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Kevin Meaney's latest act

Comedian practices a new show, ”Vegas Vows,” on Boston audiences

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If there’s anything still banned in Boston, it must be celebrity spotting. Despite starring in the 1990-91 CBS sitcom Uncle Buck, winning an Emmy for the PBS series Comedy Night, and being a regular on Leno and Letterman, Kevin Meaney sits unrecognized at a Harvard Square cafe. ”This is a very intellectual town,” he rationalizes. ”They don’t watch much TV.”

Perhaps that’s why he’s come here to Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Theatre to try out his one-man theater piece, Vegas Vows, in a pre-New York summer tryout through July 20. It’s a kind of comic exorcism for the 40-year-old comedian, detailing how he met and married a woman one night in Las Vegas in 1995. ”I’d just come off another failed relationship, and I’d been drinking,” he says. ”This woman was pretty and asked me to marry her. Why not? It was done as a joke. We used a drive-through chapel. We never even got out of the taxi.” He stopped laughing when he realized the woman wanted to remain Mrs. Kevin Meaney. After five months and many lawyers, Meaney finally got an annulment. His ex-wife shouldn’t have been surprised when the comedian started riffing on their union. She is not amused, however, and Meaney thinks she may surface to protest the show (for legal reasons, he doesn’t use her name). ”I expect her to be on Ricki Lake whining ‘He asked me to marry him!’

”But I’m not trying to beat up on her,” he insists. And, in fact, he’s rougher on himself; his own desperate loneliness comes through with painful clarity. ”My mother asked me: ‘Why do you have to tell the bad things? Why don’t you talk about something good?”’ he notes ruefully.

Producers have suggested his quickie marriage could make a film or sitcom. But for now, Meaney is working things out in the theater, to semi-favorable reviews and supportive crowds. He’s constantly revising, using audience feedback. And if there’s anything they’re not saying, his mother no doubt will.

”’Don’t you even have her picture?”’ Meaney says his mother asks. ”’You should at least have a picture.”’