview. “It’s a big one for me.”
The core of Noonan’s act draws from his Boston upbringing and family heritage. 
“I have the Irish Catholic face, which is like a drinking thermometer,” he says. “It starts out clear and gets redder and redder until you start punching stuff; then it’s time to get out of bed and start the day.”
Well-timed improvisation sets Noonan apart from the rest of the pack. “I try to riff on stage as long as it’s fun for everybody; it’s not an exact science,” he said. “But I’ll tell you this: people remember … the stuff you made up on the spot. My brother told me that’s because it proves you’re actually a funny guy.”
The way Noonan deals with unruly audience members is also notable; he’s uncommonly gentle. “Coming up, I watched a lot of comedy and I always hated when a heckler interaction got uncomfortable,” he said. “I get they’re a pain in everyone’s ass and can get annoying, but I thought it was odd when guys went from zero to a hundred so fast. If someone interrupted your conversation in a bar, you wouldn’t turn to them immediately and say, ‘Go f- yourself, get the f- out of my face.’ You start nice and give them a few moments to either shut up or leave politely.”
It’s a skill Noonan honed in the days before becoming a comic, as a karaoke DJ in New York City. 
“It was a hundred hecklers a night, no stage and none of the power of comedy where I have a barrier between me and the people,” he said. “I learned how to deal with drunks. … They’re not bad people, they just want a little bit of attention [and] I try not to go too hard on them. You can do it with a smile. A lot of the time, people start off heckling me angry and by the end they’re smiling, which is always to me the ultimate success.”
Noonan got into comedy at the behest of his karaoke crowd. 
“People would ask me when they could see me do standup; I thought maybe I should try it,” said Noonan. “It was one those eureka moments, like a kid who played tennis his whole life picking up a baseball bat and going, ’No, this is the thing!’”
He grew up admiring Bill Murray and moved to New York for acting school during a fertile time for comedy. 
“I was about 18, and seeing standup all the time,” Noonan said. “Some of the best of the era were coming up and still unknown. The lineups were incredible: Greg Giraldo, Dave Attel, Bill Burr, Patrice O’Neal. … I would sit there and watch those guys and be inspired.”
Starting out, he impressed guys like Jimmy Dunn, who became an early champion. Rob Steen gave him work “when I wasn’t even really good enough to get the gigs,” said Noonan. 
Steen runs his Headliners franchise like a baseball mogul; comics work their way up to the big leagues. 
“Literally at times you’re on farms working for Rob … vacation resorts, he’s done it all. He’s good at getting guys like me out of the minors, off the street. It’s like getting a kid off the basketball court in Harlem and putting him into a real place. He’s helped me a lot.”
Now a seasoned pro, Noonan is himself occasionally asked for advice and guidance. He’s not exactly encouraging. 
“I tell people when they start, I don’t want to put you off but just know it’s almost like medical school,” Noonan said. “It takes a long time to become even barely proficient.”
One skill that’s essential these days is sensitivity to social mores. Jokes that were fine a few years ago have become almost verboten, like Noonan’s bit about about his brother coming out as a gay man. “Suddenly, my drinking problem wasn’t such a big problem anymore,” went the bit.
A PC wave has reduced it to a deep track on long sets, much to Noonan’s chagrin. 
“It’s almost become offensive. The joke hasn’t changed, people have. I’ve done that joke at gay rights events [and] people loved it,” he said. “But now everyone’s finger is hovering over the offensive tattletale button; everyone’s afraid of not noticing what’s offensive. I haven’t dialed anything back, but I’ve sort of started to avoid buzzwords. Race, sexuality — you have to be a little more careful with your language, which I think is ridiculous in 2015.” 
As seen in the July 30th 2015 issue of the Hippo. 

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