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Robert McKee Profiles Mark Whitney

In this long form interview for “Story Magazine” the legendary Robert McKee, profiles Mark together with Drew Carey, Russell Brand and Stephen Pressfield. After you read the interview you can watch Mark’s award-winning, political-dramedy, “Fool For A Client” (embedded below) and find out why hails Mark as “the foremost amateur attorney in the history of the United States!”

October, 2011 · Hollywood, CA
ROBERT MCKEE: Mark it is a real pleasure to have an opportunity to interview you. I’ve seen, of course, your marvelous one-man show, Fool for a Client, and it is, for the most part, autobiographical, although it builds and builds into something quite universal. But my first question is one of medium. When people have compelling life stories that went through great experiences, some often, of course, write a book about this or they want to write a screenplay to dramatize it. They might even write a play. But very few people ever choose to get up on their feet and do a one-man show venting about their life and all the great implications in it. How
did you choose that particular medium of expression?
MARK WHITNEY: Well it was an evolutionary process. I’ve always wanted to be a comedian and I kind of got into stand-up comedy—sort of the Rodney Dangerfield model. Rodney started doing a little bit of stand-up in his early twenties, but then he stopped, and he raised a family as an aluminum siding salesman [laughter].
When his kids were grown, he went back into stand-up, but he really didn’t start stand-up seriously until he was about forty. I started really devoting myself to it when I was about 45, and I’m a guy that’s been on my feet in a lot of different situations.
RM: Well, you used to sell vacuum cleaners.
MW: Right, exactly. That’s where I did my first one-man show—right there in a living room. I was familiar with being on my feet from acting in plays as a high school student and at the local colleges in the area, and I’ve always enjoyed being on my feet having a conversation with people. I talk, they laugh; I talk, they cry. It’s a conversation. What I really wanted to do was stand-up comedy, and I grew up listening to — not listening —  memorizing George Carlin.
RM: Yes, yes of course—the greatest.
MW: The best. And my mom is a product of a union between an O’Neill and a Mahoney, so there’s that whole Irish Catholic thing there. But when I started getting serious about doing it, I didn’t understand what was involved—it was like this whole separate art form.
RM: Yep. It is. It is.
MW: So many people who do stand-up comedy tell the story of how they just got up on stage and they just sucked, and I was just like that. My friend Kurtis Matthews,  who runs the San Francisco Comedy College (a great guy, who you would really like), he talks about how I think this is probably true with a lot of different art forms, but particularly with stand-up comedy. He said that it always starts below the waist, then it moves to the heart and then to the head. When you get good at it, it moves to the head and you really start using your brain. When I started to get good at joke writing and joke performing and joke talent, I quickly got bored with it. I got really bored with just rattling off the same ol’ jokes over and over again that were disconnected. When I got into the business, I threw myself into trying to learn everything I could about the business—not just the creative side but also the business side. Once people learn how to do standup comedy, how do they become working comedians? How do they become paid comedians? So I ended up at the HBO Comedy Festival in Aspen. I think it was 2006. It’s the biggest industry showcase there is. Everybody’s there and their producers, the producers of that festival, scan the universe looking for people that perform one-person shows. So they had a handful of them there. They had a girl that pretended to be the daughter of George Bush who did half an hour. Then they had this guy who came out and I was sitting there. He comes out and he sits down at a table, and he’s the most unassuming guy I’ve ever seen. He looks like the guy everybody stole the lunch money from in high school and spent a lot of time being shaken upside down by his ankles. He walks out and he sits down at a table with a three-ring binder and reads his show to the audience!
RM: Really?
MW: Yes! He doesn’t even know enough—he’s not well-versed enough on the stage to know to look left and right. I’m thinking he must be right-handed because he would only look to the right. He’d look straight, and now and then he’d look off to the right, but he’s reading this story and it’s hilarious.
RM: Yes.
MW: It goes for half an hour but feels like thirty seconds. The audience is on their feet and he wins the one-person show competition at the HBO Comedy Fest! I’m sitting there watching this guy, and I was like, “You know, if you get off your ass, and walk around a little and use some hand gestures, you really have something here.” Well, his name is Rick Cleveland.
RM: Ah!
MW: He writes with Aaron Sorkin.
RM: Yes.
MW: He wrote for West Wing.
RM: Yes.
MW: He’s an accomplished writer.
RM: Yes.
