You have to wonder how a guy who’s brainy enough to earn a degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University winds up making wisecracks in nightclubs for a living, but it sort of adds up. After all, if the American dream includes collecting a paycheck for doing what you love to do, then Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling sets the standard.
Returning to The Shell at Trump Marina this Saturday, July 31, Martling is a musician-turned-comedian who parlayed an ability to spontaneously create jokes into a 15-year career as Howard Stern’s head writer, radio and TV show cast member. His stand-up act includes rapid-fire, non-stop dirty jokes and it ends with an audience interaction segment called “Stump the Joke Man.” He’s released five dirty-joke CDs, three videos, five books and has operated a dirty-joke phone line for the last 31 years (516-922-WINE). Martling also does a live show every Tuesday (7pm) on Sirius Satellite Radio 101 called Jackie’s Joke Hunt and he has written several songs including “The Pot Song,” “The Beer Song,” “Flies,” and “Fool’s Gold.”
Part of the ongoing Trump Comedy Series, Martling’s show starts 8pm Saturday and doors will open one hour prior. Tickets are $28 and can be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-736-1420, going online at ticketmaster.com, or at the Trump Marina box office (1-888-310-6782).
In the forward of one of your books (Jackie The Joke Man’s Disgustingly Dirty Joke Book), Howard Stern says you’ve got 10 billion jokes in your head and can rattle them off at will. Is that what you do in your stand-up routine or do you go in with a set plan?
I have a template in my mind that I work from. If I didn’t I’d go crazy because I have so many jokes in my head, but it’s really just winging it at this point. It’s like driving home. If you know the way home, you can either go the usual route, you can go around the corner, or you can go a different way and jump back in at any point. When the audience is really eating it up you just want to let ’em all out at once sometimes, but you’ve got to know how to settle down, follow the template, and have some basic order.
If you check out my Web site (jokeland.com), you’ll see I come out and tell a different dirty joke each time you hit the refresh button. That’s gives you a pretty good idea of what my [stand-up] act is all about. I just tell joke after joke after joke, and the audience seems to eat it up. And I always finish with Stump the Joke Man. That’s always interesting, because people are always interesting.
Are you working on any new material or new projects now?
I just put out an album (a combination CD/DVD) called Snart on April 20 — National Pot Smokers Day — and I’m actually working on a bunch of different stuff. I just hosted a couple of independent film festivals and just loved it. I was in a movie with Florence Henderson, Mrs. Brady, called Venus & Vegas (where he plays a Las Vegas bus driver). I got to kiss her and she licked ketchup and mustard off my face. She was so much fun. I was also just in a movie that’s a pro-gay marriage film that was the lead film in the Hoboken International Film Festival. So I’m making my way in (to films).
Is it true you started off as a musician and somehow parlayed that into becoming a professional comedian?
I’ve been playing music since seventh grade — since before there were the Beatles — and then through high school and all through college. After college I worked for about six months in the construction field and realized I’m never going to do that, so I started this two-man group with another musician I knew from Colorado. After a while we added a third guy and by 1978 we were so funny. We were calling ourselves the Off Hour Rockers. We were kicking ass and we were really great, but it was hard to get the word out about ourselves. It’s hard to believe, but there was no such thing as video in 1978. Two years later everybody had a VCR and a camera — it was like one day there were horses, then all of a sudden there were cars.
So we were very visual and very funny, but we had no real means of marketing ourselves. Then one night the other two guys told me that they were leaving the band to start their own band. I told them, “Listen, I’m no rocket scientist, but if there’s three guys in a band and two of them leave to form their own band, that’s the same thing as kicking me out of the fucking band.”
But by then I knew every joke in the world — I’m a mechanical engineer from Michigan State, so I’m pretty smart — and I started telling my jokes on stage. There was no such thing as comedy clubs back then on Long Island, so I started putting shows together in barrooms. Since I had been a musician and knew a little about how to do audio recordings I started recording my shows. By 1982 I had three comedy LPs out and I heard about this wildman who was moving to New York because he had been fired in Washington DC. I completely, blindly sent three albums to Howard Stern. He thought I was funny and said “Come on in.” I worked there for free for three weeks. Then he got fired from NBC and hired at K-Rock (WXRK) and went to mornings. He wanted me to be part of the show. I was there two days a week, then within a month five days a week — basically all I’d do is pass him notes and give him ideas. My job was like the class clown sitting in back of the class and breaking balls.
How do you like performing in Atlantic City?
I love being there. I actually did a show with Gabe Kaplan [who played Gabe Kotter in the 1970s sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter] that we videotaped years and years ago. I’ve been performing there at least 20 years and believe it or not — this is gonna sound like bullshit — but my favorite room to work is The Shell at Trump Marina. It is one of the great rooms in the city. The sound system is perfect, the sightlines are perfect — you couldn’t ask for a better room to do a show. And I’m working on this game show that I’d love to be able to come down to Atlantic City every week or two to film an episode.
Is it true you recently lost a lot of weight?
I was about 215 and now I’m at 160. You just wouldn’t believe the difference. I mean, I don’t look like I’m 20 years old — there’s gray in my temples, but I’m a new man. I ride my bike every day and it’s like there’s no effort to it now. It’s not work. It’s a joy. A year ago my girlfriend said “Jackie you’re getting a little big,” and I decided to do something about it. It was like “Why don’t I leave these 50 pounds home?” and I started riding. I live on the beach so I swim like crazy. When I’m in New York I have a treadmill in my apartment that I use while I'm looking down Broadway — and the weight just fell off me. I used to be a gymnast, and when I lost all that weight it was like I found that decent body again, and all that work I did all those years ago paid off in spades. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fuckin’ 60. I just look like a guy who’s 60 who’s now in decent shape now.