Last December City Pages spoke to comedian Tim Harmston, who was doing a week at the Acme Comedy Co. One of the subjects discussed was Harmston's wife and fellow comic, Mary Mack. Harmston told us how he was smitten the first time he saw Mack, and how they will bounce ideas off of each other when building their respective standup sets.
With Mary Mack coming to town to do a run of shows at Acme, we thought it would be a good opportunity to play "He Said, She Said," and see how accurate Harmston's assessment of their relationship was. Upon hearing this, Mack laughs. "Like the Newlywed Game?" she suggests.
Well, sort of.
On the subject of when they first met, Harmston, as noted earlier, was immediately interested in Mack.
"I didn't know it," she says. "He's sweet and so nice, so maybe." She tells a slightly different story about their initial courtship than her husband: "We met doing the Acme Funniest Person in the Twin Cites contest and that has been, oh my, gosh, 12 or 13 years ago. We both went all the way through, there were hundreds of people, but we made it to the final round and Tim won. Then he told my friend, 'Mary Mack got robbed. She should have come in second.'"
She laughs. "So, that's my love story with Tim Harmston. And I still married him."
Was she as taken with him at first as he was with her? "I didn't even know anybody," she says. "I didn't do comedy and I didn't know any of the comedians. I would just get up in the morning and try to write something funny the day of that round. I really didn't know how comedy worked, or had even seen comedy." Mack didn't socialize with the other comics. "I didn't do open mics either, I would just show up at these contest rounds. It was just fun for me."
Mack came from fronting bands. After noticing that her between-song banter was a hit with audiences, she decided to try comedy. "I liked it better because I didn't have to carry anything and people would listen." None of her family came to see her perform music, but when she started appearing at comedy contests their attitude changed.
"Suddenly my two brothers wanted to hang out with me and drink beer at the comedy club. I'm like, 'This is great! Something we can do as a family.' I didn't know any of the comics. I would just show up and do my five minutes."
These days, Harmston and Mack split time between California and Minnesota. When they are in the Gopher State, it's to unwind and perhaps work on some new material. "We're very careful about critiquing each other's acts," Harmston told City Pages. "She doesn't really like when I suggest things. I usually keep my mouth shut. I ask for her help more than she asks me."
Mack concurs, but offers an explanation: "He bounces stuff off of me because I'm really mean," she laughs. "It's so much easier for me to edit Tim because I care more about his material. Most of the stuff I say, I'll never say again. That was just a moment in time we shared together. But Tim's jokes are well-crafted and they can be edited, because he speaks in complete sentences, where I speak in half sentences or rambling tangents." Even when he seeks her assistance she has misgivings. "I edit him, and then I hate myself."
As for the reverse? "He probably doesn't let met bounce things off of him because he's afraid he'll get his head bit off," she laughs. "It's probably self-defense."
IF YOU GO:
Mary Mack Acme Comedy Co. 708 N. First St., Minneapolis 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday $18 Call 612-338-6393 or visit www.acmecomedycompany.com for more details.