MW: I got in touch with him through his agent, Creative Artists, and we went and I bought him a nice lunch in Beverly Hills. The first thing I wanted to know is: Was it a true story? He tells a story. It’s called My Buddy Bill, and he tells a story about how he and the writing staff of West Wing visited Bill Clinton in the Oval Office.  Buddy the dog came in and piddled on the rug, and Rick who has a “way with dogs” said, “No Buddy! Bad dog!” Bill Clinton wrote Rick Cleveland a little thank-you note. Cleveland took this experience and spun it into a show, and suddenly he’s smoking reefer with Billy Bob Thornton and Bill Clinton in Amsterdam. They’re down there at the library opening and he spun this story. The audience completely believed every word, and that’s what made it great. With my show, the struggles in my show actually happened.
RM: How much of it was true? Factual?
MW: His story? The point where he received the note [laughter]. Everything else was bullshit—the part with Bill Clinton coming out and then throwing the ball with the dog, and everything.
RM: Did you think that his strategy of sitting at a table with a binder and reading it was a credible technique in order to make it seem more factual?
MW: I was familiar with Spaulding Gray, who is someone that has done that, and my friend Mike Daisy, who is sort of like if Spalding Gray and John Candy had sex then you would have Mike Daisy. He’s that kind of guy. Mike Daisy does a similar thing where he comes out and sits at a table and works from notes. I suspect it’s because maybe he’s just really enormous and can’t standup. What I wanted to know with Rick Cleveland was why he performed the show that way. Here’s what he told me. He gets to the HBO Comedy Festival. He’s got a one-hour show, and he finds out the day before that they’re only giving him half an hour. So, he had to rewrite, and so on the last minute, he just came out and read it. What I learn from watching Rick Cleveland was the power, not of a story well told, but a story well written. It had no production value. This was a guy who does not belong on stage, sitting at a table reading, but he’s such a good writer that nobody cared. That was an epiphany for me because I saw what he did, and I stopped wanting to be a stand-up comedian. I wanted to be Rick Cleveland standing up without a binder. The show that you saw—the movie of my show that you saw—that’s the result of five years’ work of touring.
RM: I didn’t look at the cassette, but how long is that show?
MW: The show was 90 minutes.
RM: Ninety minutes? That’s three times what he did. That’s a feature length.
MW: It’s a feature length and my goal over the five years was to have, not just ninety minutes, but to write so much that I was actually hopefully throwing out ninety minutes or three hours’ worth of really good stuff. Just being left with ninety minutes of premium wine, you know where the whole thing is just—
RM: Do you give them an intermission?
MW: No.
RM: Great.
MW: You just rip.
RM: You just ripped for ninety minutes. They can do it obviously. They do it all the time.
MW: Yup. My friend Mike Daisy—I’ve seen him do three hours. He does a show on Steve Jobs for three hours and it feels like five minutes, and he’s sitting down working from a set list.
RM: Once you decided you’re going to do the one man show format, how did you find the material? As I said, it’s based upon your own life experience to begin with, but it’s much bigger than that.
MW: It is. The chief theater critic of the Washington Post, Peter Marks, who was one of the first major critics to review my show when it was in the 4-5 star time of its evolution, he said that the trick of the one person show is to deceive the audience into thinking you’re telling them something that’s going to help them, when in fact you really just want to get up there and run your mouth. My wife says I’m narcissistic. I’m like, “Why? Because I stand on stage for ninety minutes and say ‘look at me’?” [laughter]
RM: I stand on stage for 32 hours.
MW: Exactly, well there you go. [laughter]
RM: And I’m not a narcissist.
MW: Of course not. Just ask him. He’ll tell ya’. [laughter] When I would work out a lot at the San Francisco Comedy College, my friend Kurtis Matthews would do these round robin classes where people come up with five minutes of material. We’d perform for each other and everyone would comment. Early on, Kurtis would always comment about what a fearless performer I was—not funny, but fearless. I think that’s the most important thing—being willing to commit. A lot of people are scared to look back at their mistakes. We don’t want to do that. To me, a mistake is just an opportunity. It’s all part of the process.
RM: This is the wonderful thing, I think, about stand-up comedy. You say when you first started you sucked. Right? When everybody first starts, they suck.
Right? The difference is a standup comic knows he sucks because they don’t laugh.
MW: Exactly.
RM: If they laugh, it works. If they don’t laugh, it doesn’t work. So you immediately understand “I suck.” How many people sit in a study somewhere writing page after page after page for years, not realizing that they suck because there is no audience; there is no response.
MW: You don’t have any way to know.
