we last left Marcus at the Gateway Mall, he had just taken second
place on NBC's “Last Comic Standing”, which later revealed itself
to be a blessing in disguise. I mean, let's be honest, has anyone
reading this seen those “guaranteed television series” the
winners were promised? Not like it would have helped NBC's lineup,
but now I'm treading into Bill Frost's territory, so let's move
Since the last interview nearly two years ago, Marcus has had a chance to tour the country a few times, filmed his own DVD special, dropped the impersonations as well as most of his material, and watched a good portion of his life change in the process. Now he's taking on one of the biggest tasks of his career: a live show at Kingsbury Hall to be filmed for a new special. Not only being planned as his biggest show in Utah to date, but his last local gig until 2011 as he heads back out on tour. Leading up to the event I got a chance to chat with the man himself about the past few years and his career in general, not to mention talking about the show and his thoughts on the local comedy circuit. All with some photos of Marcus at Kingsbury you can check out here.
Gavin: Hey Marcus! First off, how have you been since the last interview?
Marcus: Good. Busy, but good.
Gavin: To start off, I know you've been in bands and spent some time training to be a pro-wrestler. What made you get into comedy?
Marcus: I guess like most comedians, I have always been the funny guy, I just never thought I could do it as a job, you know. After my band fell apart, I started hanging out at with Mick and Allen at KBER, doing funny stuff, and through that, I met a lot of comedians. They all told me they thought I should try it out and eventually, I did and was hooked instantly.
Gavin: Who are some comedians you look up to and influenced you as a performer?
Marcus: To be honest, there have always been comics that I loved, but as far as what I do, I have always strived to be myself. In the beginning, I guess, as a comedian, you are kind of influenced by the comedians you listen to, but over time, as you strive for respect, you realize that unlike when you are in a band, being told that you are "like" another comedian is not a compliment. In my business, it means you're a hack. Now, I don't even listen to comedy because I don't ever want to even accidentally sound like another comic.
Gavin: Prior to the NBC exposure, you made a name for yourself around the comedy clubs, mainly Wiseguys. What was it like for you coming up as an unknown and gaining that local following?
Marcus: It's tough. A lot of free work. A lot of opening for other comics, trying to work your way up. It's tough, but comedians in this town are lucky to have a place like Wiseguy's that allows young comedians to have stage time. It's not like that in other towns. When I was coming up, I got a chance to open for guys like Harland Williams and Tommy Chong, where else in the world would you get that chance? I worked hard, real hard. I was somewhere EVERY weekend, for free, busting my ass to get better. Nothing was ever handed to me, I earned every fan I ever got, and because I worked for all of them, I always wanted to give back, so that's why I do so much for comedy in this town.
Gavin: Briefly looking back on “Last Comic Standing” from where you are now, what's been the long-term affect for you being on that show, and what do you think looking back on it as a whole?
Marcus: Obviously it's a huge boost, it helps get your name out there, I stay very busy doing colleges and clubs around the country, all because of my time on TV, but it is in no way a ticket to the big time. I am working every day, trying to stay relevant. There are a 1000 comedians who want to be where I am and if I relax or take it for granted for even one second, they will take it, and if I ever get lazy, then I deserve that to happen. I have been given an amazing opportunity to do what I love as a job, actually make a living at it, I need to always work on moving forward, look ahead to what's next, keep trying to be better.
Gavin: Shortly after that you did the “Second To None” show at the Egyptian. How did that opportunity come about, and what was it like filming that show?
Marcus: It was a lot of work and we threw it together very quickly. I wanted to have a product that was new, something that represented me and where I was as a comedian at that time, that I could sell on the LCS tour. I made a few calls and Keith Stubbs from Wiseguy's helped me lock down the Egyptian and we threw the show together and it turned out great. The show was very successful and I was happy to do it in Utah.
Gavin: What did you think of the reaction to its release and how that cemented you locally?
Marcus: I think that I was already cemented as locally as I could be at the time, the special was just kind of a way to give back.
Gavin: Since that time you've stopped doing most of that act, including impressions. How did that decision come about?
Marcus: I wanted to take all the stuff I had done on TV, all of the things I had been doing, and put it all in one place for people to own so that I didn't have to do it anymore. I dropped everything at that point and started over. For me, it's about growth. The impression thing was never a huge part of my act, it was at most ten minutes, but that's what people remembered. To me, impressions are easy. It's like if you don't want to write real jokes, you can just do repeat a line from a movie in another person's voice and the audience goes crazy. I like the challenge of writing and developing REAL comedy. It's much more rewarding.
Gavin: How has it been for you rebuilding your set and pretty much starting from scratch?
Marcus: Starting over is very scary. When I did "Second To None", I thought “what if this is as good as I get? What If I can't be funnier?” Now, I look back and am almost embarrassed of some of those jokes. So, now I am about to do another special and am facing starting over again. It's scary, but I like to push myself. I have to always be moving forward or I will lose my spot, so I never stop working.
Gavin: What's it been like for you touring across the country with the new material and playing to some of the famous comedy clubs?
