An Interview with Jackie “The Jokeman” Martling

Jackie MartlingFor the new year, I decided to start a new feature called “Dead Article Theater.” This is where I’ll put essays and articles that never saw the light of day. These could be essays or ideas that were shopped around forever and ever and given the thumbs down at every turn. Alternately, they could be assigned articles that, for some reason, got killed and I was unable to place it elsewhere, either because of indifference or laziness.

This first article is in the latter category. In April 2007, I pitched Radar Online the idea of doing an interview with Jackie Martling, formerly of the Howard Stern Show. They agreed. I could have easily done the interview over the phone, but when Jackie offered to take me to the Friars Club, I couldn’t turn it down. So I traveled into the city, met Jackie at his midtown Manhattan apartment (he lives in the same building as Colin Quinn, whom I saw on the way in) and did the interview, then went to the Friars Club for lunch.

(Photo: Oglio Records)

It was about as old-school as you’d think, with dark wood walls, plush leather banquettes and seats, and land-line phones at every table, just in case one of the older members (and there were a lot of them) wanted to work at the table. Did I see any comedians, besides Jackie? Not really; I ran into legendary comedy writer Alan Zweibel, whom I had met doing another story and would subsequently interview, but in general, the crowd was either really old or really young (I guess they were young comics and writers trying to pitch ideas).

But Jackie was in rare form, shaking hands with the maitre d’, hugging the hostess, and joking with the waiters. He’s pretty popular there, and he works the room as well as any of the old-time comedians who used to roam those halls ever did.

Anyway, the interview was pretty lively, touching on everything from his departure from the Stern show to his return to Howard’s Sirius channels with “Jackie’s Joke Hunt”, to how he became such a repository of cheesy jokes. Radar killed it because their site was moving away from Q&As, and I couldn’t really place it anywhere else. So I decided to put the majority of the interview up here, before it gets old. Enjoy!


If Haight-Ashbury ever made love to the Borscht Belt, the resulting child would probably be a lot like Jackie “The Jokeman” Martling. A former hippie who got a mechanical engineering degree but ditched working life to sing folk songs about pot, Martling easily moves his way through the plush confines of The Friars Club, where many of the members lunching on a Thursday afternoon are at least twenty years older than he is. He’s not only shaking hands and hugging fellow members, but he’s also schmoozing with the waiters and busboys. To Martling, everyone’s a potential audience member.

He’s in a good mood, as well he should be. He just signed a 1-year deal with Sirius Satellite Radio to continue “Jackie’s Joke Hunt” (say the name fast and you’ll get the joke) , the show he hosts with fellow comedian Ian Karr. In an ironic turn of events, the show airs on one of Howard Stern’s channels, six years after Martling left Stern’s show after a contract dispute.

Before noshing at the Friars, Martling spoke to me at his midtown Manhattan apartment.

JK: So, on “Jackie’s Joke Hunt,” are you hanging out and telling stories or is it all jokes?

JOKEMAN: Yeah. I’m just forcing jokes. Jokes, jokes, jokes. Every week we have a theme and we don’t really adhere to it, but we do a little bit in a funny (way). Last week’s show was the “lick and suck hunt.” Next week’s show is “drop a load and fanny.” It’s all just goofy, dirty jokes and silliness. In the middle of the show, I play one of the songs from my album that’s coming out, some of the songs Howard used to fuck with me on. And we take a lot of phone calls and people call to try and stump me, or I give out jokes that they have to call in with the answers and we do punch line first. And I’ve got “Jackie’s Story Time.” The hour shoots by. It’s fun.

I remember that people used to call in and play “Stump the Jokeman” when you were on the Stern show. Now that you’re taking more of those calls, are people stumping you more?

Well, no. I get stumped all the time because there are so many jokes and so many versions of so many jokes, it happens to me all the time on stage. Somebody will say, “How many Mexicans were there at the Alamo?”, and I’ll say “one, because they only had one station wagon.” And the girl will say (mock snottily) “No! Three station wagons! I win!” (The joke’s) just a little bit different. But sometimes people say, “Why’d the chicken cross the road?” and I have a brain fart. You know what I mean? Some nights, I take 30 people from the audience and bang, bang, bang, I know every one and the crowd goes nuts. But then when somebody stumps me, they go even more nuts.

How did you get this repository of jokes going in your head?