RM: You have no way to know except your own taste—your own judgment. With stand-up, you get the message real fast, real clear. When you make it, you understand immediately that you’ve made it.
MW: Right.
RM: Because they laugh. It’s so pure.
MW: It is. Like you say, if they’re not laughing, you’re failing. I owned a comedy theatre in San Diego for a while called the San Diego Comedy Co-op. I told everyone that came there to perform—Hollywood headliners would come down to the Co-op and perform in this. We put a hundred-seat theater in an old warehouse where Dreamworks used to be and put up shows free for the community. We produced over 500 shows down there. I did that because I couldn’t get stage time so I just got some platforms, and some lights and some chairs. I thought, “Fuck it, I’ll have my own stage.” People would come down from Hollywood to perform for free cecause they couldn’t get more than 10 minutes at the Improv. So, they’d come down and work out their shit.
RM: Because they have to work.
MW: They have to work. People like Wyatt Cenac, who now writes for the Daily Show, performed in my  theater. Anthony Jeselnik, who writes for Jimmy Fallon, performed down there. So all these comedy writers—they’re not stand-up comedians; they’re comedy writers; they’re coming down and getting up on stage to find out what’s funny, getting up on their feet, because—like you say —you don’t’ always know if the humor will come across. Also, I still look at every performance as a workshop. Every performance is a workshop, so when I walk back through the curtain after I deliver that last line, the first thing I do is grab a notepad and write down the five or six things I’ve learned in that show.
RM: Do you record your shows?
MW: Yeah, I record everything on audio.
RM: On audio? How soon after the performance do you start listening to yourself?
MW: The next morning.
RM: The next morning. So you can go to sleep and not worry about it?
MW: I can’t do anything after a show for about three or four hours. You’re just so pumped up, especially if the room was full. The critical mass that you get out in some of these festivals is amazing. It’s practically impossible to get anybody to get off their ass these days and get out from behind the flat screen and do anything. If you’re not famous and you tour a show, it’s very hard to get people to come out to see the theater, but there are all these independent festivals around the United States based on the Edinburgh Fringe model. All these independent artists pay 75 dollars for a lottery and their number goes into a hat; the producers have 50 slots for shows and six venues, so if they pull your number out, you have a run and you’re going to go there and do 7 to 10 performances in two weeks. Some of them are juried; the New York International Fringe Festival is juried and so is the Midtown Festival. The point is, up in Minneapolis, they’ve had a festival running there for about 20 years now, and they sell 50 thousand tickets at this festival. So if you go into town as an independent artist—
RM: Comedy festival?
MW: It’s not a comedy; it’s essentially a spoken word festival. So people are doing a play that they wrote for 60 minutes or they’re doing a rewrite of Shakespeare or they’re doing a lot of one-person shows. They’re fringe festivals, so people come in and they get an hour and they’re uncensored—
RM: To do whatever they want.
MW: You do whatever you want. You end up paying like 500 bucks, and you get to keep the money! You keep the money — at least 70%, sometimes 100%
RM: You lost me there. You pay to perform?
MW: You pay for the venue. That’s basically what you’re paying for. It’s usually about 500 bucks if you get in. You pay an application fee of about 50 bucks, they pull your name out of the hat, and you pay about 500 bucks for your venue. You get a tech person, someone selling tickets and they have a website and people buy tickets. The point is this—
RM: With the tickets sales—you get your money back?
MW: You get to keep the money. You get at least 70%, sometimes a 100% and the point is this: These are independent art festivals, which means 95% of it is pure shit. When you go to one of these festivals, with a great show, you will sell out the run!
RM: Of course you do.
MW: You make 20 to 25 thousand bucks and nobody knows who you are. The same guy who is reviewing the Broadway tour of Mary Poppins for the Washington Post is reviewing your show. You end up with a portfolio full of reviews. Mark Twain meets Lewis Black. Fine, I can work with that.
RM: That’s marvelous: the people, the opportunities.
MW: Unbelievable opportunities.
RM: Now let’s talk about this. You get an opportunity and you decide you are going to go to one of these festivals, or maybe there’s an open mic night somewhere. Let’s talk about material. You want to be a comic. I think that is a common ambition. Not for everybody, but there are people—enough of them.
MW: There’s a lot of them. Like cockroaches.
RM: They want to be comics. One of the questions I would always ask of anybody who wants to be a comic is, “What is pissing you off?”
MW: That’s how George Carlin started every one of his 12 HBO specials.
RM: Some things are pissing you off.
