"My parents had no idea there was a reggae singer named Bob Marley," says comedian Bob Marley. It doesn't cause as much confusion as you might think, though it did recently for the while the Maine native was on vacation. "We went to Jamaica, my wife and I," he explains. "I made it a particular point not to do jokes about Bob Marley, but we were staying at a resort, and you have to give your name at dinner so they can charge it to your room. So I gave them my name."
The maitre d' didn't believe him at first. "Of course they immediately want to smoke marijuana with you. Good thing I didn't say Cass Elliot, or they'd have been giving me ham sandwiches."
Marley has been doing standup since high school. His parents were hoping he would grow out of it, especially when he got to college. "I was a community health major, so I was originally going to be a health teacher or work in the state health department," he recalls. "But that never panned out. When I told my parents I was going to be a comedian, my mom said, 'Nice, good,' and then she took out her rosary beads." Nowadays, his parents and sister work for him. "My sister is nothing short of completely interesting," he adds. "I'd bring her into a bar fight in a second."
Comedian is the only job title Marley has ever had, save for a brief stint with a vending machine company. "I've been real lucky. I never had a job, except for that one. I would drive around and deliver candy to factories. I had one account at a frozen food processing plant, and it was all Vietnamese workers. I'd walk into the break room, and it was like Rambo coming into the village. Thirty of them would chant 'candy man,' until the sea would part and there'd be an old woman I owed money to because the machine screwed up."
It was during college, when his tuition and other bills were due, that Marley realized he could make a living at comedy. "My girlfriend, now wife, told me, 'We have seven $750 in bills due.'" Shortly after that, a representative from a neighboring university called and asked for Bob Marley the comedian. "He told me they need a comedian and wanted to know how much I charged. I told him: 'I charge $750.'"
Marley did the gig, but a few years later when he got to Los Angeles he slowly realized he didn't have as much material as he thought he had. "My first two weeks out there I had been doing standup for four years, and then I got to the Laugh Factory thinking, 'Oh, I have 45 minutes.' At the end of two weeks I concluded I had a solid 10."
Today, he regales audiences with his storytelling. "Now I've been doing it so long, I know my voice onstage, and it's easier to work out what my line would be on things." He adds: "I think most comedians would make great lawyers, because we're constantly pleading a case."
These days his stories deal mostly with his family. "My wife likes to talk. She likes to put stuff in the story that doesn't belong in the story and it makes it longer and longer. She says to me, 'I got up this morning, went to the mall, and had to turn around and come back. I went to the grocery store, and had to turn around and come back. I then I went to the bank. I had to turn around and come back.' I'm like, 'Honey, you can leave 'turn around' out of the story next time?' How dumb does she think I am? 'Wait a minute, you went to the grocery store, right? How'd you get back? Did you turn around or did you go all the way around the circumference of the Earth?"
IF YOU GO:
Bob Marley performs
The House of Comedy
Level 4, Mall of America, 408 E. Broadway, Bloomington; 952-858-8558
7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 9:45 p.m. Friday; 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 9:30 p.m. Saturday
More info at houseofcomedy.net