I saw my cousin read a dirty poem when I was in like second or third grade, and I was sitting around with a bunch of people, and I saw everybody laughing, and I thought it was cool. The only reason I know this is because after years and years of being interviewed, you’ve gotta come up with an answer. I’m sure the word cool wasn’t in my vocabulary, but I was like, “Wow, that’s neat.” He’s reading that and we’re all laughing. And, you know, he was a hero. I swear from that day, I have remembered every fucking dirty joke. Every joke, they stick. I amaze people. I was out in Albuquerque (on a gig) and some guy came up to me he started a joke and before he got two words out, I told him the end. He said, “I sold that joke to Playboy in 1958. Nobody in the world knows that joke. I’ve never met another human that knew that joke.” And I knew it before he opened his mouth.

When I failed as a musician, I said, “Boy, I got all the jokes, let me try them on stage.” I’m the only guy in the world that stands up and tells stupid old dirty jokes.

How tough was going to Howard’s channel on Sirius? You’d been off the show for 6 years, and didn’t even visit until the last week they were on terrestrial radio.

Well, doing that show, when they asked me in, that second-to-last terrestrial show, that was like one of the most fun hours I ever had in my life. I don’t know if you were listening, but everybody thought it was as good as I enjoyed it. You know what I mean? Sometimes you enjoy yourself and it’s not so good.

It sounded like you immediately fell back into step with those guys.

Jumped right in step. Because they allowed it. And then I went on the show a couple weeks ago (Note: Remember, I did this interview in April. — JK). And that was so much fun too. I mean, Fred’s attacking me out of nowhere, but who cares. I mean, he’s out of his fucking mind. I mean, he’s complaining about something from 17 years ago. I’ve spent weekends with him in the Hamptons with my wife that nobody even knew that we were getting together. And his wife was commiserating with me and he was commiserating with me. I mean, we’re close friends. And to this day, I don’t know, I think he, I hope he was fucking around, because what I did was so for the best for the both of us. I went to bat for both of us, and oh it’s just… But that’s the intrigue of the Stern show is where does the fucking around stop and the realness…

What was the thing from 17 years ago?

When I worked back at Channel 9 [on the old syndicated Howard Stern TV show], they were going to make us segment producers. And I said, we’re not segment producers, we’re writers. I said, in fact, I’m the last guy that determines what Howard’s going to say. That makes me head writer. People have said well, Fred can’t do that because he’s too busy doing the sound. I said, I don’t want credit as the sound man, I’m the fucking head writer, which I absolutely was. And Howard even had my back when I was talking about it on the air. He said, yeah, well I, he said, I want Jackie to be the one who determines what goes in front of me. And not only that, but I created the idea of putting something in front of him.

That was your idea to do the notes?

I used to be on one day a week in 1983, ’84, ’85 (at WNBC), I worked for 3 years for free. And slowly but surely, I used to like give (Stern) ideas. And one day I got myself a pile of paper and a Sharpie and just you know, did it. And we never discussed it, and then when we went to mornings (at WXRK), he said “Look, I want you to come on the morning show with me 2 days a week and do your thing with the notes. ” That was the total job discussion that we had. No sitting around and discussing it for 8 hours. And I came on, did my thing with the notes, and Fred would hand me little pieces of paper and I’d rewrite it. And one day I took the pile of paper and put it in front of (Fred) and said “Here’s the paper, here’s a Sharpie, write it so he can read it so I don’t have to rewrite it because the moment’s lost.” And before I got there, nobody’d ever handed him a note. I mean, Fred wrote all the parodies, and all the bits. And don’t get me wrong, he was fucking brilliant. But on the fly, that made a big difference in the show and Howard all of a sudden was fucking *snap snap snap*.

When did you start full-time with the show?

’86, mornings, I was on 2 days a week and after like a month or 6 weeks, I went from 2 days to 3 days to 4 days to 5 days because it was funnier.

You are a guy who promotes yourself a lot…

Always have been.

You use plugs as part of your deals…it seemed kind of out of your character to write these jokes for Howard because no one knew you were doing this.

It made perfect sense to me because it was easy to write. We were right in step. We have the same sense of humor. There’s a lot of things I wrote for him to say that weren’t necessarily things I would say because they wouldn’t come from me. And I loved it. And the fact that nobody knew about it was on some level, was very cool. And slowly but surely…. I mean, way in the beginning, people didn’t know Robin was a black woman. There were actually people who used to come up to me and say, “Is Howard really half-Italian? Somebody told me Robin’s black.” I mean, I’m talking about way long ago. Because it seems now they’re such a piece of, they’re so iconic and such a piece of history. And it was very cool.

