When a Boston Comedy Legend Stole a Trolley While Running for Mayor
Two issues have dominated the news in New England this fall: contentious elections and the dysfunction of mass transit. And once upon a time, a man in Cambridge took on both at once, long before his days as a standup comedian, actor, and Boston comedy legend.
While still serving as the resident emcee at the legendary Ding Ho comedy club in the '70s, Lenny Clarke found himself unhappy with the current political scene. Rather than do what most comics do and make fun of it, Clarke actually ran for mayor.
While his campaign proved unsuccessful, one incident assured it would be memorable.
When I asked Clarke about the Boston comedy urban legend that he had commandeered a city bus one day while campaigning, he corrected me on two counts: first, he says, it was a trackless trolley. And, in Clarke’s words, “I stole it.”
“Denis (Leary) said I couldn’t it started for 50,” said Clarke, explaining how the whole thing began simply as a bet between friends in Harvard Square. “And then he said I’ll give you another 100 if you can get it out in between the two buses” between which it was parked.
“Then he said, ‘I’ll give you 200 if you go in the tunnel in Harvard Square.’”
Clarke dispelled rumors that he kept making every stop, though he says he did pick up “a couple” elderly people.
“But then,” he said, “A police chase ensued”
When all was said and done, Clarke’s popularity won out, as supporters vouched for his alleged alibi. When asked how he would fix the MBTA in 2022, Clarke had a simple answer.
“More buses! Constant buses! More trains – around the clock trains! Just keep people movin’! Pay your fare, get on, that’s it!”