By Taylor Harrington 2/24/2021 10:12am ET
Mike Marino is a comedian out of New Jersey who always has the ability to get a crowd going. From traveling around the world with the USO performing for our troops, to selling out shows in LA and NYC, Mike’s comedy connects with the audience on a personal level, probably because his characters and stories are so personal to Mike himself.
Whether he is in character as Uncle Tommy, or catching waves as his surfer persona Mooney, Mike has developed these characters from real people that have made an impact on him, and has truly given them new life on stage.
How did you get started in the comedy world?
I never set out to be a comedian. I was an actor since I was a little kid. I grew up doing TV commercials in New York City, I did anything from potato chips to hamburgers. When I moved to Los Angeles when I was 28, everybody out there said that I was funny so I started going to the Comedy Store in Hollywood, trying to become a comic as well. I always said I was an actor playing the role of a standup. I ended up enjoying it and it was easier because you can create a career as a comedian. As an actor, you kind of had a wait to get on auditions and for somebody to book you in something. So rather than wait, you can create it, and now I’m addicted and have been doing stand-up for 25 years. I’ve been all around the world cracking jokes.
That is so much fun. Where is the craziest that place you’ve performed?
I’ve gotten to go seriously all around the world from USO comedy tours in Afghanistan and Kuwait, to Canada, and you know, coming home to New Jersey and California, different parts of California, every state you can think of, and there’s always going to be a crazy story. You never know when that story is going to be the craziest.
What was it like going on the USO tours?
When I originally started going, I went to Japan. You’re on American bases, and you’re entertaining the American troops, but when you leave the base, then you can experience everything and anything. When we first went to war with, I guess, Osama bin Laden and all of that noise, we went from Baghdad to Kuwait, to Kosovo, Macedonia. It’s just really unbelievable because you’re seeing parts of the world that you never would have seen. You saw war-torn country, then you go on the American base and you entertain the troops like Bob Hope did. In fact, that statue right behind me is Bob Hope. That’s the Bob Hope Award for the USO comedy tour given to me by the Laugh Factory I think about maybe six or seven years ago. It’s the Oscar for stand-up.
What can you tell me about your live online shows and The Not So Late Show?
The live show that we’ve been doing is on Tuesday nights at eight o’clock and it’s called Live from My Mother’s Basement. I really am in the house that I grew up in and downstairs is my mother’s basement where she did all the cooking, and when the kids were raised, that’s where we had our playroom and then the adults came to have macaroni on Sunday and that’s what we did on Christmas, Christmas Eve, all the holidays, everything was down in the basement. You could do your laundry and cook at the same time. It’s the best. So I do that on Tuesday nights at eight o’clock and we air on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Recently, I created a show with my producer out in Los Angeles called The Not So Late Show. I wanted to have a variety show and be with other entertainers. We’ll have a comedian, a musical guest, and we’ll do some sketch comedy. We have one with comedian Jaclyn Marfuggi and Arthur Colombino, who’s the musician, on February 28th.
Where do you pull your material from? What’s your inspiration?
Everyday life. I write about what I see. It started off with my Italian family roots, which is all based on my family. Of course, the real roots the way things really are, and then they spin off into what I see. Now it’s about getting older and life changes.
I started doing the characters that were familiar with me and my life from when I was younger and now they’re actually coming to the forefront. I do a character “Uncle Tommy”. Yeah, Tommy was my real uncle, but he used to say the craziest things. He’d screw up everything that he was talking about. As kids we just laughed, like, I can’t believe he believes that. But he did. I thought it would be funny to impersonate these people because they really exist and they enjoy it. I created the character Michelle. She is whatever you want her to be, but she don’t hurt nobody and she’s funny and silly. I did her character on stage one night and people were screaming. As an actor, I want to show range. I want to show that I can actually become someone else. I’m the old man. I became the girl, and I also have a surfer character named Mooney, who really existed when I was younger. I was a big-time surfer with my friends down on the Jersey Shore and there was a guy named Mooney and he was so cool, but he never had a job and he was always in shorts, even in the winter. That’s what happens when you smoke that much marijuana. That’s what I’m doing now, I have all my characters talking to each other. My producer came up with the idea and I’m really psyched about the new stuff I’ve got coming out.
When when do you think that will be coming out?
I don’t know. I work really closely with my producer, Tatiana, and she comes up with the coolest ideas and then my character brain takes it from there. In some respects, you’ve really got to give credit to the people behind the scenes that do this stuff, like yourself. I wouldn’t be on a show if I didn’t get in touch with you or you didn’t get in touch with me. So they’re the people who are behind the scenes that never really get acknowledged too much. I think Tatiana’s idea was the way I started taking the characters to the next level. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have even thought of it.
You’re spreading joy through all these different characters and I think it’s so great that you have the ability to create all these different layers to yourself.
You never know what somebody’s gonna say, but so far, if you think about it, I’m telling the truth. These people exist. They can’t get mad at me. I exist. My parents really are from Italy. There’s no Bologna here.
What can we expect to see from you in the future with your other stand-up shows?
Well, luckily, in the midst of this pandemic, I do have some theater shows. Anybody in anybody can find me at Mike Marino dot-net. The theater starts in March and comedian Jaclyn Marfuggi is going to be with me. March 20th we will be at The Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey, it’s a very famous theater, and there will be social distancing so instead of 1,500 people there will only be 150 now. Hopefully, we’ll add another show, and then March 27th I’ll be at The Mansion at Mountain Lakes, New Jersey. March 11 through 14 I’ll be at the Tropicana, which is The Laugh Factory in Las Vegas and I’ll be at Off the Hook Comedy Club in Naples, Florida March 31-April 4.
Before the pandemic I was one of the luckiest guys in the world, man. I was probably on stage six nights a week somewhere around the world. I didn’t want to take off. I love performing, that’s my medication. I just want to get back on stage. The endorphins when you’re on stage in front of 15 or 16 hundred people yelling and screaming and cheering, you’re just like, Oh, this is great. I don’t need to eat. I don’t need sex. I don’t need anything. I just want the audience.