I always wanted more money because what I was doing was so important. But it was so funny because the very nature of, the very fact that nobody knew I was doing it made it like why should he get paid so much money. We’re Abbott and Costello, but Costello’s not saying anything. But it was fun and I got my plugs. And of course, I couldn’t tell my dirty jokes on the radio. It was…. The only time, when I went to the wall for more money, which I did a bunch of times, it was never about “I want to talk more, I want more credit,” it was like, “We’re making a lot of money, I have a lot to do with it, give me a piece of the pie.” It was never like “Say my name more or turn my microphone on.” And as the years progressed, my microphone wound up being on all the time and I just didn’t say a lot. Because with (Howard) talking and (Robin) talking, there’s not room for 5 people to be yelling shit. I thought I was very good, when they attacked me or when I laughed, I mean the show had perfect balance. It was the best radio show in fucking history.

It’s one of those things where people probably heard you laugh more than they heard you talk most of the time.

You know, what’s really funny is another reason nobody had any idea that I was writing is, because I’ve got a great laugh and they picked on me so much that that was like enough reason for me to be there. “Here’s a guy we’re going to pick on and who’s going to laugh at Howard’s jokes.” It’s like it would make sense for me to be there if I wasn’t doing anything else.

And people say, “God, some of the things he says to you.” When I tell people that some of the worst things he ever said about me or to me, I wrote, people can’t even wrap their brain around that. Know what I mean?

Most people didn’t realize that you even wrote stuff like Billy West’s “Jackie Puppet” bits. Most fans didn’t realize that a lot of those lines he’d spew in your voice attacking you were your words.

It was funny because a lot of the times, the Jackie puppet was attacking. But Billy ad libbed like crazy too. So it’s funny, like, there are a lot of people that don’t know that I wrote lines, but there are other people that say “Yeah, Jackie wrote everything Howard ever said.” And I’m like “No, no.” I was a spice.

You know the analogy I always use is if you’re a sprinter and you run the 100 meter dash in 9.9, you’re a world class sprinter. If you run it in 9.8 — I don’t know the figures or anything — but if you run it at 9.8, you’re the champion of the world. And they disqualify you, they disqualify the event if there’s any wind at your back. I always said I was the wind at Howard’s back. He was a world class sprinter, but with an extra push, with an extra punchline here and there, it just made him… And not only that, but by me being there, I became a conduit so that Fred could also write for him. So not only did we have three really funny guys, but three distinct senses of humor all coming out of Howard. So he’s getting punchlines from me, Fred’s from another fucking universe, and his broad comedy all coming from him, that’s the fucking quo.

What would you consider the peak, the period of the show where you guys were clicking on all cylinders the most?

I said, the last day I was on the air, when we got done, it was as much fun as the first day. I mean, every day was always fucking great. But they used to break my balls very often. But the formative years were so much fun. We used to do like five-minute commercials, live commercials, like for Roselli Movers or Dumans Meats… “Dumans is for Humans.” And Mrs. Roselli with the hairy back. And as time went on (Howard) couldn’t do those 5 minute commercials anymore. Because if you did 5 minutes for Mrs. Roselli, even though you’re insulting the piss out of the guy’s mother who’s long dead, then you do Snapple and it’s just not as fucking interesting. It just ain’t.

But I guess the whole 90’s, I guess the peak, you could say the peak was when Billy was there. Most people say “Oh that was the peak of the show.” I was so sad to see Billy go, but we were still very funny. I felt like it was going up and up. In like ’86, when we got syndicated to Philadelphia and Washington and then went to L.A., people are like “this is such a great radio show but how long can it last?” And I go “Look, I don’t know, but we’re really enjoying ourselves.” And 2 years later, we’re on channel 9. “Oh this is really great, but how long can it last?” And Howard keeps reinventing himself. Then all of a sudden, there’s a book, and “This is so great, how long can it last?” If I had a nickel, I wish I had all those interviews, because ’88, ’90, ’92, ’95, ’98, (we heard) “This is great, but how long can it last?” What do you mean, how long can this last.

The only thing that really makes me fucking sad is one of the things I loved saying when I got interviewed. When I got interviewed, I’d say, the first time I went into the Stern show in 1983 in the afternoon at NBC, when I walked in, there was me and Robin and Fred and Howard. And today when I left work, it was me, and Fred and Robin and Howard. And I was so proud of that because no rock ‘n roll bands, very few marriages, no TV shows… What lasts 12 years, what lasts 15 years? Nothing. And then you could look at it like “Yeah, and then Jackie fucked it up.” But I didn’t. All they had to do was share some of the money. But the truth of it is, if I fucked it up; so what? But the 15 (years), it was just such a core (group). I mean, we got to the point where we could look at each other and press a button. I mean I could make Robin nuts in 3 seconds.

