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For a few laughs, see LI Comedy Festival

Carl Samuels, left, and Pat O’Brien, class acts

Carl Samuels, left, and Pat O’Brien, class acts at SUNY Old Westbury’s Last Laugh competition at SUNY Old Westbury, perform in the Long Island Comedy Club's opening weekend lineup at Theatre Three, Port Jefferson. Credit: Handout

Did you hear the one about the Long Island Comedy Festival?

"I was driving out here on the LIE when I saw a sign: 'Beware of low-flying aircraft.' What're you supposed to do? Pull over and let the air out of your tires?"

That was Rob Falcone's opening line in a previous comedy festival appearance at Westhampton Beach. The Vegas and Atlantic City observational comic with the hangdog face -- he's also appeared on USA Network's "Up All Night" -- returns as the Saturday night headliner this weekend when the sixth annual laugh fest continues at Port Jefferson's Theatre Three.

Richie Byrne, who specializes in family rants, opens as the headliner Friday night at Theatre Three. A regular at Governor's in Levittown, Byrne made excuses recently for taking a weekend off. "My cousin got married. He's 22. What an idiot."

The two showcases -- among a dozen at various venues across the Island through Aug. 27 -- feature six standup comedians a night, including host and founder Paul Anthony of Massapequa. Also on Saturday's bill is Leighann Lord, an HBO "Def Comedy Jam All-Star" who takes on both politics and religion: "Buddha left his wife with a baby to go seek enlightenment. Buddha's a deadbeat dad."

Chris Roach, winner of Hofstra's 2006 standup competition, steps up to the microphone Friday night. He's imposing enough to have played The Chief, the giant American-Indian in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," at Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts.

"I remember trying to stay awake as a kid so I could watch 'Saturday Night Live' and Benny Hill," Roach says. "I became addicted to the sound of laughter."

FRESH TALENT

In search of new talent, Anthony offered a gig to the winner and runner-up of April's Last Laugh competition at SUNY Old Westbury.

Carl Samuels of Brooklyn, a 2007 Old Westbury grad, says he's "still evolving" as a comic. He draws mostly from what he calls "stupid funny experiences" as a black West Indian-American. One of his stories "that killed" at Last Laugh, he said, was about his workout habits. "I go to a gym now. I had to stop jogging because I kept getting pulled over by the cops."

Pat O'Brien of Center Moriches, an Old Westbury senior, says, "I always wanted to do standup but never had the courage." He says it was his dancing that caught the judges' eye. "I started doing what I call the Suburban Shake -- the Harlem Shake with less rhythm."

Samuels and O'Brien make their festival debuts this weekend.

HAMPTONS BOUND

New this summer, besides introducing fresh comics, is a one-night-only Hamptons Comedy Fest fundraiser in Southampton to support animal rescue. "It's kind of a tease," Anthony says, for his plans to launch the Hamptons Comedy Fest Tour next summer.

"There's not a lot of opportunities for local comics -- not like there used to be back in the '80s," says Anthony, recalling a time when there were a dozen or more Long Island comedy clubs where an earlier generation, including Billy Crystal and Eddie Murphy, found work. A few years later, it was still possible for Jerry Seinfeld, Rosie O'Donnell and Kevin James to work close to home. Now only a handful of comedy clubs survive, among them Governor's, The Brokerage and McGuire's.

"That's why I started this festival," Anthony says.

 Long Island Comedy Festival

 WHEN | WHERE Friday and Saturday nights at 8; also Aug. 19-20, 26-27 at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson. Also July 16, Gateway Playhouse, Bellport; July 22 and Aug. 12, Martha Clara Vineyards, Riverhead; July 23, The Sands, Atlantic Beach; Aug. 11, 230 Elm Street, Southampton (fundraiser)

INFO 631-928-9100, licomedyfest.com

ADMISSION $20-$25 at Theatre Three; $25-$50 elsewhere

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