MW: He walks out and says the same thing every time: “I’m gonna start tonight with a few things that are pissing me off!”
RM: “Children.”
MW: And then he’s off. Exactly.
RM: Children, right? Then he starts in on kids. [laughter] Comedy, in my point of view, is the angry art. What motivates the comic is anger.
MW: Yeah. Imagine a comedian comes out for an hour and talks about how great things are. Oh I really want to see that show!
RM: Now, you got a lot to be angry about because you got dealt some really bad cards. But did you start with that when you were a stand-up—when you first started in the one-man show business? Did you start with your biography—your autobiography—or something else?
MW: Yes, the one-man show was always intended to use my story as a metaphor to reflect back “zero-tolerance America” to the audience. That’s what it’s always been.
RM: From the beginning?
MW: Well, it’s taken me five years to get to the point where I can say that in a sentence. You know what I mean? I had a very unclear vision early on. I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do, but I was completely unclear as to how to do it. That was the problem, and this was very frustrating to me because I’m a guy who has worked on radio shows, I’ve done a lot of TV commercials, and I’ve toured the United States doing seminars for corporate America. I’m no stranger to being on my feet, but the business of connecting my personal story to the universe really fucked with my mind for about three years. I just couldn’t figure it out. Everybody who does this says, “Well, there’s no road map.” I want a fucking roadmap! [laughter] Okay, somebody give me a roadmap. So you’re just out there—everybody starts with a zero sum game and everyone has the story of how they figured out how to do what they do. Well, for me, what I wanted to know how to do was I wanted to know how to—comedians disagree on this— Since George Carlin died, I have learned by reading about him and stuff that he has written and that people have written, I have learned that his HBO shows that he performed were one-person shows. It wasn’t stand-up comedy—he wrote it out in script form, in Courier New, double space, and he committed it to memory.
RM: Yup, yup.
MW: He went out and he delivered it the same way every time, word for word.
RM: Why does that surprise anyone?
MW: I think the reason it surprises people is because there’s a whole contingent of people that perform
stand-up that say you need to be doing your writing on stage,
RM: Oh yeah, yeah.
MW: If you’re not writing on stage, then you’re not doing it right, and what I wanted to do is to be able to
do both. So my one-man show is now a hybrid. I have the set piece that is committed to memory, and I rehearse for every minute of that show. If I write a new minute, I rehearse ninety minutes or two hours to own that new minute—to really own it. When I say own it, I mean that I will be able to deliver it frontwards and backwards with music playing in my ears at a high volume and my wife telling me to make the bed and all these distractions going on, because the one-man show in stand-up comedy is very different from acting. If you and I are doing an Oscar Madison or Felix Ungar, we’re performing for each other; we’re not really performing
for the audience. That’s why they talk about the fourth wall. It’s actually a wall between us and the audience.
RM: Indeed. I’ve directed over 60 plays, and the constant note that I gave to actors was, “No, no. Don’t you do it. Make him do it. Make him do it!”
MW: Perfect, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
RM: I don’t care what—“make him do it!” As long as actor A is trying to make actor B do what character A wants B to do…
MW: You’re telling them to push each other, in a sense.
RM: “Make him do it.” And that’s acting, and you’re right, stand up is…
MW: So I walk out in the studio theatre there—the show you watched. I got 250 sets of eyeballs staring at me. They’re talking to each other and they’re checking their pocketbook and she’s going, “What did he say?” There’s all this shit going on and I’m trying to do a show. It’s like, “Can you people just dummy up and receive the show, please?” It’s so difficult to master it at a level where you can deliver it at a high level. I want to take it to another level—I want to be able to leave my script and be in the room like a stand-up comedian. I want to
be able to leave the script and talk to the audience or if something comes to my head, I want to be able to say it and then be able to go back to the prepared material. There is a joke in the show that you watched last night about Sarah Palin, and I wrote that joke on stage in that performance where I say, “Sarah Palin, John McCain’s parting gift to America: note to the war hero—we’re even.” I wrote that right on my feet, and it got an applause break, and that doesn’t happen every day. I thought, that was a keeper, but that was just organic. The only way something like that can happen is if that piece that you’re going to perform is so much a part of you that you can leave it and go back to it and be in the room. Somebody says something weird or somebody is laughing in the wrong place, and you can make a joke about the woman over here with Tourettes, and everyone can have a little chuckle, and you can come back. That’s really what I wanted to be able to achieve as a spoken word artist.
It’s all a work in progress. I’m getting there.
