Tonight, while the rest of us are probably not doing anything nearly this fun, Lewiston’s Mark Turcotte will be doing stand-up comedy on stage at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York City — the same club that regularly hosts names like Seinfeld, Rock, Silverman and Chappelle. 
 
Q: How did you catapult from performing at local bars in the Pine Tree State to the big-time in NYC?
 
Mark: “I entered a contest run by Comedywire (http://comedywire.com/), which provides professional comedy-writing services to clients ranging from national radio and TV shows, speech writers, advertising agencies, and corporations. The grand prize was a televised stand-up set on Gotham Comedy Live, Turcotte said.
 
Comedywire posted topics on their site, mostly news headlines, and the challenge was to come up with the best jokes per topic. Writing space was limited, much like Twitter, so jokes were of the concise, two-line, late-night monologue variety. The contest ran for a couple months and over 1,000 people entered.
  
I was among the top-10 finalists who would have a video of their stand-up reviewed by Chris Mazzilli, owner of Gotham Comedy Club. From there, I made the top-five and earned a spot on the show. Based on his comments, it was the quality of my writing and unique point-of-view that made the difference.
The show is currently being renewed and I do not yet have a date for the televised performance. Until then, I’ve been invited to perform on the Gotham All-Stars show on May 24, which is an incredible opportunity and a great tune-up for the TV spot.
 
Q. What is important about appearing at the Gotham Comedy Club?
 
Mark: Performing in New York City is a goal for any comedian; performing at Gotham Comedy Club is on another level. Gotham is one of the top comedy clubs in the country and regularly hosts industry giants such as Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman, and Dave Chappelle. It was the backdrop for NBC’s Last Comic Standing auditions, Seinfeld’s “Comedian” documentary, and the pilot episode of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” …  I’m not sure how many Maine comedians have performed on that stage, but I’m honored to join the list.
 
Q. What comics inspire you?
Mark: George Carlin was the first. At 12-years-old I saw his “Carlin at Carnegie” HBO special and became fascinated with stand-up. His bits on “Dogs & Cats” and “Filthy Words” had me rolling and I was in awe of how one person could entertain a theater full of people with just his thoughts. Six years later, after seeing Sam Kinison, Carlin began evolving into the ranting, unapologetic, philosopher/comedian that most people identify with today. He skewered politics, religion, and our warped sense of self-importance with meticulously crafted, bulletproof diatribes, which inspired me even more. Not only was I laughing at the material, I was learning about my own sensibility and my personal boundary limits. It was exciting. He made me question everything.
Beyond Carlin, I draw inspiration from all styles of stand-up, from one-liner to storytellers. David Brenner, Greg Giraldo, Chad Daniels  and Mitch Hedberg are all batting in the top half of my lineup, even though Chad is the only one currently sporting a pulse.
 
Q. Do you think comedy is changing these days. Do you stay away from politics?
 Mark: It’s definitely changed from the ’80s and ’90s. There’s less latitude with language and subject matter. Our political climate has many people on edge and eager to react to anything they deem offensive. Whenever I think it’s gotten out of hand I remind myself that Lenny Bruce and George Carlin were arrested for speaking into a microphone with the intent to entertain. Thin-skinned audience members and politicians aside, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be a comedian — or artist of any genre. Technology and social media have empowered artists with creative and promotional control over their work. As for politics, I don’t go out of my way to shock, but I enjoy a challenge and if I believe in the message, I’ll tackle just about any subject and hope the audience is up for the ride.
 
What is your most successful material?
Mark: Material about my family works well because it’s instantly relatable. Most people from my generation are married with kids and have a dad whose opinions stopped evolving during the Nixon administration. I’ve also had positive responses to topical jokes. They have a short shelf life, but it’s a great way to let the audience know you’re in tune with current events and constantly working on new material.
 
Q. How has your act changed since you started in comedy?  
 Mark: My act was a little dirty when I started. I think a lot of comics start that way. It’s easier and the quickest way to get an audience reaction, whether it be laughs or groans. My writing has steadily matured over the years. I enjoy taking on challenging topics like death, religion, cancer and politics. The majority of my material is based on family, life experience, and current events, so I believe my act will change as life dictates.
 
Q. How did your comedy career begin?
 I’ve always been fascinated by stand-up comedy and decided to sign up for a comedy workshop at the tender age of 42. Since then, I’ve tried to make the most of some great opportunities in some of the best venues, festivals, and contests throughout the northeast and beyond. I was selected for the Boston, Cleveland and North Carolina comedy festivals, and contests at Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, and Sarasota, Florida. Along with performing on my own, I produce a series of shows under Maine Event Comedy. There’s a lot of talent in this state and I strive to showcase some of the best, in venues from Madison to Portland.
 
Q. What is your REAL goal?
 Mark: To get you to come to a show, then come back. I started comedy at 42, an age when most comedians have a decade or two of experience. Comedy has already given me more than I could have hoped for. Three years ago I made the finals at the Funniest Comic on the East Coast Contest at Mohegan Sun. I stood on the stage thinking I’d peaked and wondered how it could possibly get any better. On May 24 I’m heading to New York City to perform at Gotham Comedy Club and will soon appear on their television show. Can’t wait to see what’s next.
   
Q. Do you think you’ll ever stop?
Mark: I hope not. I’ve found what I’m supposed to do in life and I’m able to pursue my passion with the full support of my family. My kids are 18 and 16, and my wife, Sherri, is one of my biggest fans. She’s a breast cancer survivor and encouraged me to write about our experience in dealing with the disease. The rationale being, if you can laugh at cancer, just for a few minutes, it takes its power away and you get some of your life back. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, especially from those directly affected by cancer. For me, there’s no better feeling than walking into a room full of people and sending them home in a better mood than when they arrived. Well, okay, there’s one better thing — when they paid for that experience. Well, okay, there’s one other thing, but isn’t this a family paper?
 
  
 
 
 
 

Mark Turcotte will perform at New York City’s famous Gotham Comedy Club tonight, Wednesday, May 24. 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.