Martez Jackson has been putting smiles on the faces of people internationally since the early 2000’s. This east side Detroit native was most recently seen on the Fox Network’s, Laughs TV and will be seen at a comedy club near you. I asked him a few questions…
1. How do you describe your comedy?
I would describe it as universal comedy for all generations. I bridge gaps. I talk directly to my age group, 30 to 50-year-olds. I’m funny enough to appeal to teenagers and young adults and I’m appreciated by elders for my respect for their contributions to our current society. This is reflected in my material.
2. How did you get started in stand-up comedy?
Some of my story is the traditional class clown story, but initially I just loved attention. I didn’t lack attention at home at all but I loved to make people laugh. I wanted to be an actor thanks to my wonderful high school drama teacher, Mrs. Phyllis Hoban at Martin Luther King High School in Detroit. When I graduated high school, I tried to be a theater major but I had to go to community college. After five semesters, I transfered to Wayne State and they said I would be a second semester freshman. Over the next two years, I auditioned for local plays and even auditioned for the world famous Second City in Detroit.
Within this time, a new comedy club opened in Detroit called The House of Comedy. The first time I did an open mic, the entire crowd jingled their keys because they weren’t allowed to “Boo.” In spite of me tanking for my first few months, I would go back every week. It felt great even when I bombed. I only grew from there once I was introduced to other clubs around my area like, Bea’s Comedy Kitchen, Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle, Joey’s, and the Ann Arbor Showcase. One of the beautiful things about Detroit is that at one point, we had 7 or 8 active weekend stand-up comedy clubs in the southeast Michigan area.
3. Who were some of your comedic inspirations? What did you admire about them?
Too many to name but I’ll try a few: The elder Wayans, Damon and Keenan. Keenan for his comedic genius and Damon for his ability to mix the wit with physical comedy.
Brian Reagan and AJ Jamal because they were both hilarious and never cursed……too bad I can’t say the same…..LOL.
My top pick has to go to Chris Rock. Whether it’s relationships, race, social issues, etc, he gives it to you straight but incorporates just enough sarcasm to make you laugh while reevaluating yourself. There are several others but I’ll leave it there.
4. You were featured in Robert Townsend’s Partners In Crime: The Next Generation. Tell us about that experience.
I love telling this story because I actually wasn’t scheduled to be on the show. I wasn’t even suppose to be in the building. When Robert Townsend decided to revisit his classic Partners In Crime series, he picked several cities to showcase, Detroit being the first. They had already picked twelve of Detroit’s best comedians. The day taping started, two of my best comedian friends, Martini Harris and Melvin Bender, both called me back to back and suggested that I try to come do warm ups for the show.
The show was being filmed at The Upper Room which is a Christian, adult entertainment complex and just so happened to be less than two miles from my house. Needless to say, I was there in 30 seconds. When I walk in the door, the first person I see is Mr. Tinsel Townsend himself. He hits me with the strangest look and says, “Who are you here for?” In my most humble voice I said, “I’m here to do warm ups.” He paused, then said, “Ok, go in the back.” Warmups went so well that he asked me to finish the week as a warmup and he also invited me to tape my own episode. The rest is history.
5. You’ve performed all over the country. Do you have to adapt your act for audiences in different regions? How?
Understanding cultural differences allows me to adapt to different parts of the country. I’m in Detroit, which has a heavy Middle Eastern population. The East Coast, both Northeast and Southeast, have a heavy Latino and West Indian population. I have jokes in stock for all cultures and I try to learn more as I go. Beyond race, there are geographic-specific things comedians should know, i.e. names of grocery store chains, schools, local events, and other things native to the area that helps with your stage show and the audience embracing you. Plus, this helps to not sound scripted.
6. You’re a father. How does fatherhood affect your comedy, both onstage and offstage?
Fatherhood is the greatest gift God has ever given me, next would be my comedic talent so it’s not hard to balance the two. However, I will say some concrete decisions need to be made when balancing pursuing your passion with being a parent. Parenting is a 24-hour-a-day job. There are no off days and you can’t make your own schedule. Sometimes, parental responsibilities will override certain comedic obligations. If you have a strong support system, you can be more consistent with pursuing the passion. Having friends and family who share your vision is a great resource in this business.
7. Tell us about one of your favorite career highlights.
Honestly hosting the Valentine’s Day concert at the Fox theater in Detroit, which featured the R&B group Floetry, is one of my career highlights. There are too many to pick just one but I will say this, every time a different comedy club, promoter, TV producer, agent or private entity gives me a shot it always feels like my first booking. You can never lose your zeal for this. The minute you do your career is over.
8. What projects are you currently working on?
I currently have a comedy show that travels called, Keepin’ It Clean” Comedy. It’s a family-friendly comedy show for all ages. Beyond that just making sure I keep my calendar filled and making my living.