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When I caught up with Al Ducharme, he was on a cruise ship docked at a private island in the Caribbean. He was on board working as a comedian. “I travel more now than I want to,” he said. Covid has taken away a lot of stand-up performance options.
Ducharme’s been a working comedian since 1986, and on Saturday, July 23, he’ll be inducted into the Rhode Island Comedy Hall of Fame at The Comedy Park. “Coming back to your hometown and being recognized in the Comedy Hall of Fame is a great feeling,” says Ducharme. “The fact that the club that hosts the Hall of Fame is in Cranston is a bonus. Of course, the induction happens in Cranston in July, when everyone’s on the Cape or at Matunuck, so I’m not sure anyone will come.”
The Cranston native’s “first foray on stage” came when he was just 17, at a talent show hosted by Charlie Hall and yours truly at Noah’s Arkade, which later became Periwinkles Comedy Club. He didn’t return for another three years, while he was a student at Rhode Island College.
“I was invited to perform on the weekend. I did a lot of impressions back in the day. At the time, ‘Scarface’ was out in theaters. My Tony Montana impression involved throwing flour in my face.” The flour was a stand-in for the cocaine that was so prevalent in the film. “So, I had to clean up before the next act. But I was just happy to be invited to the big stage.”
At the end of the night, Periwinkles bar manager called him over. “He started handing me money. I said, ‘What’s that?’ He said, ‘That’s money, you’re getting paid.’ I was shocked. My reaction was what? No.”
It was just $35, “but to a kid in college, that was a month’s worth of gas. Now it’s about an hour’s worth.”
RICHOF founder Rockin’ Joe Hebert is looking forward to Ducharme’s induction. “It’s overdue, but I’m glad we waited to get a Cranston comic inducted inside a Cranston comedy club.” As for the induction, “it’s going to bring back a lot of memories for all of us who were involved with Periwinkles so many years ago. I’m also happy that Al’s family and friends back home will be able to see him perform and be recognized by the Hall. These things are always fun, and this one is going to be extra special.”
Ducharme moved to New York in 1986 and went all-in on comedy. “By 1989, I was really starting to travel quite a bit. On the road, college shows, corporate shows. I never looked back from there, and one thing led to another. Voiceovers, commercial work.”
One crowning achievement: landing a recurring role in “F is for Family,” Bill Burr’s animated show on Netflix. “Bill used to open for me. He called me and said he needed someone to do voiceovers.” Ducharme submitted some samples. “People started contacting me. They sent me a script, then called me in for a table read. It was in a hotel function room with 120 people in it. They sat me at a table next to executives and producers, faces I know from the business. I thought, crap, this is a major thing.”
His character on the show is Anthony, “basically from my act. Every time I do my line, the whole room bursts into laughter. When we’re done, the showrunner says, ‘Welcome to the family.’ I thought I already had the gig. I guess that was my audition.”
Ducharme married fellow comic Bernadette Pauley 18 years ago. “We fell in love at the Comic Strip in New York City.” Pauley will be appearing with Ducharme during his induction weekend.
Now living in Studio City – “it identifies as Los Angeles” – Ducharme says that they do not compete with each other. “She’s a total support system for me. She’s been my biggest cheerleader. She handles a lot of my calendar and press. She’s more organized than I am.”
Ducharme’s fondest memory as a Rhode Island performer happened in 1986 when he decided to move to New York. “The comics put together a roast to wish me well. I was pretty broke at the time. We were a pretty tight group, all involved in the very beginnings of comedy in Rhode Island. At the end of the night, they handed me a piece of the door charge plus other donations. Again, the bar manager crooked his finger and said, ‘Come here, kid.’”
We wrap up the conversation with a bit of introspection by Ducharme. “I’m very lucky to make a living for decades in an industry that’s not very forgiving. I’m very fortunate to be able to support myself.”
The Rhode Island Comedy Hall of Fame inducts Al Ducharme on Saturday, July 23 at The Comedy Park. For complete information, visit www.richof.org.