That seems to be an area of the show that is there but not as much as it used to be, the button pushing. I remember when you were there a few weeks ago, you made vicious fun of (producer) Gary Dell’Abate, something that hasn’t really happened lately.

I could throw grease in the fucking engine so easily.

Right…and as soon as you came in, you were on Gary and Gary was all pissed off and then Fred starting talking…you never hear Fred talk ever…

Martling: That’s what people say. You know why, because he’s so fucking brilliant. And so fucking funny. For him to fuck with anybody else is a bully situation. With me, we can go nose to nose. I can’t even keep up…I couldn’t go nose to nose with Fred, but at least there’s a fight there. So when he attacks me, I can attack back.

Right. And Gary didn’t seem to care. He said that even though you guys are close friends, the insults don’t bother him. That just seems to be the way on that show.

Howard, there’s no more generous guy on the planet. And he fucked with me about being cheap. I couldn’t be a nicer guy, he’d tell people that I’m hard to work with, that nobody in the building liked me, and meanwhile they were so sad when I left. He called me fat and angry. If I tell you you’re angry, the minute you say “No, I’m not angry,” you sound angry. He’s a genius and he knew how to push my buttons. And people say well, do you really get upset? And the truth of it is, you get a little upset but not really. But it’s like if you’re in the schoolyard with a bully and the bully starts punching you, and he punches you and you say that doesn’t hurt, he’s gonna keep punching you. If you say ow, you know what I mean? So at some point, you go ooh, ahh, ooh, eee.

Then there’s that whole attitude that if you fight back, that’s just more ammo for them?

Of course, of course.

A lot of fans would say that’s all fake, that’s all written beforehand and planned beforehand. What would you counter those people?

People always said “How much writing went into this show?” None. We write the parodies, the song parodies, obviously, and if there were bits, and we’d write questions when Howard was going to have a guest on or we’d give questions or something to (Stuttering) John (Melendez). But very often, if we had a guest, Howard’d have some questions for them. But very often, we’d blow most of the questions off because he’d be asking questions about what happened that day and we’re doing them on the fly. But he’d just turn on the microphones and start talking and wherever the fuck it went. And Gary used to come in and say (doing an impression of Gary’s voice) “Uh oh, no guests today.” Because that meant we’re all going to be fucking with each other, which was the greatest.

So did you ever regret, through your various negotiations to renew your contract, did you ever regret how you handled it?

No. It wasn’t a regret on my end. But it was never, what went out over the air was never truthful. And that was very unfair because people would say “Oh, you know, you’re a bad negotiator, blah blah blah.” They yelled at me for years for not having somebody represent me. Then I got somebody to represent me and they said “Oh you’re having an idiot represent you,” meanwhile, (I’m represented by) the best lawyer in the world. It’s all shtick. If they said “Jackie did a good job,” it’s not funny. But that whole thing about talking to my lawyer and saying “Listen, we’re not coming to any kind of agreement, I’m not going to be coming in on Monday…” And Howard knows about this, Howard’s privy to everything, and all of a sudden Monday, he goes, “Where’s Jackie, Robin? He left you high and dry again? He just didn’t show up?” I would never in a million years not show up for the most famous radio show in history.

To 99% of the listeners, “That fucking guy Jackie left our guy Howard high and dry, what a cocksucker. You know, he’s so cheap.”

Even if you told Howard beforehand, did you not show up because you were undergoing those negotiations?

No it was after, you sit there, after sitting there X amount of days with no movement, it’s like a baseball player at spring training. The only card left to play is to stay home.

But Fred’s never done that, Robin’s never done that, Artie (Lange)’s never done that…?

So what? So what? Nobody in 30 years… I’m sure Fred has never said the words “Can I have more?” Know what I mean? Like I was, maybe they never asked for more, maybe they got what they wanted. You know, I was, yeah, Fred had never asked for anything. So the minute there’s a new guy there and I’m asking for something like “We’d like some credit,” or “We’d like some money,” or “We’d like this,” I look like the bad guy, but I don’t give a shit. Because I didn’t do anything. It’s the American Way. I’m doing a job I think I should paid more money for; you think I shouldn’t get paid as much as I want? After that it’s a negotiation. Where is the crime? (Attorney) Dominic (Barbara) called me up after I didn’t get my job back and he’s like, “What are they angry at? You didn’t do anything wrong. You asked for more money, they said no.”

Was that the reason you left? Was it money or were there other factors?

