MCKEE INTERVIEWS MARK WHITNEY ble 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. 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. RM: Great. MW: You just rip. MW: Exactly, well there you go. [laughter] RM: You just ripped for ninety RM: And I’m not a narcissist. Story Magazine // Issue 005 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 Curtis 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, Curtis 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.