Boston comic Mike McDonald will headline a Valentine’s Day comedy show at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, N.H. Photo by John Hauschildt/Rum Doodle Studios

Want to see what your sweetheart is really like? Bring him or her to a comedy show on Valentine’s Day.

“Taking a first date to a comedy show works because you get to see if they laugh at the same things you laugh at, and if they laugh in the right places,” said Mike McDonald, a Boston-based comic who works often in Maine. “Or, are they a little off and laughing in the most inappropriate places?”

A lot of people seemingly agree that romance and comedy go hand in hand. This year, there are at least five big comedy shows on the evening of Valentine’s Day around southern Maine and just over the state line in New Hampshire.

McDonald is headlining the five-comic show at The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Maine’s best-known comic, Bob Marley, is doing a sold-out show at Keeley’s Banquet Center in Portland.

The Heart Half Empty/Half Full show at Empire Comedy Club in Portland will feature six comics, a mix of local and New York City talent. The Valentine’s Day Comedy Night at Fireside Inn & Suites in Portland features three local comics raising money for Maine-based Lafayette Family Cancer Center. Comedian Dennis Fogg, whose day job is running Uncle Andy’s diner in South Portland, will be part of a Valentine’s show at Mathew’s Pub in Portland.

Comic Dennis Fogg will perform in a comedy show on Valentine’s Day at Mathew’s Pub in Portland. Photo by Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Fogg says Valentine’s Day is probably the second busiest time of year for comics, other than New Year’s Eve. Seeing a comic on Valentine’s Day makes sense for couples of all levels of romantic entanglement. If the romance is new, suggesting a comedy show proves you’re fun, a free spirit. If you’re the kind of person who gets a little shy on dates, and doesn’t know what to talk about, a night of jokes and laughs can be a big help, Fogg says.

Fogg said he enjoys playing shows for Valentine’s crowds, because they’re generally nicer, and easier on the comics.

“Couples are more apt to be listening, and they don’t heckle as much. When you get a group of buddies coming to the show, the drinking is heavier and so is the heckling,” said Fogg.

Even when they are not on Valentine’s Day, comedy shows seem to attract romance. McDonald says that, at least three times in his career, he’s had men come to him before a show and say they’d like to propose to their girlfriend – during his show.

All three times, the man said he and his would-be fiance had their first date at one of McDonald’s shows. So McDonald felt like he had to help out. But not before talking to the guy a little bit.

Maine comic Keith Hebert will be part of a comedy show at Empire Comedy club on the evening of Valentine’s Day. Photo by Amy Varney

“I vet the guy a little to make sure he’s mentally stable, not on drugs or drunk, and to make sure he’s sure that she’s going to say yes,” said McDonald. “Then I find a place toward the end of the show where he can embarrass himself in public, and then I throw it his way. The women all said yes.”

Ian Stuart, who’ll be performing at the show at Portland Fireside Inn & Suites, says a comedy show could be considered an aphrodisiac. The couples sit in a darkened room, often with candles flickering and alcohol flowing. Plus, laughing makes people feel good.

Valentine’s Day is a good time for a comedy show because romance, sex and couples are all fodder for comics, said Keith Hebert, one of the Portland-area comics in the Empire Comedy Club’s show Friday. Relationships are based on intimacy, he said, and intimacy can be funny.

Hebert said he likes talking to couples during his act, because he never knows what they’re likely to say with a microphone in front of them.

“If it’s a couple that’s been together awhile, you can get them to give up the goods on each other. You’ll get people to admit to things they’d never say in any other public situation,” said Hebert. “I once had a couple admit to marking their romantic encounters on their kitchen calendar with a dot. If you go to their house, you know if it’s been a wild month or not.”

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