A cavalcade of Boston’s veteran comics
Appeared in Stuff@Night magazine, April 11, 2000
By Nick A. Zaino III
Don Gavin -
When you hear Don Gavin’s voice on his answering machine, you think the tape is playing at the wrong speed. Surely no one speaks this fast. You’d think that if he spoke slower, his voice would drop an octave or two. But that’s all part of Gavin’s charm. He is rough-hewn but nimble, both vocally and mentally, which makes him a premier Boston-Irish smartass. “It seems to be that type of vituperative show, a little more spirited,” Gavin says of Boston comedy, and his show in particular. “Certainly not laid-back.”
Gavin was in the scene from the very beginning, in 1979, when the Comedy Connection was the only club in town. He found success the first time he stepped on stage at the club’s open-mike night. “And I was being confronted by Lenny Clarke, who thought I’d been working for years and years,” he remembers. Gavin soon discovered, though, that being a good stand-up would require more of him than he had originally thought. “The third time I did it, I made up all of this stuff and I was horrible. Twelve minutes seemed like an hour and a half. I found out you can’t just make this shit up.”
A little more than a year after he began, Gavin, who was dividing his time between comedy and a job as a teacher/guidance counselor, had a dramatic wake-up call. “I went off the road driving back from school one day because I was so exhausted from being up until three in the morning the night before,” he says. “I hit the guardrail, and hit the windshield, and I said, ‘I’ve got to pick one or the other.’ That was the turning point.” He’s given the past 20 years to performing full time.
Watching Gavin now, at one of his regular Wednesday night-gigs at the Comedy Connection, it’s hard to imagine a comedian less self-conscious. For all the energy he puts into his delivery, there is still a very relaxed sense about him. “It’s more like I’m sitting around the living room talking,” he says. Live comedy hasn’t mellowed him or burned him out. “As long as there are people listening, I’m all set.”