The following was originally published in the Oak Creek Pictorial, April 29, 1999 and is reprinted here with the permission of CNI Newspapers.
The Road to Laughter
Oak Creek comedian Mike Marvell discusses the job of a jokester… by Gary Salazar
For all of Mike Marvell’s life, he had been a practical joker; constantly telling jokes and making friends and family members laugh.
[In 1998], the Oak Creek native decided that he wanted to share his comical characteristic with a wider audience as a stand up comedian.
“I was the class clown,” Marvell said. “I always wanted to be the center of attention.”
Marvell, a 1980 Oak Creek High School graduate, once tried to put a Volkswagon on the top of the roof at the high school as a senior prank.
He also joked with family members for many years by constantly badgering them with prank phone calls. Marvell, 36 has been a practical joker for most of his life, but his comedy aspirations started about five years ago when he wrote a comedy screenplay.
“Nothing came of that,” he said.
Marvell did not quit.
A few years later he collaborated with his brother-in-law and his uncle to record some comical music. “We put out a tape called “The Barstool Sportsmen,” Marvell said.
Local radio stations were interested in the music and invited Marvell to talk on the radio about it.
For the first time in his life, Marvell sat behind a microphone and liked the experience.
“I got interviewed on the radio and I thought that was cool,” Marvell said. “I would say something that everybody thought was funny, so I thought that I would try comedy. I like to write. Since then, it has been going pretty good.”
After making his decision to try a standup act, Marvell called Stooges Comedy Club on Layton Avenue to find out what he had to do to perform there.
Marvell said he was told by the management at Stooges that he needed experience and then recommended that he try his comic routine at the Safe House in Milwaukee, which has an open microphone night for aspiring comedians.
Last February [of 1998] was the first time that Marvell stood up in front of the crowd at the Safe House.
“It was the first time that I was on stage,” Marvell said. “It was on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and I opened up with a joke about him: ‘The first time he got near a stage he died too.’
“It was terrible. I fumbled. I got scared and nervous. I am used to talking to people but it is different when the light is on you.”
Marvell was on stage for four minutes, but it seemed to last much longer than that. “That was the longest four minutes of my life,” he said.
Even though Marvell had a rough first outing, he did not give up.
“I came back a week later and I felt a little more comfortable,” he said.
After numerous performances at the Safe House, Marvell finally got his chance to take the stage at Stooges Comedy Club.
In a year, Marvell’s role at the Milwaukee comedy club has increased. Currently he is the host of Stooges’ Comedy for Charity every Tuesday night. He assumed that role in November [of 1999].
Marvell is also making a name for himself by opening up for headliners at the comedy clubs in the area and throughout the Midwest.
“I think that I am doing all right,” he said. “Actually I’m booked every weekend until June. Last week I was in Madison. Next week I will be in Green Bay.”
“It is a hobby for me. When I get to do overnight trips I take my family with me. We’ve been to Missouri, Indiana and up north to a bunch of places.”
When Marvell is not on stage, he works for the City of Oak Creek doing maintenance. Marvell’s family consists of his wife Alyce and three children: Sam, Lauren and Emmalee. They are the main topic for his comedic material.
“Everything I write is mainly about my family,” he said. “Actually, it is pretty easy. It is day-to-day stuff. I try to write things that I can use years from now that people can relate to. Most of the people that go to comedy clubs are between the ages of 25 and 45. I fit right in that bracket. They can identify with with the humor I am trying to get across.”
To help him remember ideas for material, Marvell carries around index cards at work or wherever he might be, he said.
Even though Marvell has been on stage in front of crowds for more than a year, he still gets nervous before each performance.
“I’m always nervous before I go on,” he said. “Usually I don’t eat because I’m too nervous. I try to walk off the nervous energy before I go on stage. The key is the first joke. If I can get a good laugh out of the first joke, I know that I will be OK.”
The audience plays a big role in a comics success, he said.
“There has been a couple of times where I have been working and working and all the crowd does is stare at you,” he said. “But lately, the crowd reaction has been pretty good. My material has gotten better and I practiced a lot harder.”
Practice makes perfect
Marvell is constantly going over his 30-minute stage routine in his head.
“Everything I do is memorized,” he said. “My wife will get mad at me when I practice in the car. She will think that I am talking to her, but actually I’m going through my routine.”
What Marvell enjoys most about being a comic is making people laugh.
“Knowing that somebody enjoyed my act is the best part,” he said. “When somebody comes up to me after a show and tells me they enjoyed it and had a good time, that is a good feeling. It is a buzz to make people laugh.”
Although he is active at Stooges and traveling throughout the Midwest, Marvell has also helped organize the Oak Creek Community Center’s Comedy Night.
The Community Center, 8580 S. Howell Avenue, has hosted the event six times since its inception [in 1998].
The event “has been really successful,” he said. “We have national headliners coming in, not just local talent.”
Although Marvell is enjoying what he is doing, his goal is not to become a headlining act. He wants to open up his own comedy club.
“I want to own a club someday,” he said. “I do not want to get on the road and become a headliner, because I have a wife and three kids. I would like to establish a comedy club in the area.”