RM: That is kind of, in a sense, backwards, right? Stand-ups are writers who perform their material. They think the other way around. But you thought structure first and then improv; they think improv first, and out
of that you find your structure. I believe the way you think is really the most creative way—the strongest way to work. The other can just lead to spiraling to hell. What I’m curious about is why would that be your first idea and not the other way around? How did you know that that sort of structure that you could depend on would
give you the freedom to improvise because you could always come back to the material you knew? Why did you know that that’s how it had to be for yourself?
MW: It was from watching Rick Cleveland.
RM: Never before that?
MW: You mean in terms of the medium?
RM: I mean something deeper than that. A lot of people watch Rick Cleveland, but they don’t necessarily come away with that kind of understanding. What do you think it was about everything that you did up to that  moment in your life that gave you the kind of insight to realize, “First I got to find the arch, build the material,
and then I can break off from that and do improv as needed.” Is there something about your education or your experience?
MW: Yeah, I mean it’s just from sort of immersing myself into studying how other comedians do what they do.
RM: I’m going to interrupt you because I’ve seen your show, okay?
MW: Okay.
RM: I know a bit about your life. Maybe you’re lying—I don’t know—but I took it to be true that once you went to jail. You headed for the law library…
MW: Right.
RM: …and you started educating yourself about the law in depth and breadth in order to be able to defend yourself to get yourself through the system. To not be the victim of it, but somehow to take charge. How many people would do a thing like that? Most people just lay down and say okay…
MW: That’s what I don’t understand. There were 900 guys there. I say in my show that there were nine typewriters for 900 prisoners, and I could always get a typewriter. They thought I was crazy. They would say, “Oh ya, well, we understand you’ve got to do everything you can do.” These were people who plead guilty telling me I was crazy, okay? People on their second and third conviction telling me I was crazy.
RM: It suggests to me a kind of mind.
MW: It’s about the questions.
RM: It suggests to me a kind of mind that looks at the totality of it and begins to see a superstructure,
begins to see an abstract form that holds all of this together and then goes to fill it in. I think that’s genetic—
most people don’t think like that.
MW: There are people that say that. I’ve read stories about that—people who have letters after their names and study these things and believe that the need to really get down to what it is and understand what it is. I’ve read that mostly in the context of entrepreneurs, people who start companies, people like Charles Ferguson who produced Inside Job—why does he wake up someday and decide, “Jesus, these people blew up the world
and I’m going to make a documentary about it.” What is it that makes him want to do that?
RM: There are two ways to think, basically: induction and deduction. Most people think inductively. This happens, that happens, this happens and that happens—da da da da. Therefore, and they draw a conclusion
or they try to make sense out of things. Other people think deductively. They have a premise—the law works this way in a democracy under the constitution, right? Now, is that the case? This bit, that bit, this bit, that bit, this bit. It seems to me that you think deductively. You start out with a premise, you have a big idea, and then you start to fill it in, as opposed to what most people do which is just let experience slap them across the face
enough times until they finally get it.
MW: With the law, I want to know how it’s meant to be, not how it is.
RM: Yes, that’s the premise.
MW: That’s what I want to know. It’s like my show is all about how things were meant to be in contrast to how they are, and that’s what’s at stake in my show. There’s a set of intangible ideals that are at stake that can’t be measured by mathematicians and scientists. Ideals that defy measurement and the ideals speak to the core of individuality. That’s what at stake to me, and as an artist, as an entrepreneur, and as somebody who has spent 30 years creating things from nothing, I don’t want to see that lost. That is so upsetting to me to see that lost, you know. When I see people dressed up in powdered wigs and throwing tea over the boat talking about how
they’re afraid of “Sharia” law because they care about the constitution—I’m like, “You couldn’t find a fucking constitution if it was in your ass! You worry about Sharia law—why don’t you learn your own fucking law first, okay? Why don’t you tell me, you fundamentalist asshole, what the first amendments is, okay? Tell me that. Tell me you know that and then you can lecture me about Sharia law.” It’s like cognitive dissonance. So I live in this alternative universe as a result of my experience.
RM: You start with the ideal, and then you find all the really upsetting exceptions to that.
MW: Exactly.
RM: How do you know this is funny? A lot of people—once again, they don’t think like you do. But there are people who think like you do, but they don’t find it funny.
