Mineola native and famed funnyman Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling is passing through his hometown of Long Island as he takes his dirty stand-up routine back on the road. The comic, whose career got a big boost from another famed locally raised jokester, shock jock Howard Stern, will take the stage at Suffolk Theater in Riverhead this weekend. Below are excerpts of an interview Martling did with the Press in 2015 before one of his prior local performances.
LONG ISLAND PRESS: What were the early days of Long Island comedy like?
JACKIE: “After my band broke up I played shows on my own. I met a couple comedians and I invited them to come down to my gigs. I’m talking about Rob Bartlett, who’s on Imus now, Eddie Murphy, who of course you know who he is, and Bob Nelson. These guys would all come down [from New York City] because there was no place to get stage time and Richard M. Dixon had a place in the late ’70s but he wouldn’t pay us, so me and my buddy Richie had the idea to set up my microphone and my amplifier and speakers I used when I played gigs by myself.
“We started doing shows and bringing people out from the city. We had all the big ones, you know, Seinfeld and Carol Leifer and Dennis Wolfberg. They all came out because they’d make money. And we actually started comedy on Long Island in 1979 at Cinnamon. I started putting up shows everywhere. There isn’t a bar on Long Island where I didn’t have a comedy show. All the major people from New York were going around making five dollars a set, or a hamburger. They’d come out to Long Island and make 40 or 50 dollars. It was like they died and went to heaven. The audiences were great, and after a year Richie and his brother opened the East Side Comedy Club.”
LIP: What are the challenges for a comedian trying to work on Long Island?
JACKIE: “The thing is, you need hard bark on ya. That’s the important thing. It’s so funny because when your start out and when you start to get the least bit known, a lot of the same stuff happens. You get interviewed and people ask you the same questions and you get sick of saying ‘I don’t know,’ so you get to making an answer for everything. People always say, ‘Jackie I want to be a comedian, what should I do?’
“I got to where I had a stock thing that I said. I’d tell them, ‘Well don’t do it, give up, you don’t have a chance.’
“It was funny, because it wasn’t just about blowing people off; there was a real reason there. If telling someone you don’t have a chance is enough to stop you, you really haven’t got a chance. [Comedy] is such a tough thing to do and you’re going to hit so many obstacles that if me telling you that you haven’t got a chance is enough to stop you, you might as well give up.”
LIP: What was your first impression of Stern?
JACKIE: “He was very tall. [Stern and the cast] couldn’t have been nicer, they treated me so well, and they plugged the hell out of Governor’s Comedy Club and my joke phone line. At the time I was working in Levittown at Governor’s and all of a sudden here I am at 30 Rock looking at pictures of Carson and Donahue and I’m going up sitting there in the big time. They were funny and it was fun. I always got a good laugh, so it was a perfect wedding.”
LIP: Why radio?
JACKIE: “I had no intention of being a radio guy, that totally happened by accident. But I love it. It’s so immediate. You could write a movie and in a year or two, see your work come to fruition. You write a TV show in a couple of months, you get to see your work come to life. You’re a comedian and in a best-case scenario you can come up with something that morning and tell it on stage that night.
“I’d be sitting next to Howard and an idea comes to my head and I’d write it down and put it in front of him. Five seconds later he reads it and immediately 15 million people are laughing. It is so immediate and personal and in your face just knowing that you’re telling jokes on Jackie’s Joke Hunt and there’s a couple hundred thousand people listening, it’s just so fun.”
-By Dan O’Regan
Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling will be performing at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27 at Suffolk Theater, 118 East Main St. in Riverhead. For more information, visit suffolktheater.com Tickets range from $35 to $39.