“I would say I was funny, as in being goofy like most kids are,” says comedian Monroe Martin of his childhood. “I don’t think I was funny like I could sit down and write a joke. But I knew what was funny and I knew how to make people laugh. That’s how I stayed in detention or kept out of fights.”
Martin was in a more challenging situation than many kids, though. Most of his childhood was spent foster care.
[jump] Onstage, he explains what that means: “Foster care is where they take kids from homes where they’re being abused, neglected, and molested,” he says. “They take them out of that environment and place them in the exact same environment.”
Being funny, even in the most stressful situations, helped him cope.
“I ended up making everything funny in my head no matter the situation,” he says. “A lot of people I knew that grew up in normal situations would think that’s a messed up thing to do. ‘You should take it serious. Why can’t you see the seriousness in it?’ I can see the seriousness. I just don’t care to face it for what it is. I’d rather laugh at it.”
For a while, Martin considered becoming a social worker.
“I would have been a great social worker,” he insists. “Because I had a shitty social worker.”
He actually had two social workers. “My first social worker committed suicide when I was younger. My second social worker was terrible. He was a Nigerian guy who kept going back to Africa. I’d rarely see him. I’d call his office and they’d say, ‘He’s in Africa.’ When he’d come back, he’d just move me to another home. I had that example in mind and said, ‘I’ll never be like that.’”
It wasn’t just his social worker, though. Martin saw the flaws in the system from an early age.
“A social worker is supposed to work with families,” he says. “They work on everything with that family so they can become a functioning family in society. But some social workers want to make sure they keep their job, so they’ll prolong that stage as long as possible.”
At least, that was Martin’s experience growing up in Philadelphia. “My mom went through different programs and they’d bounce her around and bounce me around. My social worker had to look like he was doing something.”
With some foster parents Martin thrived while with others he didn’t do as well. “Some homes were great, with awesome parents, and I’d get good grades in school.” Then without warning he’d be switched to another family. “I wouldn’t like it, and my behavior reflected that.”
When he turned 16, he became more independent. With the help of friends, got a job at McDonald’s, and started becoming more self-sufficient. “I joined an after-school program that taught you how to open and use a bank account. I did whatever I needed to do, in a positive way, to stay away from home.”
IF YOU GO:
Rick Bronson's House of Comedy
408 East Broadway, Bloomington
Level 4 in Mall of America
$13 to $20
18+; 21+ later shows
7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 9:45 p.m. Friday; 9:30 p.m. Saturday; 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday