Preston Simpson of Waquoit, the founder of Flapjack! Comedy Productions and a longtime performer, comedian, dancer and actor who found a way of using his talent to help the less fortunate on Cape Cod, died February 7. Mr. Simpson, who had been battling cancer for eight years, was 59.
When he was interviewed for an article in January 2018 the Enterprise writer described Mr. Simpson as “an awesome combination of funny man and all-around good guy.” At the time, his Flapjack! Comedy Productions was gearing up to perform the fourth “Comedy for a Cause” fundraiser to target homelessness on the Upper Cape. And although there’s nothing funny about homelessness, Mr. Simpson said he believed in the adage, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”
In addition to benefiting local charities with proceeds from the shows, the events also provided a chance for individuals to drop off canned goods for Around the Table, a provider of free meals to the community on a regular basis at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Falmouth.
“It got started with a friend, Paul Rifkin; he has always been an example of actions for change,” said Mr. Simpson, who added that shortly after his move to the Cape [in 2013] he and Mr. Rifkin teamed up to organize a comedy fundraiser for Cape Downwinders.
“That made me realize my vision for a full-time comedy venue on Cape Cod,” said Mr. Simpson, “and especially Falmouth, which is now my home. I always believed we should walk the walk and not just talk the talk, so I asked Paul who else in the community needed help. Our first year was for Homeless not Hopeless. It felt so good to help homeless people in January when the homeless issue really hits home. Then, we just had to keep it going.”
Another fundraiser benefited the Belonging to Each To Each Other program, which was spearheaded by Mr. Rifkin and the Reverend Nell Fields of Waquoit Congregational Church, and many more followed.
“We need comedy. Laughter is one thing that brings people together,” was the reason he gave in a 2015 interview about his mission to bring more such entertainment to the Upper Cape community. At that time the stand-up comedian was performing on the road with his own comedy in venues like Twin Rivers Casino and Mohegan Sun but found himself moving toward producing comedy shows and bringing new and proven talent to Cape audiences.
“I want audiences to see fresh comedians,” Mr. Simpson said. “There are funnier people than me out there and I'm excited about finding them.” His Laughing Matters Productions had been presenting monthly comedy shows all summer at The Beach House in North Falmouth, with Mr. Simpson acting as the master of ceremonies, and also presented benefit shows for the Falmouth Walk and other nonprofits. A show to support Lyme disease awareness was planned in Hyannis for the fall.
He hired comedians from the Boston area clubs for his comedy shows and said, “Some of the best comics come from Boston. I don’t know what it is; maybe it’s the salt air. But I am getting funnier by proximity.”
Mr. Simpson described his own comedy as character driven and “stemming from personal experiences. If it's universal, it works,” he said, adding that for him comedy should be “something my mother could see.” Also versed in the practice of improvisation, he said, “The big thing about improv is not to have any preconceived idea about where the story is going to go. Let it have its own life.”
Along with his performance engagements, he tended bar at the Quarterdeck Restaurant several nights a week. Advised Mr. Simpson: “Everyone should do two things: Work in a restaurant and do stand-up comedy. One will make you kinder to your fellow human beings, the other will stretch and challenge you.”
David Preston Simpson was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and had lived in California, Nevada, Germany and New York City before settling in Waquoit in 2013. His wife, Andrea L. Kooharian-Simpson, had summered in North Falmouth while growing up. “Her dream was always to come back here,” said Mr. Simpson in 2015, who added of his first encounter with the Cape, “The woods speak to me. And then I met the ocean.” He said of his migration from New York City, “I get to kayak to the beach. Who gets to do that?”
He met the woman who would become his wife while he was studying acting at New York University; she was his dance partner. Mr. Simpson also held a bachelor of fine arts degree in dance from Point Park University.
He found work in the entertainment industry as an actor, comedian, breakdancer and sometimes acrobat.
While living in Germany he worked as artistic director for a 1,400-seat theater and performed in a rock musical, “Starlight Express.” He returned to New York City to try stand-up and became successful at telling jokes onstage, playing in clubs there and beyond ever since. Drawing from life and tapping into his acting and dancing skills, his set was very physical.
As a former football player with a physique to match, he was offered spots in national commercials because of his build and dance skills. Mr. Simpson had appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” shared a bit scene with Tina Fey on “30 Rock,” and told his jokes at Caroline’s Comedy Club.
Another positive outcome of his return to New York was that he was able to reconnect with and marry the love of his life.
After the couple's move to Waquoit, Mr. Simpson quickly established many friendships and joined a local Frisbee Golf League. He went hiking on the trails in the area and also enjoyed fishing and camping.
Added to his support of so many worthy causes through comedy, Mr. Simpson was charitable in sharing his knowledge of the craft and offered encouragement to the curious. “A lot of people have said to me that doing stand-up is the scariest thing they can think of doing,” he said. “I say try it!”
In addition to his wife, he leaves his siblings, John Simpson, Melissa Beil and Michelle Murray, all of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Doug Simpson of Utah and Brian Simpson of California; many nieces and nephews; and other family.
Visiting hours will be Friday, February 12, from 4 to 8 PM at Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Home, 74 Algonquin Avenue in Mashpee.
Funeral and burial are to be private.