Doug Ouimette at Comix Roadhouse at Mohegan Sun (Submitted)
Doug and Christina Ouimette with baby Hayden (Submitted)
John Perrotta (Submitted)
Tyler Hittner (Submitted)
Rockin’ Joe Hebert (Submitted)
Joanna Rapoza (Submissive)
Mystic Luxury Cinemas has been the site of various live events over the years, from concerts to dance performances to a performance by The Amazing Kreskin.
For the first time, the theater will host a stand-up comedy on September 9.
The show, featuring Rhode Island-based comics, was the brainchild of Doug Ouimette, who lives in Coventry, RI Ouimette, whose day job is a career education specialist at the University of Rhode Island, got into stand-up comedy over four years ago and has since performed everywhere from the Comix Roadhouse to Mohegan Sun (where he performed on his Last Comix Standing) to The Comic Strip Live NYC.
Her parents lived in Ashaway, RI, and Mystic was the only movie theater they went to. They suggested Doug check it out. When it did, it recognized its potential as a stand-up comedy site.
“It’s a really cool place. They have new reclining seats with trays, and they have beer and wine there. It’s just a unique location (and) being inside the Olde Mistick Village is a great addition,” says Ouimette, who has also produced comedy shows for the past two months.
He saw the auditorium with a small stage that Mystic has and approached the manager about possibly having a stand-up show there. This led to the multi-artist show scheduled for September 9.
“I always thought a movie theater would be a really cool fit because it has everything a comedy club would want to have,” Ouimette says.
The theaters also have fewer seats than the rumored 3,100-seat Providence Performing Arts Center, so it’s better for a stand-up show. (The auditorium Ouimette will use at Mystic has 120 seats.) It also means there are fewer tickets to sell, so it’s easier to bring in smaller local artists.
Bill Dougherty, co-owner of Mystic Luxury Cinemas, says they had wanted to try comedy in theaters, but that never happened.
“I’m excited about it. If all goes well, we’d love to open it up and do more,” Dougherty says.
Ouimette says, “We see how this first one unfolds. We would like this theater to become the home of Mystic where the comedy is.
Choose the range
The lineup that Ouimette has put together is led by John Perrotta, who gave Ouimette his acting debut.
“He’s in the Rhode Island Comedy Hall of Fame. He helped find people like Bill Burr, who is one of the biggest names in comedy right now. He helped discover a few other people. But it’s also hilarious. He is known as the Italian Don Rickles. It’s the first one I thought of booking,” says Ouimette.
Ouimette also brought in Joe Hebert, who does a lot of shows with Perrotta and runs the Rhode Island Comedy Hall of Fame. Ouimette says Hébert, who plays guitar, is “just a really wholesome, funny guy.”
Tyler Hittner also stars. Ouimette says Hittner is “possibly the funniest comedian right now walking around New England that nobody’s ever heard of.” He goes up there with a walker because he is disabled. He has trouble walking, but he incorporates that into his set. He is always the most positive person in the room. His set is extremely energetic and everyone laughs from start to finish.
The host is Joanna Rapoza, who started doing comedy in western Connecticut and New York.
His wife’s illness inspires a career in comedy
As for Ouimette’s own comedy, he says, “I’m talking about married life. I’m talking about everyday scenarios.
He talks a bit about the Christmas tree shop and says, “I’m known as, like, the Christmas tree shop comic. People send my photos every time they go there. The Christmas shop even makes fun of it.
But the other significant part of his act is about his wife, Christina – and the debilitating disease she has suffered from for 4½ years. This is myalgic encephalomyelitis, more commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome.
“Whenever it’s depicted in comedy or the media or anything, it’s always the patient who is the butt of the joke,” Ouimette says, mentioning a Ricky Gervais joke and how the main character of “House” prescribed sweets to treat a person with chronic fatigue syndrome. .
“It’s kind of how it’s perceived in the mainstream, so I tried to raise awareness in my comedy. … You’ll see where I start raising awareness of chronic fatigue syndrome and talking about the process diagnostics and doctors who say it’s all in her head, what it’s like to go on vacation with her, and the different ways she uses everyday objects in retrograde or unique ways,” he says. For example, she uses a FitBIT to make sure she doesn’t take too many steps, unlike how most people use it.
It was the illness of Ouimette’s wife that pushed him into acting. He recalls how Christina, whom he met when they were both interns in Mohegan Sun’s special events department, was valedictorian in college and traveled the country as an events coordinator. But she was stopped by her illness, which broke out after undergoing two surgeries under general anesthesia. There was nothing Doug could do to fix the situation; he started seeing a therapist to try to navigate the transition to this new phase of life. The therapist said he needed to start talking to people about his feelings and not bottle them up.
When he told his co-workers about the therapist’s recommendation, Ouimette recalled, “They were like, ‘You should try that stand-up comedy that everyone always told you to do.’”
He went to an open-mic event, which Perrotta attended. Perrotta gave his business card to Ouimette and has now been booking Ouimette for nearly four years.
“In my head, I’m like, ‘Well, I’m supposed to talk about things that stress me out. It’s his illness that stresses me out, so I guess that’s what the public is going to hear about,’” says- he laughs.
Ouimette says his wife (they now have a 7-month-old son) helps him write and approves of any jokes that reference his illness. He doesn’t want the desire to laugh to outweigh the desire to be specific about the disease.
It’s not a black comedy, says Ouimette; it’s like any comedian who makes fun of a situation in his life.
For example, Ouimette and Christina, who is in a wheelchair, got a handicap-accessible hotel room on the 20th floor. When they got off the elevator, there was a sign saying that in case of fire, use the stairs.
“This is not a depressing conference. It’s not a TED talk,” says Ouimette. “You laugh and you subtly learn about this disease.”
IF YOU ARE GOING TO
What: Doug Ouimette Presents: John Perrotta Live
Who: Starring John Perrotta, along with Joanna Rapoza, Tyler Hittner, Doug Ouimette and Rockin’ Joe Hebert
Where: Mystic Luxury Cinemas, Olde Mistick Village, Coogan Boulevard, Mystic
When: 8:30 p.m. on September 9