Martin Morrow Believes in the Process

August 27, 2023

Photo Credit

Joanna DeGeneres Photography


Valerie Lopez


Valerie Lopez


When your giv­en names (both first and mid­dle) are the names of his­tor­i­cal and leg­endary giants in the world of Black his­to­ry, you might feel a lot of pres­sure to excel at every­thing. Mar­tin Man­dela Mor­row, how­ev­er, had a rep­u­ta­tion grow­ing up for doing dumb things. He was­n’t a bad kid, but his mom said he was always get­ting into some kind of dumb mis­chief. And per­haps it is there that we find the roots of where Mor­row could excel: mak­ing peo­ple laugh.

It took some time to get there, though. While in col­lege, Mor­row part­nered up with his friends to write jokes, then per­formed as part of a duo. Once he tried branch­ing out on his own, and gave it a good col­lege try, but could­n’t resist going back to writ­ing jokes with his friend. Before grap­pling any fur­ther with standup com­e­dy as a solo act, Mor­row left his Alaba­ma bub­ble” after grad­u­at­ing from Auburn Uni­ver­si­ty with an RTF degree and intern­ship on (one of my per­son­al favorite shows), Ugly Bet­ty.

The intern­ship was based, as the TV show was, in New York City, a mec­ca of standup com­e­dy. There was also a bonus for Mor­row: I think that mov­ing to New York helped me adapt into a lit­tle bit of my own voice and a lit­tle bit of get­ting away from the pack.” 

So begins the jour­ney into self-reliance on stage (as well as off-stage in one of the world’s most expen­sive cities). 

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, as Mor­row did­n’t feel any sense of progress with per­form­ing standup. In fact, he expressed the idea that I just failed into it.” We’re famil­iar with the notion of fail­ing into things — it’s not until you fail repeat­ed­ly at some­thing that you find out how every micro ele­ment must work per­fect­ly to final­ly reach suc­cess. Whether it’s land­ing a skate­board­ing trick, rid­ing a bike with­out train­ing wheels, hell, even Simone Biles had to fall a lot before becom­ing a world class Olympic gym­nast. Mor­row’s not sure how he fig­ured out how to land jokes, but he remem­bers nonethe­less, his first joke to land in New York City. With a bit of prod­ding, he sur­mis­es ” I final­ly kind of fig­ured out, like, oh, I can be myself, but also talk about some­thing that’s funny.”

I think that moving to New York helped me adapt into a little bit of my own voice and a little bit of getting away from the pack.
Martin Morrow

With that les­son learned, he was ready to ded­i­cate him­self to being fun­ny, but the pock­et­book was emp­ty, which has­tened a return to Alaba­ma. After his expe­ri­ence in New York City, he knew he did­n’t want to stay in Alaba­ma, and saved as much mon­ey as he could. When the oppor­tu­ni­ty to live in a some­what more afford­able com­e­dy mec­ca on a Diver­si­ty schol­ar­ship to the Sec­ond City Con­ser­va­to­ry in Chica­go pre­sent­ed itself, he did­n’t hes­i­tate to make the next big move in his life.

Chica­go was his home for rough­ly 7 years and in that time, he per­formed sketch, improv, and standup. Toward the end of his time in Chica­go, he would also land the occa­sion­al act­ing roles. But there was a nag­ging sense that he was­n’t get­ting every­thing he want­ed. With a smile, Mor­row shared that he suf­fered from rest­ing approach­able face” and that peo­ple he knew in Chica­go did­n’t know what to do with him because he seemed too nice and they did­n’t trust some­one that was too nice. How did Mor­row respond to these vicious alle­ga­tions? He turned philo­soph­i­cal with it. He real­ized that every time he cared too much about being like­able, he became a ner­vous wreck. It was when he start­ed to work on his men­tal­i­ty that the rewards were reaped. His shift in men­tal focus helped him land NBC’s Last Com­ic Stand­ing and Com­e­dy Cen­tral’s Why? with Han­ni­bal Buress. The shift was­n’t to become a mean unlike­able per­son, the shift was sim­ple: be nicer to your­self”. The shift in atti­tude was­n’t with­out some bumps in the road. He felt that when he stood up for him­self, some­times it lead to beefs, but he grew to learn that it’s ok not to be like­able 100% of the time.

Be nicer to yourself.
Martin Morrow

With his new atti­tude and self-care, Mor­row made the move to LA. You’d think it was to get more audi­tions and start work­ing the grind of LA com­e­dy, but in actu­al­i­ty, Mor­row took a break from com­e­dy alto­geth­er. It was serendip­i­ty that he would return to com­e­dy (you’ll have to lis­ten to the pod­cast, we’re not spoil­ing this sto­ry), but soon he was mak­ing waves and grab­bing atten­tion once again. All while con­tin­u­ing to be nicer to him­self. He felt that his new mind­set real­ly helped him become grate­ful and for the first time, I was able to not obsess over audi­tions, like I think I did pre­vi­ous­ly”. Rather than get swept into the hus­tle and bus­tle of the audi­tion life (and stress), Mor­row believes espe­cial­ly in com­e­dy … we try to pri­or­i­tize what is what is good for my career … but some­times, it’s okay to say no if it means pro­tect­ing your­self.” Mor­row’s sense of bal­ance seems to have led to gold­en oppor­tu­ni­ties of late.

This year, one of those oppor­tu­ni­ties was get­ting cast with Bran­di Denise and Mateen Stew­art (two of his clos­es com­e­dy friends — all are alum­nus of the Sec­ond City Con­ser­va­to­ry, train­ing at rough­ly the same time) in the LMAOF — Los Ange­les com­e­dy spe­cial from OFTV. While Mor­row con­tin­ues to jug­gle per­for­mance, act­ing, and audi­tions, it’s very like­ly that his grat­i­tude will see him through all the chal­leng­ing moments of being a standup com­ic. Grat­i­tude is in short sup­ply espe­cial­ly for an intense­ly com­pet­i­tive enter­tain­ment indus­try, but Mor­row adds that no mat­ter what, he enjoys the process”. You may feel inspired lis­ten­ing to Mor­row’s philoso­phies which may have their ori­gin in the com­bi­na­tion of his name­sakes and his belief in the process. Seem­ing­ly, both have played a hand in how his sto­ry has unfold­ed and will con­tin­ue to pro­vide him with new opportunities.

Thank you to Anjali Iyer of Metro Pub­lic Rela­tions for arrang­ing this interview.

Fol­low Martin

Mar­tin can be seen and heard:

  • LMAOF Los Ange­les Spe­cial — released August 2023, avail­able on OFTV
  • Com­i­cal Race The­o­ry — tour­ing col­leges all over the country
  • NBC’s Last Com­ic Stand­ing (2015)
  • Com­e­dy Cen­tral’s Why? with Han­ni­bal Buress
  • Bul­lies — Pod­cast
Support Comedy Wham

Follow @ComedyWham on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Twitch, and Tiktok

If you'd like to support our independent podcast, check out our Patreon page at: . You can also support us on Venmo or Paypal - just search for ComedyWham.

Martin Morrow