Marty Clarke - Comedy Team Captain

February 20, 2021

Photo Credit

Andres Rodriguez

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Valerie Lopez


In Wisconsin, Marty Clarke served as team captain for his high school football, basketball, and baseball teams. If you know anything about what it takes to be a team captain (of multiple teams, and in a cold climate), you know it involves focus on performance, ability to multi-task, and most importantly, being good at motivating your team mates through thick and thin. The captain has to maintain this through not only the victories but the challenges that a team may face. Those skills have served Marty well as he has taken on a role similar to the team captain role for the Austin comedy scene.

Clarke got his start in comedy in Madison, learning many valuable lessons about running comedy shows. One lesson he learned early on was to always be especially welcoming with those trying their first open mic. It was a lesson he saw firsthand when he first started, and one that has stayed with him. He continues to practice the lesson at his Austin open mic, Lucky Duck, by making sure to introduce new comics to others. He understands this networking style may be unfamiliar to some, but challenges the mentality that often accompanies many comedy scenes: "it's not us against them or them against them or territorial. It should just be we're all just the Island of Misfit Toys. We all just want friends."

It's not us against them or them against them or territorial. It should be we're all just the Island of Misfit Toys. We all just want friends.
Marty Clarke

Another lesson Clarke internalized and practices is doing research before launching a show that might be a bit risqué. Marty is not afraid to try new things, and one of his racier shows in Madison, Skinny Dip, relies on comics exposing themselves (down to their skivvies). Clarke studied similar shows and his focus he says “was always about body positivity and supportiveness.” He went to a lot of Burlesque and drag shows and got input from his LGBTQ+ friends to make sure that he was on the right track. "I knew it couldn't be toxic. It couldn't be toxic masculinity. It couldn't be anything that had anything to do with judging people. It had to be supportive. And I knew supportiveness was the cornerstone of that show," he says. He got a positive response--and even accolades--from the LGBTQ+ community in Madison for having done his homework. He also ran a few Skinny Dips shows in Austin before the COVID-19 shutdown, and hopes to relaunch with the same supportive ideals.

As you can see, Madison provided a treasure trove of learning. But it was recent transplant to Austin Martin Henn (also from Wisconsin) who convinced Clarke to pack his bags (ok, his backpack) and plant roots in Austin. He was able to develop his comedy and start evaluating the scene before he started producing a show here or there all before the COVID-19 shutdown.

After the summer of 2020, Clarke was unemployed and eager to stay busy, so he studied venues around town personally and started booking shows one by one under the name Rough Cut Comedy, a production company started by Gabriel Cavazos. And you can look at the Comedy Wham events calendar and see that there is a Rough Cut Comedy show nearly every night of the week, each with a different hook.

Why does he like to produce a variety of shows? He admits: "you want to have as many one off or gimmicky shows as you can. That's why I have a storytelling show. And that's why I have a roast battle show. That's why I like to run shows with bands. Something that gives it some kind of reason for people to come out.”

And the pushback he received about having live comedy when COVID-19 was still prevalent?

He believes everyone is entitled to their opinions, but as a self-admitted “old soul”, he realizes that with any endeavor that might raise the ire of others, "There's gonna be mad people mad about anything you do, regardless of where you are in life. So what you do is you just keep your friends close and you surround yourself with positive good people.” Despite that pushback, Clarke still feels happy to be part of the Austin comedy scene: “I'm so glad to call this place my home and to call myself part of the Austin comedy scene.”

I'm so glad to call this place my home and to call myself part of the Austin comedy scene.
Marty Clarke

Of course the biggest news that Marty has to share was how a whim text to Rebecca Trent set in motion the recent announcement that the recently shuttered New York City institution The Creek and the Cave (which Trent has wholly owned and run since 2006) would relaunch in downtown Austin at 611 E 7th Street. At the first Lucky Duck open mic since the news broke, Clarke shared the story with the comics and he told them "we're gonna have our own club, because that's what it is. It's the scene's club. And I love that about it.“

We're gonna have our own club, because that's what it is. It's the scene's club. And I love that about it.
Marty Clarke

His genuine excitement shines through, even though a few times throughout the process it wasn’t clear the club relocation would actually work out. “The universe sometimes just gives you things and it works out”, Clarke says.

His goal with The Creek and the Cave Austin is for it to be supportive and have it viewed as “a comedy club for the entire scene. It's not going to be competitive or cliquey? . It's going to be supportive of all different Arts in Austin, especially the comedy scene, which is gonna be great.”

Anyone that knows anything about what The Creek and the Cave has done in New York understands that it has welcomed a wide variety of comic voices to its stage, sometimes to a fault. Some recent press (a recent article about alt-right comedy performers finding space to perform there) shone a light on that fault line.

Despite that, it’s very clear that Trent is a force to be reckoned with as Clarke describes her as the “Godmother of New York Comedy”, a title anyone would be hard pressed to challenge and whose skills clearly bring people together. That’s exactly what this scene will benefit from. Along with Clarke’s welcoming and team captain support stylings, Colton Dowling (another co-owner of the Austin venue) will bring his strong connection to the LGBTQ+ community and national network of comics. Clarke fully expects that The Creek and the Cave Austin will be a welcoming venue.

We have seen first-hand Clarke putting on shows every day of the week with Rough Cut Comedy, and with his new role with The Creek and the Cave Austin, he will be busier than ever. The club is set to launch April 1, 2021 and we’re wondering if he’ll have his #1 Dad ball cap on. Even if he doesn’t, you can be sure he’ll be cheering everyone on.

Marty can be seen and heard:

  • Almost every night of the week at Rough Cut Comedy Shows
  • Working to launch The Creek and the Cave Austin on April 1, 2021 at 611 E. 7th Street in downtown Austin

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Marty Clarke