EDITOR'S NOTE: Lessons from Jimmy Tingle

When I returned to Boston in 2007, I was a mess. I was struggling to find work and, after securing an apartment in Somerville’s Davis Square, I responded to an ad on Craigslist for a job that would introduce me to the man gracing our cover, Jimmy Tingle.

Tingle’s Off-Broadway Theater was a haven for up-and-coming comedians like Myq Kaplan and veterans from Tingle’s Ding Ho comedy club days. I briefly became his marketing guy and my job was to wrangle people into the theater. I spent hours handing out fliers to passersby on Elm Street. In essence, I was a glorified street barker. It was a difficult job but there was something about Tingle that inspired me.

When we walked together in Somerville, people would stop him on the street. Tingle was a local celebrity of sorts: the adults remembered him from 60 Minutes II while the kids knew him as the priest from Boondock Saints. He was always kind to me and his fans.

In 2007, I interviewed Tingle for my blog, Loaded Gun Boston. We had a candid conversation about, well, reserved parking.

“I’ve wanted to do this for three years,” he said with a manic enthusiasm he usually reserved for the stage. His face lit up when he unveiled a sandwich board offering parking directions to and from his Davis Square theater. “I get so excited about the silliest of things. But it drives me crazy when something needs to be improved and it’s not, for whatever reason.”

When asked about his stint on 60 Minutes II, he was equally candid.

“They really loved what I did half the time,” he mused. “The other half, it was a struggle for my material to fit into that format and into the parameters of national television. It was a difficult transition from performing live, unedited and raw to a national audience that isn’t live. It’s hard to go from a theatrical and comedic medium to a journalistic realm. There was always that fight for me to convey the national political sentiment and not put my own personal sentiment or spin on things.”

Tingle’s talk with me was the beginning of my return to a career I loved: journalism. I eventually started a job at a newsroom and I quit my barking gig. Tingle’s theater closed later that year.

In a short period of time, I learned a lot from Tingle. He taught me the importance of living in the day. When asked about his early years with the mythic Ding Ho, he refocused the conversation on the present. “Starting the theater here, it brings me back to my roots and the excitement of starting a new room,” he said. “It reminds me that these are great days we’re living in right now, with this theater. This is the beginning of something great. These are the good ol’ days we’ll look back on in the future.”

In hindsight, he was right.



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