Hometown boys Lenny Clarke and Dane Cook got laughs, cheers, and applause, but it was the world champion Boston Red Sox that stole the show at the 10th annual ''Comics Come Home" benefit for the Cam Neely Cancer Fund.
After a short video of clips from previous years, host and cocreator Denis Leary started the show Saturday at the Orpheum the way he has for a decade, singing ''The [Expletive] Song." The song, originally about how annoying Leary can be, had a new target this year in New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. The crowd cheered every cheap shot as Leary intoned, ''The curse is officially reversed," and a video screen showed a picture of him burning a Yankees cap.
The usually caustic Leary acted like a kid at Christmas as he introduced Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo and the World Series trophy to a standing ovation. Arroyo, barely audible amid chanting fans, promised to bring another trophy to town next year. Two groups from the audience even bid $50,000 each to sit at tables onstage and have their pictures taken with him and the trophy during the show.
And, oh yeah, there were still 12 comics waiting backstage. It was a night of mostly solid material from Boston headliners past (Cook, Nick DiPaolo, Patrice O'Neal) and present (Don Gavin, Tony V., Steve Sweeney, Paul Nardizzi). Adam Ferrara, Jim Gaffigan, and Emerson grad Eddie Brill rounded out the roster, with Jeff Garlin of ''Curb Your Enthusiasm" dropping in between sets at the Comedy Connection. The Chicago native wore a Cubs jersey, praising the Red Sox for killing a curse. ''You have kicked open the door for us," he said.
Some of the most daring laughs of the night belonged to O'Neal, who has a penchant for winning over audiences with difficult material. He managed to silence the crowd by saying, ''Ten years from now, 9/11 will be a holiday. I guarantee it." His point -- that holidays from Easter to Veterans Day come from pain and tragedy -- was obvious but still shocking. ''Enjoy your turkey today because Indians got shot in the face," he said.
The show rolled to an end with Cook and Clarke, who both drew some to their feet. Ever since Cook's set at ''Comics Come Home VI," when he ended his routine by tearing his clothes off, his animated style has been a hit at the event. This time, he pleased the crowd with an off-color bit on how to get people to remember you.
But it was Cambridge native Clarke whom the audience revered, chanting his name before Leary could even introduce him. Looking unusually dapper in a black suit and silver tie, Clarke cracked, ''Tenth anniversary and I'm the only one who dressed up."
Clarke isn't a comic as much as he is a force of nature. He picked fights with the guests onstage and ripped through a short set before ending the night with a plea for soldiers in Iraq. ''If we go to war again, I want to send middle-aged married men. We'll pay our own way."