Turning his hard luck into laughs



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Local man Darren Discenzo was named one of the funniest people in New England after a weekend competition at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. Jonathan Benton. (click for larger version)
March 03, 2011
LANCASTER — Customers of the family run True Value hardware store in town have likely seen a jovial and wheel chair bound employee by the name of Darren Discenzo or asked him where they can find the right kind of speaker wires — but what they may not know is that he's the third funniest person in New England.

"It's such a great feeling to have a crowd of 100 plus people laughing at something you've created," said Discenzo. "Laughter is the best medicine for both the comic and the listener."

It was made official over the weekend that of the other 19 comedians to participate in the New England's funniest comic competition by Treehouse Comedy Productions at Mohegan Sun in Conneticut, that Discenzo finished in the top three in the amateur division.

"The other day I was at my house and fell out of my wheelchair, and I'm telling you guys that Enterprise car rental is lying, because I called them and they will not pick you up," said Discenzo repeating a joke from his set.

His special brand of comedy that ranged from everyday observations, life situations and even edgy material won over the hearts of the crowd. In order to qualify for the competition Discenzo had to do a five minute set at the Shaskeen Pub in Manchester in front of three judges from Boston who took the funniest three of the 20 that performed. Discenzo then went to the first round at Mohegan Sun on Feb. 18. With pure zeal he kept the laughs coming and advanced all the way to the final round on Feb. 25-26.

"My parents and I went to lunch in Norwich, Conn. and while at the restaurant, a group of people came in that had been at the show the night before and one of the ladies told me she loved my set and even remembered which jokes of mine were her favorite," he said. "That's always a good feeling when someone can remember a joke."

The third place honors awarded him $400 dollars of which $300 are for paid shows that he will perform in the future, and details of which are in the hands of comedy industry agents and bookers that attended the event.

It was about 10 years ago that Discenzo suffered injuries, in a car accident when he hit a moose, that left him in a wheelchair, but that did not dampen his spirit.

"I've always had the ability to make people laugh and find a lighter side to just about any situation," he said.

Discenzo's actual joke writing started about five years ago. Every year his parents would hold an employee appreciation dinner for their workers and were hard up for entertainment ideas. His dad suggested he get up and tell some jokes and he decided to try and write his own material. This went over well and it became an annual tradition.

It wasn't until two years ago, when Discenzo was going to physical therapy twice a week in Concord that he got up the courage to do comedy in front of a crowd of strangers. He noticed in a local paper that the Shaskeen Pub was starting an open mic comedy night and decided to give it a try.

"The $50 I won just about covered the bar tab required to calm my nerves enough to get me up there," said Discenzo.

From then on he was hooked. He started frequenting open mic nights at the Shaskeen as well as other locations throughout southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

"In comedy, everything is fair game," said Discenzo, "there's no topic that's off limits. Some of the greatest comics knew how to push the envelope and still be creative that's why I try to keep my comedy witty and edgy."

He also noted that some comedic influences growing up included the likes of Eddie Murphy and George Carlin before gravitating towards today's comics like Jeffrey Ross and Daniel Tosh.

Although currently a hobby Discenzo said he could entertain the possibility of going full time as a comedian. "Who wouldn't like to get paid to tell jokes?" he said.

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