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Nothing beats guffaws, quips for breakfast

By Dean Shalhoup - Senior Staff Writer | Mar 25, 2023

When a professional comedian is tapped to deliver the blessing at the outset of an event, one could reasonably expect that the remainder of the program would be filled with hilarious jokes and nearly constant laughter.

While it certainly would be a stretch to describe last week’s 35th annual Wild Irish Breakfast as “filled with hilarious jokes and nearly constant laughter,” there were plenty of lighter moments and smiles, in many cases punctuated with rounds of laughter, thanks to the contributions of six “Irish Wits,” their “Blarney Master” and that professional comedian, Juston McKinney, who spent their St. Patrick’s Day morning swapping goodnatured barbs and political digs to help raise always needed funds for the PLUS Company’s adult

education and socialization programs.

“We were very, very pleased to see the great turnout,” PLUS Company executive director Kim Shottes said this week. This year’s proceeds once again surpassed the $100,000 mark, a nice comeback from the lesser amounts raised in 2021 and 2022, when the breakfast went to a hybrid format due to the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of people showed a lot of support for us,” Shottes added. McKinney, his blessing sounding more like an opening act at the local comedy club, took note of the program’s rather sluggish warmup.

“It’s great to be here this morning for the Wild Irish Breakfast, although I have to say this is the least wild event I’ve ever seen,” he said to laughs. “AA meetings are wilder than this.”

Recognizing that some in the audience were just getting their power back after outages caused by the snowstorm three days earlier, McKinney suggested everyone look for “the hidden blessings … all around us.”

Not having power for several days is actually “good news … with electric prices so high you shouldn’t (complain). Now if I could only get Comcast to go out for a couple of weeks,” he said to laughs.

Two Rotarians-turned-Irish-Wits- Ernie Jette from Rotary Club of Nashua and Jordan Guagliumi from Rotary Club of Nashua West – sat at opposite ends of the lineup and took their

respective turns at coaxing laughter out of the audience.

Jette, who also happens to be Nashua’s Ward 5 alderman, took a moment to praise fellow Irish Wit, former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who also served several years as the state’s attorney general, for her handling of the priest sex-abuse scandal when she was attorney general.

“She got them to agree to major reform,” Jette said, referring to the leaders of the Catholic Church. “I always thought that if the Catholic Church was really serious about priests not having sex, they would let them get married,” Jette deadpanned, generating robust laughter.

Ayotte, meanwhile, joked about some of the jokes falling a bit short.

“All I can say is thank goodness Juston started this thing off, because I’m not sure we could have kept all of you here,” she quipped.

She also admitted to waking up that morning and asking herself “why did I say OK” to being an Irish Wit.

“Well, I’m here for two reasons – because the PLUS Company does great work (and is) a great cause.

“Second, you just can’t say no to Donnalee,” she added, referring to former Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, a member of the breakfast organizing committee who is in her second year as Blarney Master.

When it came his turn, Gov.Chris Sununu began by wondering aloud how the new, less formal stage setup came to be.

“Who came up with this format, anyway?” he said with a laugh.

“OK, here’s an idea: Let’s get politicians to sit in chairs on the stage and read jokes from scripts that their staff wrote for them,” Sununu said to rounds of laughter.

“I don’t usually read speeches, so this is going to be a bit of a challenge for me,” he continued. Also, trying to jot down things others say doesn’t work, because the notes are scribbled and sometimes blurred by spilled coffee.

“I can’t read them anyway. So this is just shy of a nightmare for me,” Sununu said to laughs, which got louder when he quipped, “hey, fourth term … I don’t care.”

Over the course of the morning, panelists and some guests received rounds of applause for one reason or another, but the only speaker who drew an extended, standing ovation was Rebecca Raza, a PLUS Company client of seven years who delivered this year’s client tribute.

“I started at the PLUS Company in 2016 … sometimes I didn’t feel like I belonged to any group, and it hurt,” Raza, now a cook in the kitchen of a nursing home, a field she got involved in after successfully completing employment-related programs, said.

Looking up from her notes, Raza continued, “things that come easy to you don’t always come easy to me. I felt lonely … I was sometimes disappointed by the way I was being treated,” she added, referring to her life before joining the PLUS Company.

“When I started at PLUS, my life changed … I could finally be part of the group.

“I took classes to learn new things. I felt free to speak about my fears. I felt appreciated, accepted. “Without you,” Raza said, glancing around the room, “this wouldn’t have been possible.

“Thank you for changing my life. You made a difference.” Meanwhile, although he wasn’t invited to be an Irish Wit, former Nashua alderman and two-time mayoral candidate Carl Andrade left the Wild Irish Breakfast wearing a big smile.

That’s because he won first place in the WIB raffle, a $3,500 prize that would brighten anyone’s day – especially after two hours worth of jokes, funny stories and raising money for a great cause.

The other prize winners included: Second prize: Tamara Hambleton – two Adirondack chairs Third prize: Kim Gagnon – Fisher Cats Luxury suite Fourth prize: Carolyn Cline – two nights at Addison Choate Inn Fifth prize: Holly St. Gelais – Blackstone 36-inch griddle Sixth prize: Donnalee Lozeau – Yeti Roadie 24 cooler Seventh prize: Daniel Kennedy – lottery wreath Eighth prize: Cynthi


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