Standing up

By JEFF INGLIS  |  March 29, 2006

That’s a point of view endorsed by Collins, who plans to visit Los Angeles in April and perhaps move there with his family later this year.

Collins started in stand-up before Ferrell’s class began, and estimates the class “saves people probably two or three years” of experience. But he worries that the glut of new comedians could set the business back 10 years, when part of what killed the national comedy scene was that so many people were performing, and so many of them were not actually funny.

And Collins wonders if more venues in a place like Portland means people don’t have to be as serious, or sacrifice as much to get on stage, meaning less-dedicated folks can think they’re making it.

Marley, who moved to Boston and then Los Angeles and is only recently back to calling Maine home, says he is only able to live in Maine as a comedian because he makes his living on the road. “You’ve got to go to a bigger city” to really improve and get known, he says.

Marley suggests people work on comedy in Portland for a year, working wherever they can. But then, “once you get 10 or 15 minutes together, the first thing you ought to think about doing is moving.”

“You’ve got to get out there and challenge yourself,” he says. “I always tell new guys, ‘work on your set and move out of here so in 15 years when I’m on my way down I can open for you.’”

Marley likes it that a lot of folks are involved in comedy, and thinks they are “better comedians” for the practice they’re getting in the various places, but he’s blunt about the future. “I think a lot of them are probably going to go on to do really great things, once they move.”

Into the unknown
A new crop of folks is already on the street, working on making themselves better comedians. The Portland’s Funniest Professional contest began earlier this month, with 80 or 90 would-be comics, many graduates of Ferrell’s classes.

Perry would like to see more open mic nights, more venues, and even comedians opening for music acts, like Andrew Dice Clay and Sam Kinison used to.

“This is something beginning here” says Brinegar, who is so driven to do things in unorthodox ways that he writes “M.H.” on his own skin before each show, in memory of comedy’s late off-beat renegade Mitch Hedberg.

Collins says the future of comedy may be looking brighter, but doubts it will ever return to where it was in the ’80s, when comedians were performing seven nights a week in the bigger cities, some raking in six-figure incomes. He says more folks are turning to comedy now, though — even his regular tiny gigs at the University of New England student center are drawing more folks than he’s seen in years. “I have no idea what’s causing that,” he says, though he guesses it could be because Comedy Central is back to showing more stand-up performances (rather than comedy shows like Reno 911 and South Park).

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