In front of a room full of people at Giggles Comedy Club inside of the Prince Pizzeria restaurant on Route One, Charlestown native Steve Sweeney did something most people fear. He took the microphone and told jokes. In his dark denim jeans, crisp white shirt, and a velvet black blazer, Sweeney paced across the small stage and did what he does best.
When he first started comedy, Sweeney didn’t use a microphone. And with his deep, booming voice and Boston accent, he still doesn’t need to. But to be an audience member and miss even a word of Sweeney’s cleverly improvised bits would be a shame. Once Sweeney spoke into the microphone, the crowd was his. They cackled at his anecdotes, and the amount of knee slapping that took place was reminiscent of a hillbilly banjo show in the deep south.
“Humor is a shared experience. I like to go up there and not know what I’m doing, and the audience goes with you,” Sweeney said before the show.
Audience interaction was definitely part of the fun, and even though he made fun of the ones he singled out, like the middle-aged man sitting at one of the front tables with a cosmopolitan in hand, everyone secretly vied to gain some speck of attention from the king of comedy.
“Are you guys vacationing here?” Sweeney asked in regards to the “unspoiled” Route One. “The only problem is, there’s no place to eat around here.” Everyone laughed. Sweeney is from the area, so it’s okay for him to joke about it.
Sweeney is set to receive an alumni award from the Charlestown community. “It’s one of those places that really forms who you are. I love Charlestown,” the self-proclaimed project kid said. “I look back on it now and some of the criminal activity was extraordinary.” Sweeney said there was a certain attitude, and that he had to develop a certain wit to protect himself. “We spent a lot of time hanging on the corners,” he added.
At 62 years old, his wit has gotten him far. He’s been in 30 movies, radio spots, and performed at numerous comedy shows. He started by doing impressions of wine-o’s, but was mainly passionate about acting. “I started as an actor, doing a one man show at Charles Playhouse… I was more of a performer,” he said. One of the notable movies he was in was the Farley Brothers production of “There’s Something About Mary.” He acted as a police officer during the scene in which Ben Stiller couldn’t zip his fly. “You do a lot of crazy things,” Sweeney said of the acting world. “I was lucky. I was in the number one movies for two summers.”
Now, he teaches screenwriting at Suffolk University. He also works with a drug abuse program for teens. “These drugs are so powerful,” he said. “I take young people to talk to other young people who talk about goals, and there’s a refusal program.” According to Sweeney, drugs used to be easier to avoid, but now they’re more abundant, coming in more and more forms that make it harder to say no to. He tries to help young teens stay above the influence until they’re strong enough to avoid peer pressure on their own.
Sweeney himself is not impervious to danger, and witnessed a lot friends commit acts they shouldn’t have when he was younger. He was even assaulted one night during a comedy routine. A woman was intoxicated and threw a glass at Sweeney after breaking the finger of the owner. Luckily, on this night, there was no lashing out aside from a tipsy birthday girl who kept trying to converse with Sweeney.
Others were more shy, escaping a badgering joke or two. The audience most enjoyed Sweeney’s dynamic impersonations of some of the more ridiculous stereotypes found in Boston…the jerk in Logan Airport who becomes suspicious when you tell him to have a nice day, the gentleman sitting at the bar before noon, and the tough guys with small heads and big arms lurking at the boardwalk in “Reveah.”
He was on a roll at this point, a nice segue way into his Dunkin’ Donuts bit.
A lover of Dunkin’ Donuts, Sweeney rubbed his Pillsbury size stomach while pretending that he was placing an order. “I’ll have three glazed donuts, five crullers, and a coffee with skim milk,” he made a face of surprise at the last statement, because not having 2% milk really saves those calories.