On May 22, 2008, the sixth season of NBC’s Last Comic Standing—sort of an American Idol for comedians, only less harmful to the nation’s youth and ears—opened with a mild Thursday-night bang and thousands of auditioning yucksters from more than 20 countries.
And one from the least funny country of all: Utah.
West Jordan comic Marcus (formerly known as “The Man of 1,000 Voices” and, less grandiosely, Mark Hardy) made the first cut on Last Comic Standing’s season premiere and has ridden it all the way to the Final Five in the season finale (Thursday, Aug. 7; broadcast live from Las Vegas on NBC), thanks in part to winning an immunity challenge with Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends (right) at the Playboy Mansion (yeah, rough gig), but mostly by being funnier than the rest of the pack. America may very well vote him the Last Comic Standing.
Too bad about the local-media blackout conspiracy against Marcus, huh?
OK, that might be an overstatement—but compared to the months-long (and still going!) Utah media orgasm over American Idol’s David Archuleta, the cute Mormon teen from Murray who eventually took the silver, Marcus might as well be competing on the Food Network. No, wait: Kelsey Nixon got more coverage, too. Aside from some radio and City Weekly’s print and blog reports about Marcus’ progress on a major network reality show, the Salt Lake City media has virtually ignored one of its own.
Strange, because apart from his gritty look and full sleeves of tattoos, Marcus embodies the Utah ethic: Work, work and more work—for damned little money. Since quitting his rock band (Showdown to SXSW ’04 finalists Rune) just a few years ago, he’s mastered hundreds of voice impressions, toured relentlessly, released two live DVDs, won numerous comedy competitions, landed several local TV gigs (including a semi-regular stint with Fox 13, whose reporters have been dead silent about their former colleague) and reset the bar for tireless self-promotion. He’s only a million or so Friends shy of Dane Cook’s MySpace army, after all.
Win or lose on NBC, Marcus will be part of the marathon Last Comic Standing Tour that stretches from Aug. 29 into next year. Naturally, it’s not coming to Utah, but Marcus will be performing a pair of Wiseguys Comedy Cafe shows at the Ogden (Saturday, Aug. 9) and West Valley City (Sunday, Aug. 10) locations before he hits the road with the other LCS finalists.
Of course, it would be sweeter if he won. Vote for the local boy on NBC, if only because Utah is sorely lacking in reality-TV winners thus far in 2008 (last David Archuleta burn … maybe).
To prepare Marcus for glorious victory and crushing defeat on Last Comic Standing, City Weekly has dreamt up a series of possible/utterly ludicrous scenarios for either occasion. Ever the humble guy, he at least pretended to be amused and gave his response to each:
If Marcus WINS Last Comic Standing …
He’ll be immediately whisked away to begin work on his network-mandated sitcom Marcus in the Middle, wherein he plays most of the characters, relying on his myriad voices and a variety of dresses and fat suits. The premise: Comedian Marcus (Marcus) balances a wife (Marcus in a wig), kids (Marcus as CGI talking babies) and a sketchy agent (Marcus in a bald cap) with his career while fixing up his dilapidated suburban home between a burning pile of tires and a wacky gay neighbor (special guest star Carson Daly).
Marcus: What?! How did you guys get your hands on the treatment for this? I thought this was under wraps until spring 2009, when it was set to debut simultaneously on 23 channels! You know what’s funny about this scenario: I’m sure some network exec somewhere will run across this and think, “Genius!” Thanks. Now I’m actually going to have to do this show!
He’ll invite every one of his 36,000-plus MySpace friends to a Slip ’n Slide victory party in the parking lot of Wiseguys in West Valley.
Marcus: Hell yeah! Slip ’n Slide! Twister! Monopoly! Party at Wiseguys! You know, I think some sort of celebration is in order. Thanks for the idea—you bring the Slip ’n Slide, I’ll bring the funny!
He’ll blow his $250,000 cash prize on a tour bus once owned by Fall Out Boy, have it painted to look like a giant Transformers Decepticon and use it to pick up women: “Hey, ladies! It’s me, Marcus! From Last Comic Standing! Get on the bus, and I’ll show ya my funny bone! No? Well, maybe you’d rather hang out with … Matthew McConaughey: All right, all right, all right …”
Marcus: Ha! Yeah, my girl wouldn’t like that too much. Although, driving around in a giant Decepticon sounds like a little slice of heaven. I wonder how many miles per gallon Optimus Prime gets?