MW: There have been people that have had some tremendous influence on me in terms of that. People who have given me permission to do what I do. If you start with the world of stand-up comedy in Southern California, it’s a poisonous world. You go down to the Comedy Store on a Sunday night and you throw your name in a hat. If you’re lucky, you can get three minutes, and that’s the world of stand-up comedy. You get up there, and by the time you said, “Hello, my name is Mark,” it’s time to get off the stage. It’s where comedy goes to die, and God help you if you kill during that three minutes because the other comedians will not talk to you. That’s the kind of awful, poisonous culture that exists in the stand-up comedy clubs in southern California, because they’re sitting there thinking, “That guy is funny. He’s going to get the sitcom I’m not going to get.” It’s like, well you’re not getting a sitcom and I’m not getting a sitcom, so we’re meant to be doing this to discover a bigger truth and communicate that and to have a conversation with the audience. I go from that, and one of the
people that had a big influence on me, who is the opposite of that, is Kurtis Matthews at the San Francisco Comedy College. San Francisco has a very different environment than the comedy scene down in San Diego.
San Francisco is all “Kumbayah” with everybody supporting everybody. It’s very Robin Williams. It’s intelligent and it’s smart. The smarter you are, the better, the more everybody likes it and the better you do. The people are patting you on the back. They understand that it’s hard and they are happy for you, and then they
say, “When I first took your seminar, you started talking about, jeez, you know, you’re meant to be preparing things for an intelligent sensitive audience.” I’m like, “Really? You mean I’m not writing for comedians and their drunk friends, that’s not who I’m writing for?” So that was an epiphany, too. Steve Rosenfeld, at the
American Comedy Institute, says, “Nothing is funnier than you in a struggle.” Fine, then I’ll list my struggles, because I’ve had a lot of them.
RM: But that’s not my question.
MW: How did I know it was funny? The audience laughed.
RM: No, no, how did you know that there was comedy to be mined out of the monstrous injustices and  unfairnesses in the legal system in this country?
MW: Umm, because…
RM: Why didn’t you get a gun?
BOTH: [laughter]
MW: Oh. I see what you’re saying. I think, to be honest, I didn’t know. That was something I discovered
through doing it. I didn’t necessarily know it was funny, but I did know it was interesting. I think you can get away with a lot if you’re interesting. You can get away with not being very dramatic, and you can get away with
not being very funny if you’re interesting. Then along the way, you find out how to be funny; you find out how to be dramatic. The show that you watched (this is really the first year that I started to put some drama in)
and the show that I started—it’s really the first time…
RM: Wow. It builds and builds to something that is really powerful.
MW: That has been a work in progress, so I guess the answer to your question, now that we are kind of brainstorming together here in the room, is I know it was interesting. As a result of my willingness to get up on my feet and tell people something that was interesting, it came—I found the funny, then I found the drama.
Through a lot of hard work, it ends up being something that is interesting, dramatic, and funny.
RM: Do you think that if you hadn’t gone through the meat grinder of the legal system personally, that you would still be upset about the way in which the legal system works?
MW: I would be upset from a 35 thousand-foot view standpoint to see the way people seem to have abandoned their ideals and let a bad act on a single day redefine our society. I would be upset at how willing people seem to be at the notion that an entire free system should be reversed engineered on the altar of something bad that happened one day that defies any sort of statistical measurement. So I would be upset by that, but I wouldn’t be able to articulate in any great detail why I was upset. It would just be a visceral feeling as an artist, as an entrepreneur.
RM: If you hadn’t gone through the judicial system the way you did, would you think you would have still  found your way to wanting to do standup?
MW: Absolutely. We moved to Southern California from New England in the summer of 2000. If you watch my show, you know that there are a lot of things that we were moving away from, but there were also a bunch of things that we were moving to, and one of the things that were moving to was being in an environment that had a comedy club and show business. When I was 18, the day I got out of high school I was going to get in the car and drive to New York City and I was going to be an actor. I had an aunt who was a lead actress in the soap opera Another World. I had connections down there. She lived in Westport, Connecticut and commuted down to New York. I fell in love with a valedictorian in the last week of school, and then we had kids, and you give them one meal and they want another. You know how they are, so it’s a 20-year timeout. To sort of flex my creative juices, I ran an advertising agency for a few years and I built these little companies, but it was all creative. Everything I created was due to my ability to write, and it’s only the last couple of years that I identified myself first and foremost as a writer. I look back over my career of 30 years as an entrepreneur and as a guy that did advertising for years, worked in TV and radio and for a while did seminars across the country and it’s all related to writing; it’s all about the writing. Without the writing, I wouldn’t have had anything.  When we came to Southern California, the whole idea was that when my kids were grown, I was going to pursue a career as a performer.