Marty Clarke - Comedy Team Captain

February 20, 2021

Photo Credit

Andres Rodriguez

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Valerie Lopez

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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


Fol­low Mar­ty -

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Marty Clarke