The governor of Utah will declare the Marcus Minute, a 60-second tribute to the Last Comic Standing winner to be held at 11:59 a.m. on David Archuleta Day.
Marcus: Awesome! A whole minute! Ah, little David and his sweet, angelic voice. You know, we have a lot in common: I’m from Utah, he’s from Utah. I perform, he performs. I’ve proven myself through years of hard work, touring, writing my own material, earning my fan base one show at a time … he likes birds. See, we’re practically the same guy! Where’s my parade?
He’ll invest the prize money in The Marcus Academy for the Impressionist Arts, a school that teaches underprivileged children the importance of doing a good Christopher Walken: “When you grow up, kids, you don’t want to be that guy at a party who just throws out a hack Walken … listen up, Javier! I don’t care if you haven’t eaten for three days—nail this Pulp Fiction monologue and you’ll get a breadstick.”
Marcus: Just what the world needs, more Walken impressions ...
KSL 5 (the local NBC affiliate that airs Last Comic Standing) and Fox 13 (the station where Marcus was a morning fill-in reporter for a year) might acknowledge his victory. Or existence.
Marcus: Oh, if I win, I’m sure they’ll mention it between a bus crash and a weather update! Although, at this point, the only thing that could lure me to the KSL studios would be a Greco-Roman wrestling match with Dick Nourse. We never saw his bottom half; to this day, I believe he was a centaur.
Where Marcus Learned the Funny
My dad’s old Bill Cosby records, Wonderfulness and Revenge. I got these from him when I was about 8 and they changed my life. Cosby was a guy whose upbringing couldn’t have been more different from a little white kid in Utah, but he made me relate to everything he said. Awesome, just awesome. Still awesome, for that matter.
Dr. Demento. It was this great radio show that played all sorts of cool old comedy songs and skits. Classic stuff. I used to listen in my bed on Sunday nights. I mean, when I was a kid, there was no YouTube, no MySpace. If you wanted comedy and you lived in Utah, that was it. I heard some of my first stand-up on that show. I owe Dr. Demento a lot.
Eddie Murphy: Delirious. There is where I learned that comedy could be dirty and well-written at the same time. Still one of the best comedy films of all time!
If Marcus LOSES Last Comic Standing …
He’ll be forced to take a “money” gig on KJZZ 14’s reality-TV show The Surreal Utah Life, living in a Sandy split-level with fellow local losers Carmen Rasmusen (American Idol), Gev Manoukian (So You Think You Can Dance?), Kelsey Nixon (The Next Food Network Star), Rhiannon (Legally Blonde: The Search for Elle Woods) and David Farnham (the douchebag who left his 2-year-old in the car so he could see The Dark Knight).
Marcus: What? You mean I shouldn’t consider the standing offer from KJZZ to host my own pop-culture show ... as long as I always wear long sleeves, of course! Although, I think you’re on to something with that house idea: You add a lesser Osmond, the chick from The Real World and Della Reese and we’ve got ourselves TV comedy gold!
He’ll start working the drive-up window at KFC/Taco Bell, taking food orders as Bobcat Goldthwait/Carlos Mencia.
Marcus: Can I do this, anyway? In fact, screw the show—messing with people at a drive-thru, now that’s living!
Big Deluxe Tattoo will hire him to stand around in the shop all day as a living flash-art wall.
Marcus: I’m there so much anyway, why not? I love those guys. Here’s a little behind-the-scenes for you: NBC actually shot an entire segment at Big Deluxe with me getting a Last Comic Standing-themed tattoo by my good friend, John “JP” Pratt. Yes, I did indeed get a Last Comic Standing tattoo, although you wouldn’t know what it is by looking at it. NBC pitched the idea, but I only found out afterwards that the segment will never see the light of day. Awesome, thanks NBC. First person to pick it out among the others gets a prize!
He’ll rejoin his old metal band, which is currently touring the finest sports bars, swap meets and backyard keggers in the Intermountain West.
Marcus: Ha! I think you’re the only one who remembers us, Rune. You know, I have to say if it weren’t for my years as a frontman in that band, I wouldn’t have been as ready to control a comedy stage. Honestly, I approach comedy the same way I approached rock. They say all comics want to be rock stars, and all rock stars think they’re funny—am I the missing link? It’s nice not to have to consult anyone on a set list anymore, and it’s also nice to not have local newspaper writers compare you to a, what was it, “rock & roll Nick Lachey?” Is that the right quote, Mr. Frost? That was my first professional review … I’ve never recovered.
