The Hippo


May 26, 2020








Paul Landwehr. Courtesy photo.

Headliners New Year’s Eve Comedy Gala

Happening at Radisson Hotel in Manchester and Nashua, Holiday Inn in Concord, Fratello’s Italian Grille in Manchester and Governor’s Inn in Rochester. Tickets are $30 and up, with dinner and hotel packages available. Full information at

Laugh till midnight
Make New Year’s Eve comedy plans

By Michael Witthaus

 New Hampshire is a funny state. That’s not just because of national stars born here, like Seth Meyers, Sarah Silverman and Adam Sandler. Granite State native Drew Dunn won this year’s Boston Comedy Festival, for example, and the number of venues offering stand-up comedy is growing all the time. Chunky’s in Manchester, Portsmouth’s Redhook Brewery and Dover Brickhouse all added laughs to their menus in 2017. In Rochester, Curlie’s recently opened as the state’s first full-time comedy club.

No one’s booked comedy in New England longer than Rob Steen, and New Year’s Eve is always big for his Headliners franchise. This year, events happen at five locations: Governor’s Inn in Rochester, Concord’s Holiday Inn, the Radisson Inn in Nashua and two Manchester venues, Fratello’s Italian Grille and the Radisson Inn.
The latter event is the biggest of the four, with entertainment on multiple stages. A round robin of comedy in Showrooms One and Two has veteran Boston standup Mike Donovan, Rhode Island funny man EJ Edmonds, and two local comics, Matt Barry and Paul Landwehr.
Landwehr is having a breakout year, appearing as a feature comic on many bills. He’s opened several opera house shows for regional star Juston McKinnney, and done shows at big rooms like Tupelo Music Hall and Vermont’s Engine Room. In November, he headlined at the Shaskeen, where he began doing comedy open mikes just a few years ago. 
“It felt great to headline in the same room I started in,” Landwehr said. “All the writing, driving, good nights and bad are worth it when you can finally showcase your hard work paying off. It’s my hometown; I just want to make Manchester proud.”
Along with comedy, a dueling pianos team will entertain diners enjoying a three-course meal in the hotel’s Armory Room, followed by DJ dancing and a midnight toast. Packages range from $30 for comedy only, to $316 for admission to all events and a hotel room. 
Nick Lavallee, appearing at the Concord event with Steve Guilmette, is another Manchester comic experiencing a big year in 2017. In addition to telling jokes about his French Canadian upbringing and strange obsession with nachos, he books weekly comedy at the Shaskeen Pub, frequently injecting a younger, hipper element into the city’s scene. 
Lavallee was a late add to the Holiday Inn show, and he’s looking forward to working the room for his first time. 
“This was such a fun, healthy and productive year for me,” he said. “I’ve been on stage this year more than any other in my eight years of being a stand-up. I look forward to ending 2017 strong and giving Concord a wicked funny night.”
Nashua welcomes Tom Hayes, who ran with Stephen Wright, Lenny Clarke, Bobcat Goldthwait, Denis Leary and others in Boston’s comedy heyday, chronicled in the documentary film When Standup Stood Out. Joining Hayes is Dennis Fogg, a comic who’s appeared on Restaurant Impossible and other shows. Dinner, dancing and room packages are also available. 
Originally from Barbados and possessing a distinct island accent, Carl Yard appears at the Governor’s Inn. A $70 ticket includes an impressive buffet (prime rib, haddock with lemon-dill sauce, chicken Marsala) and late-night dancing. Over at Fratello’s in Manchester, Dueling Pianos also holds forth, with an equally sumptuous food spread and DJ music for $70.
The big action, of course, is at Headliners’ flagship location in downtown Manchester. The venue has big changes for next year, when the hotel’s affiliation changes to Doubletree. Comedy will expand from one night to two — Friday and Saturday. Landwehr will appear Friday, March 16; Lavallee is also booked, for Feb. 16. 
“We’re going to try it out until June,” Steen said, adding that he’ll be hosting it, showcase style, in the upstairs club. “If it works, we’ll resume after the summer.” 

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