Transcription of In-Person Interview with Comic Mark Dawson
Phil: Alright, we’re on. So I’m with Mark Dawson here, and just have a couple questions to kind of warm him up and get people excited for him at Dreyfest Comedy Night, which is August 12th at Art House Cinema and Pub from 10:30 to like 1 o’clock in the morning. Mark will be there performing and I’m just here to ask him some questions.
Mark, I was kind of curious how long you’ve been doing comedy.
Mark: Oh yeah, man, it started in 2011. I’ve been a wise-ass my whole life, but that was my first time with a microphone.
Phil: Okay, so you’re kind of a late bloomer.
Mark: Yeah. I was in my 40s when I started.
Phil: Why did you decide to start?
Mark: Funny, I met a friend right here, actually, at the Highlands, and he was — my day being a disaster — he was making fun of me and just being like ‘oh my god, if you were just honest about your life you could be a stand-up comic.’ And I was like, ‘Well, I need to say something nice to him now,’ right, so: ‘I think your wife is hot.’
I didn’t think much about it, either, and then Lucas Seely had a poster for the Lucas and Wayne Cox comedy contest, and I thought, ‘that sounds like fun,’ so I entered that, and I had a lot of friends come out, and I thought if it was funny it would be funny, and if it wasn’t, it would be even funnier. Like sure, this guy might get mauled, it would just be…so.
And I won the contest. It was cool.
Phil: You won it?
Mark: Yeah, then you win a trip to LA, but you have to sleep on Lucas’s couch.
Mark: Yeah, perform at the Comedy Store and all that.
Phil: Oh wow, that’s awesome.
Mark: Yeah, he treats the comics around here great. He does really great things for the scene.
Phil: Cool, so that was 2011.
Phil: So how long before that competition were you working on bits and stuff?
Mark: Maybe that day. I remember actually the thing was at seven or something and I came home at 4:30 or 5 and thought, okay, what can I talk about that’s funny.
Phil: No kidding.
Mark: Life is funny, you know.
Phil: That’s awesome. Had you been into it before?
Mark: The really funny thing about it is I used to love to watch stand-up comedians, and since I started, I don’t like it at all. It kind of ruined it. Except for if it’s like your friends, then you want to see them and see them do well. But you end up with stage envy, you’re like “I should be up there instead of that bastard.”
I stayed at Jim Gaffigan for about 15 minutes.
Phil: Well, I was going to ask you if you had any favorite comics, or maybe that’s not really relevant.
Mark: The ones I appreciate — Jeff Dye, I think he’s here this year. I like him because he’s — a lot of comics are really self-deprecating, and it can really be part of your life, too - and he’s often positive.. And Louie Anderson is a total mentor, and really lucky I got to know him, and he’s helped me a lot.
Phil: So you’ve gotten to know him?
Mark: Yeah, he’s awesome, actually. Great guy.
Phil: How did that happen?
Mark: I lucked out. So Lucas was opening for Louie and said he could bring guests back, and you know, Louie’s clean, and I am, too - not as much any more - but Lucas comes in and says “Louie’s gonna want your set, don’t fuck it …don’t choke. And he was just a nice guy, and said he liked me because I was kind to me wife, and I’m like, ‘who wouldn’t be kind to their wife?’
Phil: Yeah, right? So there’s a lot of assholes in comedy?
Mark: There are a few, I suppose.
Phil: Let’s see, so… Louis Anderson..
Mark: And Mike Birbiglia, too, I love that guy.
Phil: Yeah, he’s great. Oh! I was going to ask you what you liked about clean comedy, and how that’s changed now, or if that was on purpose …
Mark: Oh yeah, I think my life just got a little darker. You know honestly, comedy, I think a lot of people who do comedy, it’s for some reason that they — if you have a perfect life, you’re not going to — why would you risk that? There’s some pretty screwed up stories behind what comedians do. And my wife got really sick, so I started more… Then I realized — in fact Louie told me — you’ve just gotta be yourself. And, you now, obviously.
Oggie Smith, who’s from here, who’s successful, he says that same thing: ‘Live and die as yourself.” And I realized that I don’t say the ‘F’ word and I don’t say mean things in a professional setting, but to my best friend I sure do. So, I think, Louie always says: “If you’re likeable and interesting, and if you’re not genuine, who gives a shit?”
Phil: So you’re kind of a big figure in the Billings business community, as owner of Century 21. Do many people in the professional realm know about your comedy life?
Mark: I don’t think I’m a big figure, exactly. This is a small town, right? Everybody knows everybody. And people are like ‘why the hell would you do that?’ And other people are like ‘that’s so cool,’ and the other people are like, ‘You’ll be good at something, eventually. Keep trying!’
That’s more what my wife thinks.
Phil: How long do you think you’ll do it? Is it something that you want to do for a long time now?
Mark: You know, I think that, unless I got really old and had marbles in my head and couldn’t feel like I was sharp... Once you develop a skill, you don’t want to lose the skill. And it’s something you can do your whole life. And, yeah, I think I would.
Phil: Yeah, you see videos of Carlin when he’s old and he’s still tearing it up.
Mark: I think so, too. And, I mean, you do get better and better because it’s a skill thing, more than a talent thing.
Phil. Right, right. Yup, work it. I’m not sure that I have that much more, but if you have anything to add.
Mark: You should really try it some time.
Mark: Oh yeah, you’d love it. It’s really exhilarating.
Mark will be at the Art House Cinema and Pub for late night comedy, 10:30-1:00.