…By Robin Vaughan
On Saturday night at the Comedy Connection, the 20001 Boston International Comedy Festival chose as its champion local favorite Paul Nardizzi, a sarcastic wit known for his bits on such day-to-day annoyances as getting high-beamed from 10 miles down the road (“How arrogant is that? Like he’s saying, ‘I don’t even wanna see you when I get there.’”).
Unlike last year’s upstart contest winner, Dave Russo, this year’s local hero isn’t exactly a new kid on the circuit. Nardizzi, a 10-year stand-up vet who has worked the national tour circuit, appeared twice on Conan O’Brien and won prizes at San Francisco and Aspen, is one of a few seasoned local headliners in have upped the ante at this year’s contest by duking it out with relative unknowns in the preliminary rounds.
Others to have taken the challenge included Frank Santorelli. The popular headliner and “Sopranos” character actor who has been featured on just about every all-star show on the schedule this week was edged out by a single point on Tuesday by Belmont-born New Yorker Guila Rozzi the sole woman to make it into the contest finals.
All of the finalists contributed to a show hilarious enough to lend real clout to the title of Boston Comedy Festival champ. The crowd who packed the Connection for the special 6 p.m. show was rewarded with well-structured, high-energy sets.
Of particular note were Mike Birbiglia, and third-place winner Mike Baker (who killed with his bit about solving youth fights ’80s-style – by dancing, a la “Footloose”).
Host Stuttering John delivered a joke or two, but added little to the show’s impact; 2000 festival winner Russo’s intro and closing sets were far more entertaining.