Comedian Michael Marino:
Loves Laugher, Loves Life
Being funny is not easy. Try it and let me know. Most of the time, you will either forget the punch line, or your story will get stale. Fast. Ok, I’m being negative, and this is a piece about being funny. So my point being is that making someone mad is easy, but making them laugh? Not so much. And not just one person, but try an entire audience who is awaiting with bated breath for you to make them laugh. No pressure. But that is what Italian American comedian Michael Marino does, and has done for so many years.
I met Michael a few years ago. We were discussing a possible interview. It was a warm summer day in Orange County, and we met at a theater where he was performing. Listen, I don’t remember half the people I meet, (age) but I remember him well. Michael was on time, he was kind. No ego, no talking to me while answering text messages. He was a true professional- his off stage presence…calm and patient. I had never interviewed a comedian before so I was wondering if he was going to tell me jokes while slapping his thigh and saying, “get it, get it?” Instead he was gentle and soft spoken. In the time we spent together, we talked about Italy and his mother with whom you could tell, cherishes deeply.
Fast forward a few years later. I am thinking of talented folks I want to interview and Michael’s name comes to mind. A few days later, we are on the phone and I can tell by his voice, he is having a great day. The kind of day when the sun is shining even when it isn’t. Along with his girlfriend, he is on his way to perform in Pennsylvania. Let me tell you. It is great to talk to happy people who are content in their lives, and it is even greater to talk to someone who has made a living doing what he loves.
Michael Marino loves being a comedian, and has as much passion for his craft as he did when he first started out. No, he is not the new kid on the block. Instead, he is a seasoned comedian who has perfected his craft, and has performed in every major comedy club across America: the MGM Grand, The Improv, the Laugh Factor, and The Comedy Store, just to name a few.
Born in New Jersey and the son of Italian immigrants, Michael has performed and been a part of the world of entertainment since his early twenties. After graduating from the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Marino started out as a commercial actor and was in television (a regular guest on The Tonight Show), movies and soap operas including As the World Turns and One Life to Live. Then, as he built his resume and gained recognition for his sense of humor and wit, it was a natural transition to comedy. Since then, he has been hard at work. The work has paid off as he is constantly in demand, and has been inducted into New Jersey’s Comedy Hall of Fame. Not only does he spend most of his time either working or with family, he also donates his time to charity work; Michael has performed for dozens of charities including Aids Project – LA, Haven House, Team earthworks, and the Eric Davis Cancer Fund.
This morning’s conversation brought me back to the time when we last spoke. Though he was driving, he spoke calmly, answering and listening with great care. His attentive manner was appreciated and well noted. For in this world full of selfies and self, of overblown egos, and drama, it was nice to talk to someone with whom you quickly realize isn’t just a comedian, he’s just a great guy.
Gaya Lynn: You were classically trained at the prestigious Academy of Dramatic Arts. I know you were in many commercials and soap operas. How did you end up in the comedy?
Michael Marino: Well, it all started when I moved to California at 25, 26. I had a thick New Jersey accent and I just went with the flow. People said I was funny, and asked me why I
didn’t do comedy. So I just started making fun of my childhood… There just was so much material. Eventually, I auditioned for the Comedy Store. Every Sunday night, comedians wrapped around the building….I had to audition three times for the owner, and then I landed the job and became a regular. This was back in 1995.
GL: You have successfully interwoven two aspects which you hold dear into your act: your family and your Italian roots.
MM: My mother was from Italy. She was one of six children. She was 4’10 and made meatballs and Macaroni in the basement. At 5:30, there was dinner. If we ever got a phone call at dinner, she would scream at the phone and say, “Who are you? Why are you calling at dinner time?” So many family memories, all which made great material…Our family migrated to mainly three places: Toronto, and Canada, Argentina while 80 per cent of the family went to Jersey. A lot of our family changed last names or cut down the names as many Italians back then were treated like peasants. Toronto has a big cluster of Italians. In fact, while on tour, I bumped into a cousin there who I never met before….It’s great. On one side, you hear Italian and then on another French. So, it’s great touring there.
GL: This past year, we have lost some of the greatest comedians of our generation: Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, and Garry Shandling.
MM: We have lost so many too soon. I met Robin Williams who was at the Laugh Factory. I performed before him and then he came on and during his whole act, he did an impression of me. It was fantastic.
GL: That’s a great compliment to you. He really paid attention to you and your act.
Michael, I believe being funny, to get up on stage and have people laugh is probably one of the hardest things to do in life. I would think being a comic is something you are just born to do. Yes, you can improve, but you have to be born with that talent.
MM: You are born with it. I’ve been an entertainer since I was a kid. In third grade, I wrote a
play and I still have it.
GL: If you look at the longevity of your career from film to television to standup… you aren’t just talented as a comedian but you also are a keen businessman and marketer. In today’s competitive market, is it enough just to be funny?
MM: You have to stay current. I take classes, teach classes, surround myself with the business.
GL: You talk a lot about family and your material is never vulgar.
MM: Everyday life is funny enough.
GL: Thank you so much Michael. I know you do so much for charity. Anything coming up?
MM: Yes, we are doing a veterans fundraiser at Coca-Cola Presents U.S. Veterans Choice Comedy Awards at the Hollywood American Legion.
A wonderful profile on Mr. Marino is on L’italoamericano.org
For more on Mr. Marino go to: