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Funny pharmacist dispenses doses of laughter

Artie Januario (Photo/submitted)

By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor

Billerica/Revere – Artie Januario of Billerica understood that he was destined to ultimately follow his family’s tradition of becoming a pharmacist back when he played football as team captain at Immaculate Conception High School in Revere and graduated in 1973. However, he was unaware at the time that he’d concurrently headline as a stand-up comedian at clubs nationwide.

“My dad was a pharmacist and I’m the oldest son in an Italian family, so I had to do what he did,” Januario explained.

A young Januario began learning on the job in 1966 at his father’s Somerville pharmacy. He attended Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and earned his pharmaceutical license in 1978.

While working at Harvard University’s pharmacy, Januario studied creative writing at its extension school in 2000. A professor’s compliments of his humorous writings prompted him to perform an open mic night at Dick Doherty’s Beantown Comedy Vault, located at the time on Boylston Street in Boston.

“When I got onstage, I finally felt like I belonged somewhere,” he recalled. “Then I continued going to the open mic every night. I had never felt so fulfilled until I started doing comedy.”

As his comedy gigs increased, Januario began working as a floater in 2004 at Super Stop & Shop pharmacies statewide. The position’s flexible schedule lets him perform nights and out-of-state bookings such as Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

“Working at Super Stop & Shop is a little different than other pharmacy locations I was accustomed to, so it changed the way I counsel,” he noted. “Now I’m saying things like, ‘Take this Lipitor every night at 8 o’clock – with the Doritos that are on sale in aisle five.’”

While much of his material features pharmaceutical humor, Januario learned the importance of varied topics as he quickly climbed comedy clubs’ ladder to headliner status.

“Some crowds won’t go for me talking about the pharmacy, so I’ll switch gears to stuff about sports or my children,” he said. “To headline, you need to put together at least an hour of material to present 40 minutes.”

In 2012, Januario was among the laugh-provoking lineup of the 18th annual Comics Come Home with its co-founder Denis Leary and other comedians including Lenny Clarke and Darrell Hammond. The fundraiser for the Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care was held that year at the 7,200-seat Agganis Arena in Boston.

“At the end of the show, they put the lights up when we’re all onstage together with the band playing and I was doing high kicks with Denis,” Januario relayed. “I looked out and saw the awesomeness of thousands of people in the audience.”

With two jobs involving significant travel, Januario enjoys settling into frequent appearances at Giggles Comedy Club in Saugus. He appreciates a longtime working relationship with the club owner, Mike Clarke.

“It’s good for any comedian to have a home club,” Januario said. “I can call Mike and tell him that I’m going to do a special show for a bunch of doctors, and he lets me go there to tweak new material.”

Januario is also grateful that he discovered and followed his true passion.

“I started doing comedy when I was 44 and probably didn’t get good at it until I was 50,” he noted. “I tell my children that’s it’s never too late to do what you were meant to do and start something new. Everybody has a gift – and it can take a while to find out what it is. If you can share your gift, then it’s awesome for everybody.”

For more information about Artie Januario, visit artiejcomic.com.

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