02:57:15 pm on
Sunday 19 Nov 2017

A Chat with Will Marfori
Matt Seinberg



Will Marfori on stage during a recent Caribbean Cruise on Carnival Sunshine

When I was on vacation on board the Carnival Sunshine, I had the pleasure to meet and talk with comedian Will Marfori. If there is one thing I've learned about stand-up comics, what you see on stage is not what you get off stage. Will and I had a great conversation and now I get to share it.

Matt Seinberg (MS): How and why did you get into stand-up comedy?

Will Marfori (WM): My dad's a musician, so I'm kind of from a show biz family. When I was in college, I was studying computer science and I did stand-up for fun, to travel the world and to meet girls.

MS: How long have you been doing comedy?

WM: I started in 2000.

MS: What are some of the places you've performed?

WM: I worked Caroline's on Broadway, in New York City; Punchline in Atlanta, many, many colleges and cruise ships.

MS: How did you get on the cruise ship doing your show?

WM: I started out with a contest called the Carnival Comedy Contest, with an audition in Atlanta. I wasn't sure about it. I heard it was all old people and such. I did it, and I wanted to diversify, so I did it and it's great.

There aren't nearly as many comedy clubs as there used to be, so the ships help fill that void. The best thing about working on ships is they're open when the clubs are closed. They fly me in, and fly me out and I go onto my next gig.

MS: Do you find that cruise ships are more intimate and you get to meet more people?

WM: Yes, it's definitely weird, stuck on the ship with the people for whom you're performing. If they didn't like the show, you get those funny noises and stares. If they liked your show, you get the smiles and handshakes.

MS: With your down time on ships, what do you do?

WM: I mostly read, watch shows, write and sleep a lot. I used to go out at night on the ship a lot, but no more. It's a job, it's essentially a business trip for me and I treat it that way. Carnival does a good job with their comedy. Their guests are truly a slice of America.

MS: I saw both versions of your shows, the clean version and the adult version. What I appreciated about the adult version was that you didn't go crazy with bad language.

WM: Instead of telling dirty jokes, I talked about global warming, which really pisses people off even more. Lenny Bruce was subversive; he was rebelling against the society he was living in. I live in a society where we have the Kardashians and a million porno websites and all that stuff.

The only way to challenge the audience is to point out cultural and intellectual events or personalities. I have three adult shows, with plenty of dirty jokes. Because of the schedule on the ship, I was only able to perform one.

MS: I know many comedians will use foul language just for the sake of using it.

WM: It's a matter of it being appropriate to the story. A joke should be a story or idea and there's a character or person within it. If comedian embodies that character, some people bring up the "F" word just to say it and make people laugh. That's not really my style.

MS: You've brought up your Cerebral Palsy (CP) a few times during your routine. Has that helped, or held you back in your career?

WM: When you're first starting out, it helps to be different. Obviously, I'm not the same as everyone else. In that regard, it's been a benefit.

I also have a different point of view from other comedians. I've never been able to fit into a specific mold or personality so I just do my own thing. Even as a kid, I never considered my disability to be something that got in the way of anything.

My mom never let me have that sort of mentality. Some people don't have mental ability, emotional intelligence, empathy or sympathy; life is about cultivating the things you're good. In comedy, as long as the audience understands the words I'm saying, my CP is no barrier.

MS: How would you categorize your CP, as low or high?

WM: I have mild CP, as someone could have. As a kid, I went to physical therapy and it took me a long time to learn how to do things. For the most part, I'm functional and mobile; I able to do most everything.

The CP affects my motor skills, the way I talk, balance and the way I talk. I'm not the first disabled comedian and my show is more about the cultural aspects of being disabled and being different. Twitter once blew me up for using the word "retard." They said you should never use the word retard.

Well, I can easily explain what it's like to live in America with a disability, so you need that word. It's like African American writers using the "N" word and women writers using the "B" word. To me it's about the cultural side of it; physically, the CP does not stop me from doing most anything, other than just being different from everybody.

MS: One thing I liked about your act was your self-deprecating humour and how you made jokes out of that.

WM: Those are comments that people actually said to me, along the way. I always think about the comments; are they funny. I never took people or their comments seriously.

My dad is Filipino; I saw how people treated him because he looked Asian in the early 1980s, well before diversity took hold. I was just like, I'm just a person, too; other people just have a superficial understanding of everybody around them. The point is it never bothered me.

Moreover, my grandfather was a racist; he gave me his understanding that people can be horrible. I don't put a lot of stock in what people say. As well, I’m comfortable pointing out what is wrong me, too; I'm comfortable in my own skin.

Success is not the reason people are interesting. Mistakes or failures, which they must overcome, make for a good story. I listen to people talk of what they overcame; that is more inspirational than talking of success, all the time. What you're good at is usually easy for you.

MS: What did your parents think when you decided to go into stand-up comedy?

WM: My mom pushed me to be a normal person; thus, I did stand-up as a hobby. My father was a musician; he was supportive of me doing stand-up. I admired how comedians connected with people and made them laugh.

When I was in college, I saw Chris Rock do a routine about White people and Black people; it was so honest. I thought, maybe I should be honest about myself; I did and it was a drug. I could be completely honest about whom I am; that was liberating.

No way would I ever do that in real life. My dad loves it. He is one of the only people I can talk to honestly about being an entertainer in modern America.

Ultimately, my sense of humour came from my mom. Much of what I say, on stage, is what she would say. When she saw me do it on stage, she thought it was hilarious. I took her sense of humor and ran with it; she was fearless in the way she lived.

MS: I noticed in your shows you talked about ex-wife and a girlfriend. What's the real story?

WM: Those jokes are timely, reflecting what was going on when written. At the family show, I talked about having a baby with my girlfriend and then she wasn't. They were honest at the time written. I have many jokes about being single. Now, I'm married and I have jokes about my wife. I have three children; two sons, aged 8 and 6, my daughter is twelve years old.

MS: How hard do you find it being away from them on a cruise?

WM: Comedy is incredibly hard. It's hard to be away, much of the time; I what it is to have dad away all the time, as was mine. I worry about it constantly. Then I hang out with my kids and they are so happy. People think this job is easy because we work only an hour a day, but I must sacrifice a great deal.

MS: What does your wife do?

WM: She's a comic in Memphis where we live. Her name is Kate Lucas. She works Radio Memphis.com, on the morning show and is remarkably funny. She's a hard-core comedian compared to me; she couldn't want to work on a ship.

MS: Who watches the kids when you're away and she's working?

WM: We're a version of a modern family. I can't take the whole summer off. When I'm away, they're with my wife and daughter.

MS: is there any one thing your mother told you that stays with you today?

WM: Yes, she told me I brought you into this world and I can take you out!

MS: I think all parents tell their kids the same thing!

WM: I really believed it up until I was twelve and it wasn't actually the law! My mother passed away about nine years ago. I still remember the way she laughed. She was a very hard working person, we didn't have much; we had enough, though. My mother would laugh at everything. I think people need to be like her because we live in such a cynical world.

Will was real, open and honest with everything we talked. I think if we lived near each other, today, we'd be good friends and eating Memphis BBQ!

MS: Any parting words of wisdom.

WM: Not really, I view stand-up comedy as an art form, more than as a commodity. Comedy is huge now and there's a boom going on. Wherever there is a club, the lines are around the block. Comedy is real. So much of modern American life is branding, marketing and generic; it's all about immediate happiness. Comedy is organic and real, an expression of what we're all thinking, but are not inclined to say. Oh ya, have a laugh because life is to short.

 

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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