Doris Ballard still sees her hometown as a city with potential.
Already a major force in three local venues – television, business and, most recently, comedy – the 71-year-old Concord resident is the backbone behind a multifaceted show that’s scheduled to run the second Thursday of each month at Tandy’s Pub.
Its premiere, on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, will include more than Ballard’s usual lineup of amateur and professional comedians, who have established their home base at Hatbox Theatre at the Steeplegate Mall. Ballard has added musicians and vocalists to the menu, and she’s planning on adding theatrical scripts to the mix later.
She promises “a different theme and surprises every night,” according to a recent press release.
Reached by phone, Ballard revealed lofty goals for a city the size of Concord. She wants New Englanders to look here now and then for their comedy, and she’s adding the other acts to make it a unique form of entertainment.
“I want to put Concord, New Hampshire, on the map in terms of comedy,” Ballard said. “And I think this will be different. I’ve been to comedy clubs, but I want this one to be a little bit different. I want people asking, ‘What are they doing next time?’ I don’t want the same-old, same-old.”
Ballard will serve as host on opening night, but she’s already paid some dues when it comes to stand-up comedy, and she was already well known before dipping her toe into the comedy pool.
She remains the executive director of ConcordTV, and her husband, Norman Ballard, owned the popular Ballard’s party store before retiring and focusing on their familiar ice cream shop.
Looking to widen her horizons and those of the city, Ballard created an educational program called Laughta in New Hampsha’s School of Comedy, which consisted of a three-hour workshop and instruction from professionals, some of whom came up from Boston.
Meanwhile, Ballard has performed at various clubs in the state, including Jaffrey, Portsmouth and the Hatbox at the Concord mall, which has evolved into the home base for the project.
Now, Ballard wants more. She got the idea to expand her comedy show while attending a holiday party at Tandy’s, part of the celebration she had organized for the New Hampshire Coalition for Community Media.
“I looked at the place and said they need to have a comedy club right here,” Ballard said. “I wanted an upscale comedy club in Concord, and I wanted it on Main Street, which is the heart of Concord.”
Tandy’s owners thought it was a good idea as well. Ballard chose a once-a-month show, believing that will keep the idea fresh.
“That’s opposed to doing it once a week,” Ballard said. “I want people to look forward to it.”
To move her vision forward, Ballard has reached out to professional comedians, first for her Hatbox shows and now for the Valentine’s Day gig. The headliner is a comedian named Bob Sheehy, a veteran of the Boston comedy club scene who has performed at landmarks like Nick’s Comedy Stop and Giggles Comedy Club, and worked with big names such as Bob Marley (the comedian), Steve Sweeney and Lenny Clark.
“There’s always a headliner who wants to perform in Concord,” Ballard said. “The ones I’m reaching out to are saying yes and I’m excited they want to come here. It pays a stipend, but it’s nothing and they still want to come to Concord.”
Local stand-up comedians will include David Afflick, Norman Ballard, Karen Desmarais, Rich Gauthier and Allen Michael-Harber.
Afflick’s wife, Seraphim Afflick D’Andrea, a Marilyn Monroe tribute artist and opera singer, will be the guest vocalist.
Tickets are $10. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
(This story appeared in the Jan. 17 edition of the Concord Monitor.)