bill bodkinchats with New Jersey’s comedy bad boy, Mike Marino …
New Jersey is a pop culture phenomenon. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the Garden State boomed when Bruce, Bon Jovi and Southside Johnny hit the airwaves. In the late ’90s/early 2000s, Tony Soprano and company brought Jersey back to the pop-culture forefront. Now, with the arrival of Nucky Thompson, The Situation, Cake Boss, Jerseylicious and the rest, Jersey is on everyone’s mind. The inherent “Jersey-ness” of these characters, people and musicians are something they all wear as a badge of honor — they let it wave like a flag in the pop-culture wind.
In the comedy world, no one lets his Jersey flag fly higher than Mike Marino. The Garden State-born, L.A.-based stand-up comic has been affectionately dubbed “Jersey’s Bad Boy of Comedy.” His brand of comedy has not only landed him long-standing roles on Jay Leno but also feature films and stand-up engagements all over the world.
Bill Bodkin recently spoke with Mike Marino (www.mikemarino.net) for Night & Day Magazine, with his shows at Uncle Vinnie’s Comedy Club in Point Pleasant, N.J., on the horizon.
Bill Bodkin: You were an actor in commercials, television and movies for quite some time before you got into comedy. What was your inspiration to get into comedy?
Mike Marino: I’ve been in show business since I was a child. I started doing comedy 16 years ago. When I moved from New Jersey to California to pursue a career in television people told me I was really funny and I should try stand-up. I’ve had a natural knack for comedy since I was a kid. I was making people laugh in grammar school, high school and my beach house at the Jersey Shore.
My first show was at an open-mic competition at a comedy club in Bayonne, N.J. I then became a regular open mic-er at Rascals on Route 35 in Eatontown. I started doing comedy hardcore in California at The Comedy Store in Hollywood.
BB: Your nickname is Jersey’s Bad Boy of Comedy. You’re based in L.A. now. Why keep the Jersey-based nickname?
MM: I’m bi-coastal. I have homes on both coasts. Every other month, I perform in New Jersey. I almost got my nickname in California, too. It’s funny — there’s actually a worldwide affection for someone with a wise-guy background and an authentic New Jersey accent. I’ve gotten requests for and am performing in England, Australia and even Dubai.
I’ve got a clip [about America having an Italian president] on YouTube that’s gotten over 2.2 million hits. I’ve got over 30 clips online, but this one has just taken off worldwide. It’s my persona, I guess. People really enjoy it and it’s being turned into a sitcom. In fact, I’ve got six projects in the works.
One of those projects is a major movie production called Jersey Tranzit. It’ll start production in 2011, and I’ll be starring in it.
BB: Speaking of projects, you shot a pilot for a sitcom called Marino’s. What’s become of that?
MM: Sarit Catz (writer for Full House and Coach) had seen me in a few venues and approached me to develop a sitcom based on my stand-up comedy. Her and I wrote the script, and we got a small development deal. It was shot in Hoboken and Jersey City, and we sent it to everyone in Hollywood. We also sent it out to film festivals, and it’s won some awards. We’re just playing the waiting game right now. We are not giving up — now’s the time for a show like this.
BB: You’ve got some shows coming up at Uncle Vinnie’s in Point Pleasant (Dec. 17 and 18), and from what we’ve heard, every time you play ther, the place sells out and those shows are off-the-charts awesome. What’s the connection between you and that venue?
MM: The owners [Dino Ibelli and Jerry Ibelli] are two, really cool guys. I’ve been playing there since it opened. I perform there two to three times a year, and I have a great Jersey Shore fan base. I time it out so that I haven’t performed there in a while — usually in the summer and the holidays. This way fans can come see new material or old material or they can recommend me to their friends. At the Dec. 18 show (during the 8 p.m. slot), we’ll be doing a live DVD taping. It’ll be an interesting DVD, for sure.
BB: One show that you seem very proud of is the night you sold out the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park, N.J., in front of 1,600 people. Talk about that experience.
MM: We filmed at the Paramount in 2006 for a DVD that appeared on HBO Canada and can be found in video stores nationwide. Let me tell you: To walk out in front of 1,600 people was an amazing high – you couldn’t get yourself higher on any drug. I’d never even seen 1,600 people before. It was one of the greatest experiences.
BB: You were recently inducted to the New Jersey Comedy Hall of Fame. How did this come about?
MM: I was invited to a comedy event at Monmouth University, where I was invited to judge a comedy competition as well as perform. The person who ran the event had known me from my work in film and TV, and when I got on stage he surprised me with the award. There’s only three to four people in the hall of fame: Jerry Lewis, Lou Costello and me. I’m number three. I’m holding the trophy now — it’s beautiful and I’m pretty happy about being inducted.
BB: For those who haven’t seen you perform live, what can people expect?
MM: I’m your average anybody, very blue collar. My audiences range from 17-90, and everybody has a good time. My material stems from everyday life.
BB: What does the future hold for Mike Marino?
MM: When I was younger, I had a beach house in Belmar in the ’80s. It was great, man. There were like 30 clubs in a square mile there. Everyone used to nickname their place, and ours was called “The Sure House.” For 15 years, my brother and I ran that place like Animal House. I videotaped everything from us surfing to drinking to skateboarding to hitting the clubs. For years, I’ve tried to get this on TV. Now, I’ve got a deal to produce it as documentary. So look for “The Sure House — The Real Jersey Shore.” I’ll be the narrator, as I’m too old to play myself. Right now, it’s either going to be produced as a couple of shows on TV as a docudrama or in theaters.