Kevin Bartini: From Lee to ‘The Daily Show'
Kevin Bartini has come a long way from cracking jokes at St. Mary's School in his native Lee.
Fresh off the heels of a nationally touring stage comedy, tapings for "The Daily Show with John Stewart" and releasing his first stand-up album, the 34-year-old Bartini will perform two gigs in the Berkshires: Friday night at Café Reva in Pittsfield and Saturday night at The PNA in Adams.
He credits fellow Berkshire native and funnyman Jesse Adams, who will appear with him, for organizing and promoting the local shows.
"It's cool that there are things to do and comedy to see in the Berkshires," said Bartini, whose last major show at home was in 2007 at ZipStohr's "Berkshire Comedy Spotlight."
Major comedy shows have sprung up all over Berkshire County this spring. Acts like Joan Rivers (E!), Jim Breuer ("SNL") and Jessimae Peluso (MTV) have appeared in Pittsfield at the Colonial Theatre, Spice Dragon's "The Laugh Lounge" and Rumpy's Tavern in Lenox.
"I'm always looking for reasons to come back to the Berkshires. Any chance to work and come home is the best," said Bartini, who lives in New York's Morningside Heights with his wife. Jessica, and their cats, Archie and Edith.
He describes his life in comedy as a "kind of weird collision."
"I grew up in a comedy boom of the ‘80s where there was constant stand-up on television," he said. "I knew early on, since like kindergarten age, I was pretty funny. Yeah, I sound like a [expletive] for saying that, but it's kind of true."
Bartini, a 1997 Lee High School graduate who studied for a brief time at Berkshire Community College, said there really wasn't any opportunity for him to perform stand-up.
"We're going back 20 years or so now. There was no comedy scene at all in the Berkshires," said the comedian, although he does recall being about 12 years old when his parents took him to see Jerry Seinfeld perform in Lenox.
Bartini also knew the odds against him as a teen trying to do stand-up. "I knew a) I wouldn't have any material relatable to a drinking-age crowd and b) I really couldn't drive anywhere," he said.
He did theater instead.
His credits include Shakespeare & Comp-any's Fall Festival of Shakespeare, Town Players of Pittsfield, as well as behind-the-scenes work at Williamstown Theatre Festival and Barrington Stage Company.
The aspiring funnyman said he never lost sight of doing comedy. He was 20 years old when he got his break from Tom Nicchi Sr., first owner of The Comedy Works in Albany, N.Y. Nicchi's son, Tom Jr., now owns the club.
"(Tom Sr.) was very generous with young comics who happened to be from the area. He'd have a late show and give you five minutes to open if he had the time. Basically, I'd just call him in the afternoon and ask him, ‘Do you have room?' Then I'd drive out there and do my five minutes," Bartini said.
He did this routine for about a year, meeting some notable comics along the way. Eventually, after moving to New York with two Berkshire theater friends, he started working with some of them.
"I was coached by Lisa Lampanelli," said Bartini, referring to comedy's so-called "Queen of Mean" who's known for her "insult comedy."
He said people like Lampanelli taught him not only the art of developing and writing original material, but also the practice of giving back to budding comics.
"I try to do the same now when clubs have younger talent, giving them my time to talk and listen. There were certainly a lot of people who did that with me when I was younger," Bartini said.
He released his first spoken word comedy album this year, "Showing the Horses Who's Boss." It can be found online at Amazon.com, CDBaby and iTunes. Though the recording was made in New York, the cover photo was shot on Stockbridge Road in Lee. The comedian said he hopes to begin recording a second album this fall.
Bartini has diversified his work to keep with the times, from building an online presence to producing a short film, recording podcasts and writing for other people.
"You have to not just do stand-up but be professionally funny to be successful. It's unlike any other time in creative history," Bartini said.
Over the years he's experimented with different facets of comedy, from political humor to personal narrative style.
He says he doesn't do things for shock value, but his material is R-rated. Track titles for his new album include, "Finding God on Facebook," "New York Tourists" and "Making a Sex Tape."
"Basically, I don't want kids at my shows. That makes everyone uncomfortable," he said.
What Bartini stand-up goers will find are a lot of personal stories and humorous observations, as well as conversation.
"I like to talk with the audience. It's more exciting with the audience out there with you too," said Bartini. "I just let my own personal sense of humor be my guide."
In addition to doing the New York comedy club circuit, he has studied improv comedy with the Upright Citizens Brigade and has been in the Las Vegas Comedy Festival and New York Underground Comedy Festival.
His television credits include "Who Wants To Be a Million-aire," Discovery Chan-nel's "Cash Cab," The Game Show Network's "Newlywed Game," and NBC's "Saturday Night Live." Bartini is a warm-up comic for "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," and has appeared on "The Colbert Report."
Since 2011, he's been in the news for his Change.org petition to co-name a portion of Manhattan's West 121st Street after the late comedian George Carlin, who went to a Catholic school and drew inspiration there.
Despite heavy opposition from the neighborhood's Corpus Christi Church -- Carlin openly knocked the church in his routines -- Bartini ultimately garnered more than 2,000 signatures and the endorsement of Carlin's daughter, Kelly Carlin. The proposal is going before New York's City Council as part of an omnibus bill of other proposed street co-namings.
The busy Bartini also return-ed to his theater roots this winter, starring in the nationally touring production of "You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up!" a new comedy by Annabelle Gur-witch and Jeff Kahn.
"It's awesome," said Bartini of his accomplishments and adventures. "Sometimes when I have those moments of frustration, as any artist does, I think of the guy I was when I came fresh out of the Berkshires and how much things have changed. It's been a nice pat on the back to work with the likes of Stewart and Colbert. At the same time, it reminds you that you can't rest on your laurels."
If you go ...
What: Lee native comedian Kevin Bartini
When: Friday night at 8 at Café Reva in Pittsfield. Saturday night at 8 at The PNA in Adams.
Details: The Café Reva show includes food and a cash bar. Tickets are $25 per person and can be picked up at the restaurant or reserved by email at REVACOMEDY@gmail.com. Get there early to get a seat. More information at (413) 442-6161. Tickets to Saturday's show at The PNA are $10, and can be reserved in advance by calling (413) 743-9753.
For more information on Kevin Bartini, visit www.KevinBartini.com, or find him on Twitter: @KevinBartini.
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