He will bring the jokes; you bring the laughs to Comedy Night

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By Jenny Hartley

INDIAN LAND – Comedian Tony Boswell says his dream job would be to host Weekend Update, the popular, long-running skit on "Saturday Night Live."

"Is that going to happen?" Boswell said, sitting at his kitchen table at his home in BridgeMill. "Probably not. I'm 45."

But he's having a good time, anyway. He just placed second in the 28th Seattle International Comedy Competition.

After performing for more than 6,000 audience members in 23 shows in 26 days in 19 different venues around Washington state, Boswell finished less than half of a point out of first place to winner Marcus, a Salt Lake City native. Boswell placed third in the Seattle competition in 2004.

Originally from Chicago, Boswell moved to Indian Land in 2006. He has been performing stand-up comedy for more than 20 years, appearing in 41 states with close to 4,000 performances to his credit.

He has been a finalist in the Boston Comedy Festival and the Pittsburgh World Series of Comedy and has been featured in both the Chicago and New Orleans comedy festivals.

Now, he's working to bring professional comics to a local venue, Lancaster Tavern, just outside of Lancaster.

Comedy Night at the Tavern begins March 4. Boswell will host it when he's in town, introducing his brand of comedy, "intelligent sarcasm," to a new audience. He's working with tavern owner Bernard Carter to make comedy night a reality.

Boswell lives across the street from a liquor distributor who delivers to the tavern. That's how Boswell and Carter met.

"I just sold him on my personality," Boswell said. "We had similar ideas. I really hope this does well and lasts a really long time."

Comedy Night at the Tavern will be open to amateur and professional comics who perform stand-up, sketches or improv.

Boswell didn't go through school as the class clown or dreaming of appearing on Comedy Central. He was quiet and reserved, stuck in a boring retail job.

"My mom is still amazed every day that I'm doing this," he said.

He went to college, majoring in engineering and then fine art. He began performing stand-up in 1987, and attended and graduated from The Players Workshop of Second City.

After Second City, he helped create the Department of Works Comedy Ensemble, an improv and sketch comedy troupe. Members of the troupe included Second City's Ed Furman, Comedy Central's Matt Walsh and Andy Dick of "Newsradio."

"Andy still owes me about $15 for a bar tab," Boswell said.

With the Department of Works, Boswell produced and co-directed two shows, "No Perversities Added" and "The Three Dollar Show." He's appeared in the movies "The Babe" and "Meet the Parents."

But it certainly hasn't been glamorous. Although he's performed in large cities in big venues, there are also gigs like the one in North Dakota last year, where a drunk woman in the audience wouldn't shut up. Boswell asked that the woman be removed from the audience. That's when her husband or boyfriend stood up and said, "I'll be back with my shotgun."

That got the police involved and needless to say, "I left town very early the next morning," Boswell said.

He's also had to travel by public bus during his career. In his act, he said if you have to travel by bus, re-evaluate what got you to that point in your life and then stab yourself in the eye with a fork.

A lot of Boswell's comedy, like the horrendous conditions on the bus, is based on real life. His newest material, in which he talks about drugs and alcohol ("Have you ever been so drunk that you drove around for hours....looking for your car?") is real, too. He just celebrated one year of sobriety, receiving his one-year chip from Alcoholics Anonymous.

These life experiences and stuff he reads in newspapers or magazines, or sees on TV, get written down in the notebook he takes everywhere.

He keeps an idea file and uses a spreadsheet to keep them organized, which he refers to when it's time to write new material.

Sometimes the ideas come from Boswell's 7-year-old son, Dylan, a first-grader at Indian Land Elementary School.

"I actually do jokes on stage that he wrote," Boswell said.

Like the one about a conversation Dylan had with his parents.

"Dylan had said something really insightful to his mother, (Karen) and she said to him, "How did you get so smart?" Boswell said.

Dylan replied, "I got your brains."

"My wife thought she was being nice," Boswell said. "She said, "Well, you know you got your daddy's brains, too." And Dylan said, "No – he still has his."

"Of course, on stage I turn it around to make myself the butt of the joke," Boswell said.

Another time, Dylan asked what the word "reap" meant.

"My wife didn't know whether he had said reap or read or ream, so she said, 'Use it in a sentence,'" Boswell said. "He looked her right in the eye and in a very monotone voice said, "WHAT...DOES...REAP...MEAN?"

Sounds like Boswell may be reaping that intelligent sarcasm he sowed.

For more, go to Boswell's Web site at www.tonyboswell.com. Videos from the Seattle competition can be seen at www.myspace.com/tonyboswell.

Contact Jenny Hartley at 283-1151 or jhartley@thelancasternews.com