McGinnis: Mark Curry makes ConnxtionsWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Curry sat in the lobby of the Connxtions Comedy Club, eating a bowl of soup for lunch. His bearing was the very definition of laid back and relaxed. He described his philosophy of comedy, as it related to his stand-up act.
“What I do is, I don’t think of my act before I go on. I let the audience do it. That’s what I’ll do — I’ll ask the audience what they want to talk about. Completely interactive. It’s not that I don’t have the material; I’ll say to the audience, what do you guys want to talk about? And whatever they shout out, I’ll have somebody write it down — I’ll give somebody a pen and pencil in the audience — and that’s what we’ll do the show on.
“I keep it like that to keep it fresh, keep it current events. Most people are gonna say something about Tiger, about Obama, BP, things that are in the news. People want to hear about this stuff. So it’s basically my slant on the news.”
Almost every comedian wants to be topical. But after a long time on the road, most comics have long since settled into a set routine, only deviating when absolutely necessary from what has worked in the past. But Curry, who’s been performing onstage for over 20 years, feels the need to change it up constantly, keeping it fresh for himself.
“It’s kinda the way it evolved. Being in the game for so long, you get bored,” Curry said. “So, I challenged myself, sometimes. I said, you know what? I’m gonna make this whole show up. It’s just that I can. It’s just being in the business for so long, experimenting with different things.”
With that idea comes the constant responsibility of staying current. Curry said that his goal is always to be informed on everything, so he’s never caught unaware. He produced an iPad, which he said is his constant companion on the road.
“I read a lot, so no matter what they say, I can comment on it, and give my perspective. And they love it because they know it was spontaneous, they know it was quick, they know I didn’t write it. They just gave it to me. And I think they appreciate it.”
Many of Curry’s current audience members would have been children back in the early 1990’s, when his popular sitcom, “Hanging with Mr. Cooper,” was airing. The show, which ran for five seasons, was a staple of ABC’s family-friendly Friday night lineup.
“A lot of the youngsters who saw me, they come see me, because, you know they grew up with me,” Curry said. “So now, they get a chance to go out — they’re 21 now — and they’ve never had a chance to come see me. And they love it.
“It makes me feel old — so many youngsters come up and say, ‘I watched you! I loved it!’ Make me feel like I’m 80, like Cosby or something.”
In the years since the sitcom left the air, Curry’s time has been divided between his ongoing stand-up touring and several roles on film and television. His life took a tragic turn in 2006 when, after an accident at his home, he was severely burned on his body. Curry declined to discuss the incident for this story.
“I became very depressed for years, and I’m just now overcoming that depression,” was all he would say.
These days, Curry said he most enjoys connecting with his audience, whether it be onstage or through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
“I love it, because they can talk to you, you can talk to them — Facebook, I talk to people, I don’t even know where the hell they are, I talk to them. It lets you get interpersonal with people that you don’t even know, that know you, that want to know you, that want to say, ‘Wow, I want to talk to you.’ Here I am, a celebrity, but, you know, these people can interact with me. They’re my friends.”
Curry added that his major goal is to break through in films, not just comedy, but also dramatic work.
“I feel I’m a leading man. That’s why I waited not to do films, because I didn’t want to do all the ‘booty, cookoo’ films and pimp daddy (roles),” Curry said. “There was a lot of that, and it just made you that type of actor.”
But for now, Curry said that the greatest satisfaction he gets comes from the give and take with the crowd. “When I have a good show, and everybody’s laughing and everything is working, and I’m killing them when I’m onstage, and they’re just laughing as hard as possible,” he said. “That’s a good feeling.”
E-mail Jeff at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.