It’s a challenge, Bob Marley admits, coming up with clever and funny things to say about life in Maine year after year.
It’s not that life in Maine is not funny. But after more than 16 years as a comedian specializing in jokes about Maine, Marley has to really think hard and long to come up with witty observations he hasn’t observed before.
But when he does, when his brain latches onto a truly hilarious Maine tidbit, it’s like a light going on.
The light over the stove, for example.
“I’ve got a joke in the act this year about how people in Maine leave just one light on in the kitchen in the evening, and it’s always that one over the stove,” said Marley. “I did that joke two nights ago (in Maine) and people started clapping before I even said which light. They yelled out “stove light.” But when I did the same joke in Columbus (Ohio) — mostly for my own amusement — I got complete silence.”
Marley, a Maine native whose comedy career has taken him all over the world, will have plenty of new Maine material ready for his annual holiday shows at Merrill Auditorium in Portland. He’s doing four shows over three days, beginning Wednesday and ending on New Year’s Eve.
He doesn’t want to give too much away, but he said recent Maine news events — like the contentious governor’s race and a controversial new strip club in Westbrook — gave him lots of fodder for new material.
“A strip club in Westbrook? That’s just too good to ignore. I’m all over that one,” said Marley, 43.
Marley started his comedy career in Maine, then spent 11 years in Los Angeles doing TV, films and club shows. He moved back to Maine with his wife and three children about five years ago but still performs around the country.
Marley has done his series of holiday shows for 11 years now. He says preparing for the shows at Merrill is very different than preparing for his usual club shows. Merrill is a large concert hall with seating for nearly 2,000, so everything Marley does has to be big enough to be seen and heard throughout the place.
He can’t use small props, for example, and he has to exaggerate his facial expressions to make sure they’re seen.
Marley claims he’ll be well rested for the shows, even though in late September he set a Guinness World Record for the longest stand-up comedy performance — 40 straight hours over two days.
People paid $10 an hour to watch Marley set the record at the Comedy Connection in Portland, and the event raised about $24,000 for the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center.
One of the hardest parts of that marathon was spending a month or more “locked in the basement” of his Falmouth home preparing 40 hours of jokes. He also had periods on stage where he couldn’t stand up, he said, so he used a stool.
But the ordeal was well worth it, Marley said. Besides raising money for the hospital, his accomplishment seemed to resonate with his fellow Mainers more than anything he’s ever done — including films or appearances on late night TV variety shows. He thinks that’s partly because of the general fascination with Guinness World Records, and partly because Mainers appreciate hard work and perseverance.
“I had one lady show up (during the record performance) and bring me some turnip stew. She told me she had heard what I was doing and wanted to support me,” said Marley. “When I asked her if she was staying for the show she said, ‘Nope, I don’t really care for your jokes.’ “
Luckily for Marley, plenty of other Mainers do.
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: