Comic wants to show off suburbs

Yorktown entertainer hopes to organize comedy festival in Westchester County

Published: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 7:00 am By: Brian J. Howard

YORKTOWN — Anytime John Iavarone tells a story, it can end as just a story or it may take a left turn toward a punch line.

Either way, you learn something new about this frenetic, 42-year-old suburban husband and father of two who hits the East Coast comedy circuit on the weekends.

“What helps a lot,” he says, inserting a perfectly pregnant pause, “is that I’m really good.”

He’d have to be. A career in building engineering maintenance in Manhattan has provided the perfect day job, one close to the comedy clubs where he could always grab a microphone for five or 10 or 20 minutes and close enough to home and his wife, Giuliana, and two kids, Melina, 9, and 4-year-old Gabriel.

For most, that’s more than enough to fill the days, and it is for Iavarone. But there was always the comedy, which earned him the title growing up of “ham” by his three big sisters.

Two things happened when Iavarone turned 9 that shaped him. First, his father died. Then, the family moved to Yonkers — the country, he thought then. He earned a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts but decided to go to work instead and cut his comic teeth on his own time.

Now, though, he’s still in Westchester and still doing stand-up, and there’s that job and that family that he loves, and it’s more than enough, yet he still looks to do more. So why not a festival? He gets animated when he talks about putting the county on the comedy map.

“I want somebody to see that and go, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ ” the Yorktown resident said.

A buddy and fellow comic, Katonah native Joe Praino, books twice-monthly acts at Empire City Casino in Yonkers and flies home from Los Angeles twice a year to perform there, usually bringing Iavarone along.

“I think with the fact that Westchester County has a bunch of good comics that are working in New York or working like I am in L.A. that are from the area, it would be a great way to promote that homegrown talent,” Praino said.

The two got to know each other when they were both doing Comic Strip Live, and Iavarone, though 10 years older and with a different style, was someone Praino measured himself against.

There are festivals everywhere, so eventually someone is going to create one in Westchester, Praino said. It might as well be them.

They don’t have a date, though they’d like to do it this year. And they don’t have a headliner, though there’s a big potential crop of big-name talent with local ties – think Kevin Meaney or Nick DiPaolo. There’s no venue, yet, though they have some ideas. For a beneficiary, Iavarone would like to raise money for a summer camp or school for talented kids looking for inspiration.

For now, Iavarone has a full slate ahead. He’s booked through March and will appear in four different states this month alone, including locally at Westchester Broadway Theatre on Jan. 23. February brings his third show