Marcus: It's been a trip. I did Gotham in NYC and Jerry Seinfeld dropped in and opened the show. It was insane to see Jerry up there just trying out new jokes, working on stuff, made me realize that our jobs are never done. We always need to be growing. I have also learned that funny is funny. I have performed in over 150 cities in 33 states and they all like to laugh. It makes you realize that we are all the same, we are all connected by laughter. It's amazing to be able to elicit an emotional response on cue from people from all walks of life. It's an amazing feeling.
Gavin: What's the reaction been like from fellow comedians both local and professional?
Marcus: Comedians are a strange bunch. We love the attention, but it takes time to learn to be happy for other people's success. When I started out, there was an animosity towards me because I came up quick, but over time, as we have all matured, it has become mutual respect. I have been there. I have seen some of my friends get things that I haven't gotten and thought "Why not me?", been angry, jealous, but over time, you realize that it is pointless. I try to help up and coming comedians, I answer questions, even try to coach those who will listen, but in the beginning, it's hard for people to overcome the ego, You have to just sit back and say "okay, you'll see, it's not as easy as you think". I have seen a lot of comedians locally come and go because they didn't want to pay their dues. They look at me and say "well it happened for Marcus, why not me?" And just like me, they have to learn that it's about hard work and a bit of luck.
Gavin: So the big subject to talk about, you've got a new special filming. First thing, how did the opportunity come around to do this one?
Marcus: "Second To None" was shopped around to a few networks, got a lot of national attention. I can say now that I know I was not ready as a comedian back then. I needed a year or two to grow. The quality of the show was there, the way it was shot and edited by the production company I worked with, Blackhawk Entertainment, but the material needed to be stronger. My show is A LOT better now, it's more personal, It relies less on bombast and more on the emotional connection and people's ability to relate. I talk about a lot of my real life experiences rather than just random funny shit. I did a test filming last year, just me on stage, one camera, for a network that will remain unnamed and they liked it. They said that they wanted to work with me, but I would have to do it with them rather than producing it on my own.
Gavin: Was it a problem getting them to let you do it locally as opposed to NYC?
Marcus: I hope not. I am kind of taking a gamble. I know that the network likes the quality we produce and they already said that they approve of my new act, so I guess I am hoping that if I self-produce and deliver a project that blows "Second To None" away, then they will have no cause to say "No." We have been in talks with a couple networks, but at this point, we haven't sold it. This is me taking a risk, not waiting for someone to hand me something, but going out and doing it. This way, I know that I will be proud of what I deliver. It will be the truest representation of who and what I am. I am very proud of that. To me, integrity is more important than taking the easy road.
Gavin: With all the different types of theaters and venues, why did you choose Kingsbury Hall for the location?
Marcus: It's twice the size as last time. It's perfect for filming, perfect for comedy. It just all worked out.
Gavin: Without spilling major information, what have you got planned for the show?
Marcus: It's going to be bigger, more focused on the comedy. The last one was all rock n' roll and flash, this one will be a bit more grown up, maybe a bit more cynical, a bit more personal. It will be at least two hours, maybe more. It's going to be fun and I know, this is the one. This is my shot. This is my next big step and I really hope that Utah shows up to take that step with me.
Gavin: Going a bit local, what's your take on the local comedy scene, both good and bad?
Marcus: Well, there are A LOT of comedians. In fact, when I drop in to open mic, it always seems like there are ten new guys every time, although only a few really stick with it. They figure that within six months of starting, they should be headliners, doing weekends, and it doesn't work that way. There aren't as many guys willing to really put in the time anymore and that's sad. I do see a lot of potential out there and some of these new guys are amazing and are paying their dues. I just hope that they stick with it and are willing to take the risks that it takes to make it. I sacrificed a lot to get where I am, I hope these new guys are wiling to do the same because there are no short cuts. Sure, “LCS” boosted my career, but if I hadn't put in the time before I got the opportunity, I wouldn't have been ready and wound never have been as successful on the show.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to improve it from where it is now?
Marcus: Not really. Wiseguy's is there, the opportunity for these guys is there, I hope that they take advantage of that. Keith has done so much for this scene, I have tried to give back as much as I can, but to be honest, the success of the local comedy scene rests solely on the up and coming comedians. There will never be a shortage of funny people, it's just about whether or not they can focus that and use it to advance.
Gavin: Are there any local comedians you suggest people should check out?
Marcus: Absolutely. My friend Guy Seidel has been working with me and is now doing his own shows. Cody Eden is an AMAZING comedian, so good he almost makes me mad sometimes. Spencer King has been working the scene for years and in my opinion should be a household name. There are a lot of great guys out there, I would tell people to go to the open mic at Wiseguy's Trolley Square on Wednesday's and see how much talent there is in this state.
Gavin: What can we expect from you throughout the rest of the year?
Marcus: I will be working hard throughout the summer to finish the special after we film and then once colleges are back in session in the fall, I will be back on the road. I have some international dates planned. I will be doing shows in London in August and am in talks to head over to South Africa later in the year.
Gavin: Aside the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Marcus: Just my Facebook page.