The annual Comics Come Home, the all-star showcase for the Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care, has provided big names, bigger laughs, and no small share of controversy over the years. Saturday’s installment, the 25th, featured running themes including old age, lesbians, and bad parenting. A good time was had by all . . . we think.
This year all eight comedians on the bill had roots in Massachusetts, host Denis Leary said. Relocated a handful of years ago to TD Garden, the fund-raiser has brought in a total of $31 million for the Neely Foundation. That fact has bought Leary and his cohorts plenty of goodwill.
After opener Joe Yannetty, himself a cancer survivor, made the sold-out crowd his guests at a gender reveal party for his daughter’s baby — “It’s a boy!” — Leary took the opportunity to joke about the rise of gender dysphoria: “Yeah, it’s a boy . . . for now!”
Medford native Robert Kelly destroyed a few folks in the front rows with his crowd work, but he also made light of his own heavy build. When he briefly outpaced the spotlight operator and found himself in shadows, he joked that he shouldn’t be that hard to follow: “I walk like a baby elephant.”
Relatively mild-mannered John Mulaney talked about visiting his 93-year-old grandmother from Marblehead, who’s in the ICU following surgery. She’s doing fine, he reported, though at her age, “just putting a blanket on her, you could kill her.”
The show opened with an introduction by Michael J. Fox and a montage of past performances. Backed by his band, the Enablers, Leary sang a parody about the milestone 25th year, to the tune of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
Pete Holmes, who grew up in Lexington, got lots of mileage out of his relationship with his parents. His mom calls her favorite singer “Salon Dijon,” he said. And he credited his wife for one of the night’s smarter jokes. Stars are like hipsters, he explained, affecting a jaded attitude: “Are they just seeing this now? I did this, like, a billion years ago.”
The unflappable Steven Wright, who attended Emerson College with Leary, delivered his usual array of droll non sequiturs. “I can’t wait to live in the moment,” he deadpanned. Leary’s old buddy Lenny Clarke took the stage in a gold lame suit like the one Elvis Presley wore on the cover of “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong,” singing a silly version of Tony Joe White’s “Polk Salad Annie,” which was rewritten about his own girth and drastic weight loss: “Health Salad Lenny.”
Amid all the testosterone (and talk of the organs that produce it), local nightclub warrior Kelly MacFarland stood out with her uproarious material about her husband of four years, and the absurdity of their domestic life together. But it was the caustic Bill Burr, one of stand-up’s current reigning kings, who brought down the house with his headlining set.
After pushing buttons on the subject of various stereotypes, he pivoted.
“I need to bring the room back together,” Burr said. “Let’s talk about abortion.”
The show ended with Leary’s customary anthem, its title a seven-letter word for, um, an inconsiderate person. Earlier in the evening, Mayor Marty Walsh appeared onstage to declare Denis Leary Day in Boston.
Momentarily at a loss for words, Leary wondered aloud about all the offensive things he could do with the proclamation in hand.
Comics Come Home
At TD Garden, Nov. 9James Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.