Gavin forges on, full speed ahead
Local comic brings rapid-fire approach to telling jokes, performing shows
By Nick A. Zaino III,
Globe Correspondent | November 5, 2004

An agent once tried to get Don Gavin to slow down his rapid-fire delivery to give audiences a chance to catch up with him. The agent pointed out where he was losing laughs, but Gavin just couldn't get comfortable letting up. Gavin no longer works with that agent, and after 25 years as a staple in Boston's comedy scene, it's safe to say he made the right decision.

If he loses the audience every so often, so be it. ''That means they'll have to pay a second time to see me, to get all the jokes," Gavin says.

There will be plenty of chances to catch Gavin this month in Boston. On Sunday, he will be master of ceremonies at ''Grin and Share It II," a benefit for My Brother's Table, which provides food and health insurance for the homeless in Lynn, at the Kowloon in Saugus, with nine other comedians.

On Wednesday, he's on the bill for the Make-A-Wish Foundation benefit at the Comedy Connection. And next Saturday, he'll make his usual appearance at Comics Come Home at the Orpheum Theatre. He'll be back at the Kowloon for his own show on Nov. 20. ''They'll be doing a benefit for me eventually when I don't get paid for all of this," Gavin says.

With so many benefits on his schedule, it's fitting that Gavin, 55, should be experiencing success in film and television after having developed a stage persona of Father Don Gavin. The character first appeared at last year's roast of Denis Leary on Comedy Central, at the suggestion of one of Leary's band members. Father Don then made an appearance on Lenny Clarke's ABC sitcom ''It's All Relative." Now, he's in talks with Leary's producers to play a chaplain on F/X's ''Rescue Me."

''I don't know if it's typecasting or not, but if it gets me work, I'll be happy with that," he says.

Unlike Leary and others who left Boston to follow the entertainment industry in Los Angeles and New York, Gavin kept his roots in New England. He grew up in West Roxbury, taught English for 12 years in Weymouth and Scituate, and makes his home in Nahant. That has kept him from more high-profile work. ''Very rarely do you see talent agencies come to Nahant. I don't know what that's all about," he deadpans.

Instead, he works cruise ships for about 30 weeks a year and works local clubs such as the Kowloon and the Connection, influencing countless local comedians along the way. Some of those comics, such as Wendy Liebman, have carried his influence to the national scene. Liebman met Gavin as an aspiring Boston comic in the mid-1980s. ''Don Gavin was one of a few comics that I emulated," she says. ''I'm not sure I did this consciously, it's just that his voice really got to me, and I was able to hear it live on a regular basis."

Gavin gets his share of work from friends in New England, such as Leary and filmmakers Bobby and Peter Farrelly, who cast him in ''Shallow Hal" and the upcoming ''Fever Pitch."

''I've worked very hard to be -- what's the word? -- not famous, I guess," he says, laughing. ''It seems to have worked out so far."