By Mark Langton
Article Launched: 07/24/2008 10:47:06 PM PDT, Marin Independent Journal
Stand-up comic Mark Pitta is a very funny guy. His impression of an apoplectic Al Pacino ordering coffee at Starbucks is to die laughing for. Ditto his tear-up of rock concert lineups (Talking Heads with Simple Minds, Meat Loaf and Bread, Climax with the Pretenders and so on). And he's been known to kill audiences with his routine about Celebrity Voice GPS Devices. With all the voices in his head, he'd probably make a great ventriloquist - if he ever stopped moving his lips.
Pitta is also a very busy guy. The unapologetically in-your-face, shoot-from-the-lip host of the popular comedy showcase "Mark Pitta and Friends," which is every Tuesday night at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, is about to undertake a three-day Comedy Marathon, Aug. 1-3, featuring 200 or so of his funniest friends.
Proceeds will benefit ailing comedian Max Alexander, a New York-bred, Los Angeles-based comedian who received a kidney from his brother earlier this month.
Q: Why a comedy marathon? Are you trying to break a world record?
A: Funny you should say that. That was the original idea. At least until we had to deal with the Guinness Book people. They are the most annoying people to deal with in the world. They have all these ridiculous rules - we would have had to pay two of their representatives to be there $2,000 apiece or something. We would have had to pay for a medical team - theirs - and account for this and that. É In effect, their attempts to dictate how to do it improbability of pulling it off, took all the fun out of it. By eliminating the Guinness aspect, it took our ego out of it and put the fun back into organizing it. I think there's a reason they're called Guinness, 'cause when you're negotiating with 'em they're on a two-beer buzz. They're a little foggy over there.
We were going to do this Guinness attempt and pick a charity, but when we got tired of dealing with them, we thought, why not make Max our charity?
Q: You've billed this event as you and ALL your funny friends. Are you inviting comedians from anywhere or just the Bay Area?
A: All over. We've got comedians flying in from L.A. who know Max, comedians who are coming in who happen to be in the city (San Francisco). Todd Glass is headlining the Punch Line, we're trying to get Kevin Nealon, who happens to be performing in town that weekend. Lots of local comics, of course.
Q: You've frequently had Tuesday night drop-ins by the likes of Robin Williams, Dana Carvey, Richard Lewis, Kevin Pollack É are you expecting them to show up?
A: Dana is in Tahoe and is coming back on the third, so depending on when he comes in he'll probably show up on Sunday. There are more who are only available on Sunday. There's nothing concrete. Robin was here a couple of Tuesdays ago and told me he's leaving the area for five weeks to make a movie, so he won't be showing up. I'm still billing it as Mark Pitta and Friends, and when you look at the list, these really are my friends, so it's kind of cool. I book people who I know are hilarious but they're not household names, so the audiences are discovering them at the Throckmorton when in reality they've been doing it 10-15 years.
Q: Is 142 Throckmorton a tough room?
A: It's a tough room for people who do not have their street cred. It's become an A room. There's a huge misconception that Tuesdays are an open mike. It's never been an open mike; it's a showcase room for working comics. These guys work for a living. You'd never call the MGM Grand and say, "Hey, I'm gonna try comedy É"
Q: Is anything off limits these days?
A: If you're smart, you won't do breast cancer jokes in the No. 1 county for breast cancer.
Off limits to me is being boring. I wouldn't recommend doing your act word for word the same way every time. But topics? I've never told anybody what to do or what not do. No subject is off limits. I'd say 'know your environment.' Child abduction jokes, pedophile jokes - probably not good. But people get hissed a lot around here. When Robin Williams was here last time, he got hissed for certain. Whenever that happens, Robin goes, "Uh oh É the p.c. snake is loose again."
IF YOU LAUGH
- What: Mark Pitta and Friends' 3-Day Comedy Marathon, "How Long Can You Laugh?"
- When: 5 p.m. Aug. 1 to 2 a.m. Aug. 2, noon Aug. 2 to 2 a.m. Aug. 3, noon Aug. 3 to 10 p.m. (or longer). There will be two breaks from 2 a.m. to noon on Saturday morning and Sunday morning.
- Where: 142 Throckmorton Theatre, 142 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley
- Tickets: $10 each visit
- Information: 383-9600, www. 142throckmorton theatre.com