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No kidding: Chelsea Handler helps Syracuse man with surprise proposal

Chelsea Handler helped a Syracuse man with a surprise proposal during her standup comedy show Saturday.

“Tony Maroney and Thomas Coughlin, come up to the stage, will you?” she said before telling a joke about her boyfriend, fellow comedian Jo Koy, buying her tampons in the middle of the night.

Tony Maroney and Thomas Coughlin, who both grew up in Syracuse and now live in Eastwood, joined Handler on stage at the Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater. Handler pretended like it was a routine part of her performance, inviting audience members on stage and asking them to close their eyes.

Coughlin, appearing nervous, hesitated.

“Close your eyes,” she told Coughlin.

Coughlin closed his eyes while Maroney got down on one knee. When he opened them, he turned around and saw Maroney, holding a second microphone and a Tiffany’s engagement ring box, as Handler started filming the sweet moment.

“Tom, babe… Daddy,” Maroney joked.

“The truth is, I’ve been planning this for a very long time with the help of my sweetheart over there,” he continued, nodding towards Handler.

But — no kidding — they were already engaged. In a “plot twist,” Coughlin actually proposed first about a month earlier. Maroney said yes, but he still wanted to make a grand gesture for his partner. He was nervous and excited, and then popped the question:

“So in front of the world, or Syracuse, and in front of your favorite comedian — now that Joan Rivers is dead… I want to ask you because I think you have a crush on me: Will you be the Chelsea Handler to my Jo Koy?”

Coughlin said yes and everyone cheered. Handler hugged them both and congratulated the couple.

Tony Maroney, Thomas Coughlin
Chelsea Handler, center, helped Tony Maroney, left, propose to Thomas Coughlin, right, during her standup comedy show at the Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater in Syracuse on Nov. 6, 2021.

Maroney, who works in the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center, told syracuse.com | The Post-Standard that Coughlin proposed first during a trip to New York City for Maroney’s birthday last month. They went to see “Wicked” on Broadway, walked around NYC, and went into the Tiffany’s store where they started looking at rings together.

Coughlin proposed during that romantic weekend, but little did he know that Maroney had already been working on his own proposal. Maroney said he posted on Instagram about buying tickets for her show months earlier, and when she shared his post on her own Instagram Story, he reached out to her.

“Hey, my boyfriend really likes you and I’d love to propose on your stage if you would allow us,” Maroney said he wrote to the comedian.

He didn’t expect her to say yes, but she did. They bonded over their respective relationships, Maroney said; he’s Filipino and so is Handler’s boyfriend.

“It was so special. (Tom is) 13 years my senior and he comes from the time when you didn’t really have PDA (in same-sex relationships),” Maroney said. “Since dating me, he’s been more comfortable and leaning into it. So it was a big deal to profess my love in front of everyone.”

And not only did they both get to propose to each other, they also got a great souvenir of their experience at Handler’s show. She posed for a photo with them backstage and a friend, Emma Heinrich, filmed the whole proposal for a YouTube video.

Note: Video contains some mature langua

Maroney said they plan to get married at the Marriott Syracuse Downtown, also known as the former Hotel Syracuse. Their wedding date is set for the fall of 2023, after he graduates from nursing school.

Handler, who was performing in Syracuse as part of her “Vaccinated & Horny” tour, has released several standup comedy specials, including HBO Max’s “Chelsea Handler: Evolution.” She also hosted “Chelsea Lately” on E! for seven years, wrote six best-selling books, launched a talk show on Netflix, and hosts an advice podcast on iHeartRadio called “Dear Chelsea.”

Tony Maroney, Thomas Coughlin
Thomas Coughlin, left, and Tony Maroney show off their engagement rings after a surprise proposal at Chelsea Handler’s standup comedy show at the Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater in Syracuse on Nov. 6, 2021.

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