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August 11th, 2011

Louis C.K., Tracy Morgan, Sarah Silverman, Ricky Gervais, Bill Maher, Wanda Sykes, Russell Peters, Kathy Griffin and Norm Macdonald are among the stars who will go straight for the funny bone around New York City during the eighth annual New York Comedy Festival from Nov. 9 to 13, festival officials will announce Wednesday.

The festival is presented in association with Comedy Central, and is produced by Carolines on Broadway, the New York City comedy club. More than 150 comedians will perform at various spots around the city. This year, for the first time, a performance will be held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Other sites include the Beacon Theater, Carolines on Broadway, Carnegie Hall and the 92nd Street Y.

Citi Private Pass and Verizon FiOS presale tickets will be available beginning Wednesday at 10 a.m. Tickets for the general public go on sale Aug. 15. For more information or to buy tickets, visit

The festival highlights include a performance by Louis C.K., the star of the FX series “Louie,” at the Beacon Theater, where Bill Maher (HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher”) will also perform. Mr. Gervais will appear at the 92nd St Y for a conversation with Bill Carter, a reporter for The New York Times. Additional shows, schedule information and locations will be announced later.

An earlier version of this post misstated the day the festival starts. It is Nov. 9, not Nov. 8.

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June 15th, 2011

Backed by a fifteen-person big band that included his E Street drummer Max Weinberg and pianist Roy Bittan, Bruce Springsteen played a pretty terrific three-song set at the Beacon Theatre last night for the Stand Up for Heroes benefit, presented by the Bob Woodruff Foundation for American service members and their families. After “Open All Night” and before a brass-heavy “Kitty’s Back,” Springsteen caught his breath and told the packed crowd the “only joke I ever liked.” More sensitive Boss fans might want to skip this one …
Here it is, transcribed in full:
“A guy and a girl are in a bar and it’s late at night and things are getting really good and they decide to go home together. She gets in the car and they are driving and he’s like, ‘I can’t make it home. I can’t wait. Mind if I pull off on this dirt road in the woods?’ She says, ‘It’s fine. Go ahead.’ He pulls the car over on the dirt road in the woods and they get out and go deep in the forest. It’s very dark and they’re going at it. ‘Oh! Ah! Yeah!’ He said, ‘This is the best I’ve ever had, but I can’t see. I just wish I had a flashlight.’ She said, ‘Me too. You’ve been eating grass for the last ten minutes.’”

Hero worship

By admin on June 14th, 2011
By Tad Friend
June 14th, 2011

We admire people who can do something we can’t. If we wish we could do that thing, too—or are very glad we don’t have to—then we call those people heroes. Hero worship beamed in all directions at Manhattan’s Beacon Theatre the other night during “Stand Up for Heroes,” a benefit for Bob Woodruff’s foundation, which aids wounded veterans. (Woodruff, an ABC News correspondent, was himself badly wounded in Iraq in 2006.) The show’s array of stars had other stars crowding in backstage to watch. “It’s a little Rat Pack-y thing,” Max Weinberg, Bruce Springsteen’s longtime drummer, said. When Tony Bennett sang “The Best Is Yet to Come,” Springsteen was humming along, just offstage. “Fabulous,” he said about Bennett’s swingy, catfooted phrasing. “Fabulous! I do not want to follow Tony Bennett.”

But he did, ripping into “Open All Night,” backed by Weinberg’s fifteen-piece band. Bob Woodruff stood in the wings, bobbing on the downbeats. “You can’t top this,” he told his wife, Lee, who was shimmying in a purple dress. Nearby, Jon Stewart, the evening’s host, was pounding the air drums alongside a wary Jerry Seinfeld, who stood with his arms crossed. When Springsteen hopped onto the Steinway to play a few licks, the crowd went crazy, and Stewart leaned toward Seinfeld and said, “If you could do that, you would. That’s what you would do.” After a moment, Seinfeld nodded.

The annual “Heroes” concerts were conceived by Andrew Fox and Caroline Hirsch, the producers of the New York Comedy Festival, when they saw a documentary about Woodruff’s experience after his tank was blown up, and about how his struggles, which included thirty-six days in a coma, paled beside those of some of his fellow-patients. Realizing that, by and large, it’s the poor who go to war, Fox and Hirsch wanted to get those who were rich in funds or talent to return the favor. Backstage, Hirsch recalled that during the Vietnam War, when she was a sixteen-year-old in Flatbush, “my eighteen-year-old boyfriends, the Irish and Italian boys who didn’t have the money for college, were the ones who got drafted and came back injured and dead. Just like the soldiers now.”

The Woodruffs opened the show by speaking not to those who’d paid (up to twenty-five hundred dollars) for tickets but to the forty-six wounded veterans in dress blues and dress greens who sat down front. Bob Woodruff, who has a residue of faint scars and the occasional memory lapse, read the names of the wounded to the audience. The soldiers, some missing eyes or limbs, some suffering from brain injuries or post-traumatic stress, rose, often slowly, to stand. In the wings, Stewart said “Wow!” and Springsteen applauded with all his might.

When Springsteen’s guitar was auctioned off, for a hundred and forty thousand dollars, to the founder of Philosophy cosmetics—the showpiece bid in an evening that raised more than $2.5 million—Bob Woodruff privately told Lee, “Now what are we going to do? Really can’t top that.” Then Seinfeld strode onstage, coiled and quizzical, to close the show. He began with a bit about his mother’s physical decline and the high-tech gizmos available to her—“If you need brakes on your walker, perhaps you’ve been misdiagnosed”—and went on to skewer cell phones, Cialis, and the culture of constant hydration. The jokes built and built, spiralling up like a verbal Guggenheim, until the soldiers lay about in a sprawl of helpless joy.

When Seinfeld came offstage, Lee Woodruff ran to embrace him. “Oh!” he said, surprised that she’d breached his perimeter. “Thank you.”

“You have that all memorized?” Bob Woodruff asked. But Seinfeld was gone, like a superhero embarrassed by gratitude.

Springsteen was gone by then, too, at least until next year. His selection as the series’ anchor was Lee Woodruff’s idea: it came about, she explained, when her husband was comatose and she’d talk into his ear for hours, telling him that now he was safe. “Bruce had heard that Bob was a fan, and he’d sent a package of DVDs and a letter saying that Bob was a hero,” she said. “Bob was in a coma—he wasn’t going to know I was lying—so I changed what Bruce said a little and I went, like, ‘Honey’ ”—she snored to indicate his response—“ ‘the Boss wrote to you, and he says if you wake up he’s going to come and play for you and the other soldiers.’ Two days after Bob woke up, he still didn’t have any words, but he started doing this”—she made a strumming motion—“and the first thing he said was ‘I need one of those na-ner-na-ners.’ I said, ‘O.K., a guitar, but why?’ And he said, ‘To be ready to play when the Boss man comes.’ ”