He’ll begin doing late-night television ads for local comic-book stores: “Hi, I’m Marcus from TV’s Last Comic Standing—and if you like comics, come on down to Christensen’s Bat Cave, where they have everything from Aquaman to Zombie King! Like my pal Stewie from Family Guy says, ‘Victory is mine! And so are these great prices!’”
Marcus: Again, why can’t I do this either way? This sounds like exactly what I’ll be doing, no matter what. Can I get paid in comics and action figures?
The Peppermill Hotel Casino in Wendover will contract him as the opening act for Engelbert Humperdinck, REO Speedwagon and others, in addition to performing his one-man show, Marcus’ Cavalcade of 1,000 Stars, six nights a week.
Marcus: Ha, the Danny Gans of Wendover! That would be awesome! I could commute back and forth on the Fun Bus, two-for-one admission with an empty MGD bottle! I can almost smell the cigarette smoke and broken dreams!
Six Shots With Marcus
City Weekly: What was the audition process for Last Comic Standing like? It’s said to be pretty brutal.
Marcus: It can be brutal. I actually had a set audition time so I didn’t have to wait in line, but it was still one of the longest days ever. I showed up around 8 a.m., even though my audition wasn’t until 10, so I was sent to a “holding pen” where I was kept until almost noon before I was shuffled in with 25 other comics to audition for a room that was empty except for two producers who were trimming the fat, as it were. They were deciding who to send in front of the celebrity judges later that afternoon. I was deemed worthy and headed back to the pit with the rest, where we stayed for another three hours or so until we all were shuffled in again to perform for the celebrity judges. We had only two minutes to impress them—not to mention that I walked in not knowing that it was going to be Fred Willard judging me. I almost passed out when I saw him; it was crazy.
CW: Who was your favorite other comic on the show?
Marcus: I’ve been friends with Jeff Dye for a while, I love that guy—great kid, extremely talented. Iliza [Shlesinger] and I became good friends, and still are. She’s great. I have to say, though, that next to Sean Cullen, none of us are funny. That man is one of the funniest people on earth. I have more memories of off-camera Cullen antics than anything else. I wish everyone could spend a month with Sean Cullen.
CW: Because of your “look,” do you foresee a secondary career playing Thug No. 2 or Biker No. 5 on Law & Orders and CSIs?
Marcus: Ha, I could be so lucky. I admit, I have a pretty, um, specific look, so my strategy was to create the demand. Instead of me trying to fit their project, I figure maybe now they’ll get their projects to fit me. Let’s face it—if people really want to work with me, there are ways to cover the tats.
CW: Is Salt Lake City’s comedy scene as clique-y and neurotic as its music scene?
Marcus: It was. In the beginning, I was kind of an outcast because I was 1. an impressionist, and 2. I climbed the ladder pretty quickly. I actually headlined Wiseguys three months after I walked in the door. People didn’t like that. There were a lot of guys who felt I should have had to wait, but Keith [Stubbs, Wiseguys owner] figured, when you’re ready, you’re ready, and I guess his gamble paid off. Since I began, a lot of the old guard has moved on, and there are all these hungry young comics who want it. I’ve been trying to bring the scene together, letting them know that they need each other to succeed. If one person succeeds the whole scene succeeds. I’m in a position to give back to the scene, and that’s what I’m trying to do.
CW: Is there a celebrity impression you’ve yet to master that keeps you up at night?
Marcus: Sure, there are voices I’m close to getting, but they just aren’t there. I don’t count a voice as ready until I know every time I pull it out, it will be dead-on. Lately, I’ve been working on Owen Wilson. I think his nose makes it almost impossible to do perfectly. George Clooney is another one that I’m working on. I’m always trying to add more voices. Any suggestions? Requests?
CW: What’s the best bullshit line you’ve heard from agents and the like who’ve “discovered” you from Last Comic Standing?
Marcus: I got a call from a number I didn’t know in L.A. I answered, and it was this guy from ICM Talent. I said hello and he literally said, I am not kidding, “Hey, there, funny man, who’s ready to become a big star? Staying busy being famous?” I almost lost it. Needless to say, I wasn’t interested.