Comedy fans have a chance to see two examples of Down East humor in the coming weeks. Tim Sample performs this Saturday at the Newport Opera House, and funny man Bob Marley returns to the Claremont Opera House the following Saturday.
But these two Mainers each take distinctly different approaches to their craft. Sample’s folksy observations come straight from the pages of Yankee Magazine, a “Prairie Home Companion” with rocky beaches. He riffs genially on clueless tourists and delusional transplants – the ones who believe that 40 or 50 years in-state has earned them the right to be called natives.
“It don’t work like that theyah,” scoffs a pitch perfect Sample, who once made a disc called “How to Talk Yankee” with Bob Bryan of “Bert and I.”
In fact, after Marshal Dodge (the other half of “Bert and I”) died in 1982, Sample worked with Bryan to carry on the duo’s humorous tradition. Together, they recorded four CDs.
“Every now and then Bobby and I still perform onstage together,” says Sample. “Whenever we do I am privileged to join him for some of the original stories he and Marshall made famous (“The Body in th’ Kelp,” “The Lighter Than Air Balloon”) and we always do some of the classic material from “How to Talk Yankee.”
His wink-and-a-nod anthropology pokes plenty of fun at the “born, live and die in Maine” crowd, but Sample’s comedy stays comfortably within his home state’s borders.
Bob Marley is also a native (born in Portland), but the similarities with Sample end there.
“In all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve only run into Tim once. We travel in different circles,” says Marley, with a thick, unmistakable accent. “I do a lot of clubs, road houses and one-nighters.”
Someone who’s never set foot in Maine can easily get their brain (and funny bone) around Marley’s stand-up routine. It’s an everyman revue of daily life – family, friends and supermarket hijinx – familiar to all, regardless of where they were born.
Marley’s constantly at work on new material. With over 200 appearances a year, he’d probably go crazy otherwise. He promises an entirely different show next Saturday. “You know the Vegas dancer who’s been doing the same routine night after night, looking at her nails while she’s on stage? You can practically read her mind: ‘did I do my laundry?’ I never want to be her,” he says.
These days, his mind is on the season and its’ oddities. “Fall’s kind of a hassle. I never know how to dress,” he says. “In the morning, it’s 12 degrees, and by afternoon I’m sweating like Mike Tyson at a spelling bee. I’m ripping off my clothes like a stripper, down to a thong and pasties.”
“And what’s the deal with gourds?” he asks. “Who decided we should put these things on our table? They’re like squash with herpes.”
How about the Red Sox? “I know they’re doing wicked good, and they have a great pitcher named Suzuki Kawasaki or something,” he says. “But if I have to hear Jerry Remy try to speak Japanese one more time, I’m gonna shoot myself in the head. Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto? Jeez!”
Marley has a new CD of stand-up material (his 12th, along with 5 DVDs) due next month. His half-hour Comedy Central special last February was so well received that the network is negotiating with him to do a full hour.
Marley moved back to Maine after a few years of chasing fame in California to do east coast comedy full-time, and he’s built a nice franchise. Lately, however, he’s feeling the lure of Hollywood. He recently returned to L.A. for work on a DirecTV project, a pilot with fellow comedians Bob Saget, Dom Irrera and Jon Lovitz called “Comedy Justice.” The show is patterned after “Judge Judy” and “People’s Court,” but with comedians as lawyers.
But he loves his life here too much to move back. “If they can put something on tape and be done with it, that’s fine,” he says, “but I’d have to think hard about doing a series.”
Why would he want to? He packs houses from Maine to Maryland. His Manchester shows have drawn so well, there’s talk of playing the Verizon Center next time around.
As for Claremont, Marley says, “I’m psyched – I had such a great time there last time.” In January, he played to a sold out house, and lingered in the lobby for over an hour after the show, signing CDs and posters for fans. For Saturday’s show, he’s bringing George Hamm. “He gets the crowd going from zero to sixty in nothing flat,” says Marley. “He headlines in Boston. He could do that in any room, so it’s great to have him opening for me.”