, Newburyport, MA

September 12, 2013

Comedy for a cause

Show to benefit Salisbury man with multiple sclerosis

By Jim Sullivan

---- — Some of the North Shore’s best comedians are coming together next week to help out a friend.

The Matt Shirley Comedy Night on Thursday, Sept. 19, at Roma Ristorante in Haverhill will raise money for Shirley, a Salisbury resident with multiple sclerosis.

“We all like doing fundraisers,” said comedian and show organizer Dave Rattigan. “There was no problem lining up comics for this gig. All of the guys know and like Matt and were happy to come out to help him out. This lineup is loaded with great comedians.”

Rattigan will be going for the big laughs along with Bob Seibel, Dave Russo, Tony Moschetto, Amy Tee, Sal Votano and Jimmy Dunn.

Shirley missed several months of work while dealing with his disease earlier this year, and the comics are hoping to help him with some of his living expenses.

“This is a case where a guy needs some help,” said Rattigan, who often books comics through his Scamps Comedy Productions and has enlisted Shirley’s help in the past.

“The way a civilian would plan (a comedy) show might not work at all,” Rattigan said. “In fact, it might even sabotage the show. For example, they might put the comedians in the wrong place. There’s a 40-foot dance floor, and they don’t want to put the comedians near the people. Matt would be the guy to liaison between the venue and the comedians, so that they could put on a better show.”

The two met while Rattigan was teaching a stand-up comedy class at Northern Essex Community College and would eventually gig together.

“Matt worked at the Guitar Center, so he hooked a lot of people up with equipment,” Rattigan said. “He went to the shows, and he would troubleshoot for comedians. I know a lot of people who know him, and they all just gravitate to him. He’s a stand-up guy. He’s a funny guy. He gets the jokes, and he’s fun to hang around with. So the guys really like him.”

“He’s one of the loveliest creatures I have ever known,” Seibel said of Shirley, who couldn’t be reached for comment. “It’s always the people with the worst problems that never complain. This kid has got a bad situation, and everyone I know is complaining about their sick days. Then I see (Shirley), and I say, ‘How dare I complain about the petty stuff that goes on?’

“Matt Shirley is one of my heroes, and I say that without reservation.”

All of the show’s headliners are either North Shore natives or current residents. Seibel hails from Newburyport and has been a stand-up comic for more than 35 years, playing all over the U.S., including Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

Russo has been featured on NESN’s “Dirty Water TV” and the E! network’s “The Entertainer.” Salisbury’s Moschetto has appeared on Comedy Central. Votano often appears along with legendary Boston comedian Lenny Clarke, while Haverhill’s Tee is featured in the movie “Laughing Matters ... Next Gen.”

Dunn lives in Hampton, N.H., and is known for his work on NESN Red Sox telecasts and Olympia Sports’ “Jimmy the Cabbie” commercials. Rattigan is a Beverly native whose comedy album has received extensive radio play. He has also been featured on and

“The Roma is a great place to watch a show, and this should be a great one,” Rattigan said.

“This is something that’s well-deserved,” Seibel said. “Because Matt has got some big issues going, and I’m thrilled to give some of my time for something like this.”

If you go

What: Matt Shirley Comedy Night

When: Thursday, Sept. 19. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; show starts at 8.

Where: Roma Ristorante, 29 Middlesex St., Haverhill

Tickets: $20, available at the door, online at or by calling 978-609-1245.