Ravenna native Danny Long said he's bringing more than comedy to the Ravenna Elks Club in February. He's also bringing what he calls a great American art form.
"It's a great American art form," Long told guests at the Ravenna Area Chamber of Commerce's monthly coffee networking event Thursday. "Without freedom of speech, there is no comedy. You don't see people in Syria saying, 'Hey, how 'bout that Assad guy.' It's the last venue to stand up and say what you really think."
Long said he will be the host and emcee at the comedy night, which will be held Feb. 16 at the Elks Club. The headliner will be Bruce Hanes, and other comedians will open the show.
The last time the chamber hosted a comedy night was five years ago. Long said the chamber ought to host it more often, noting that the Elks Club is a beautiful facility that is under-utilized.
"Gosh, I enjoyed being here the last time, but it's taken you half a decade to have me back," he said.
Long, the youngest of six children, said he got into comedy as a way to be noticed. His family prodded him to pursue comedy as a profession after a stunt at his sister's wedding, when he used the bride as a ventriloquist dummy for a routine. He said he always made his classmates laugh, including classmate Suzy Kohl, owner of Suzy K's Cafe, which hosted the event.
"Even Suzy (Kohl) laughed at me when I'd ask her out," he recalled.
Frank Hairston, who also graduated from Ravenna High School with Long, said his classmate always had a gift for comedy.
"Danny was always a comedian," Hairston said. "We just didn't know he would actually become one. You've always had that special gift."
Long had a comedy career that took him on the road, had him opening for big name comedians, doing stand-up at the Improv in Los Angeles, and even had a stint on "Saturday Night Live" as a writer. But after years in the cutthroat, "backstabbing business," Long decided to return to his hometown and become host emcee at The Funny Farm in Austintown.
"There's a McDonald's on every street corner, but there's not a comedy club on every street corner," he said. "The talent is fierce."
Tickets and more information will be available at the chamber in the weeks ahead.
Chamber President Bruce Kirby warned people at the networking event that the event will feature "adult content" and people planning to come should leave their children at home.
Long said he's happy to share his passion with his hometown.
"To make people laugh and have a good time is what I live for," he said. "Times are tough. Everybody needs to laugh."
Contact this reporter at 330-298-1139 or firstname.lastname@example.org