I was so fried. I got up at 4:30 for fifteen years. And I was so fried, and I knew that I’d been a very important part of the show from the beginning. And I wasn’t going to just walk away from this job. And I said “Look, I’d like to get a decent raise, and if I don’t get it, I’m done. That’s fine.” And that’s bullshit too because after a couple months, I felt so horrible about the fact that I broke up the team, I called up and said, “Listen, if the offer’s still on the table that you made for me two months ago, I’ll come back.” And they never even called. They never even called to say no.

Was Howard really upset or was he doing that for ratings?

When we had dinner (recently), he said he was very sad when we left. The bottom line is, it’s the best thing I could do. I got my life back and I’m a happy camper.

You not only interjected funny lines but you also wrote funny lines for Howard to say as the show went on. Listening to the show, it seems like they now have two people doing the job you were doing now.

I don’t listen to the show so I have no opinion about it.

You don’t listen to the show at all?

I’m not up.

But they replay it throughout the day…

I don’t not listen out of bitterness. I don’t listen to the radio. I drive along and listen to my stupid CDs, I listen to 1010.

Were you surprised Howard went to satellite radio?

I didn’t think he would.

Despite all the FCC crackdowns and restrictions?

I’m still hoping that the FCC’s gonna have to back off. I guess they’re not gonna, but it’s just… it makes no sense. It makes no sense to anybody, that you can’t talk on the air like you talk like human beings.

Do you want the merger of XM and Sirius to happen or do you not want it to happen?

If I go from 6 million potential listeners to 13 million potential listeners, there’s no downside.

Can they track how many people are listening to you?

They only thing I have to go by is how many phone calls we get. And some weeks we get 3,000 and some weeks we get 5,000. And those are attempts. So if you sit there and keep hitting redial, you could be 5,000 calls yourself.

When you stopped drinking, did you lay off the pot too or no?

No. Please. I’m not an AA guy who’s beautiful squeaky clean. And it’s not like I get drunk once in a while. I haven’t had a sip of booze in coming up on 6 years on Cinco de Mayo. But I smoke pot. I don’t do acid, I don’t do cocaine; I smoke a little reefer. And I drink Diet Coke.

You don’t find pot to be as addicting or bad for you?

No. People say, “Oh you had a drinking problem.” I said, “Ok, well, I put out 5 CDs and 2 videos and was the head writer of TV, radio, of the greatest radio show ever, did my stand-up, maintained a website…” And people go “Oh, you were a functioning alcoholic.” Oh, well, I’m functioning pretty fucking well.

Then why’d you stop?

Because it felt like it was time. It really did. I definitely had a problem, don’t get me wrong. But it wasn’t like I was lying in the gutter. I was never a guy that woke up and had a shot of vodka and was shaking by the end of the day. I was a social drinker; I just made fucking sure I was always in a social situation.

How old are you right now?

59, but you can say 39 (Note: He’ll be 60 (!) in February — JK). How the fuck did I get this old? When did this happen? Is it your fault or my fault? I still think I’m a sophomore in college.

When you used to come in and do Howard’s show at WNBC, did you ever work with Don Imus?

It’s very hard to believe, but in all my time with Howard, I never met Imus. And he was up on the show all the time, but I was, at NBC, I was only on one day a week and he was never in the room when I was in the room. I never met him.

You never saw him in the hallways or anything like that?

Maybe from a distance, but I never said hello, shook his hand, or met him. Not because I avoided him or he avoided me, just for some reason it never happened.

But you also have the experience of like 15 years of Howard complaining about him.

Oh yeah. No, no, no, I’m fully aware of the man.

Were you surprised that he said what he said about the Rutgers women’s basketball team, and about how it all turned out?

I don’t think the punishment fit the crime. No, he shouldn’t have said that. It was stupid, but it was something in passing, in the moment. Yeah, it’s a stupid thing he said. He’s paid to be outrageous. He said something racist and shitty, so smack him in the head. He’s paid to be outrageous. My whole argument is you can’t give somebody the electric chair for jaywalking. Because then what’re you going to do if they do armed robbery? He could’ve said much, much, much worse things than he said.

I think it’s despicable that Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are up there pointing. I mean Sharpton wrecked people’s lives with that Tawana Brawley thing. Wrecked some police officers’ lives. Why anybody’s still listening to that guy… he’s just waiting for smoke so he can make a fire. But it is wrong what the guy did, so….

Do you do racial humor on “Jackie’s Joke Hunt”?

Every day. Chinese jokes and black jokes and Jew jokes.

What’s the difference between what you’re doing and what Imus did?

Nothing. I’m waiting for them to lock me up. But the point is, you can’t listen to my show and not know that it’s lighthearted and funny. You’d have to be an idiot to not know that I’m fucking around and just having a good time and trying to make people have a good time. If somebody doesn’t get hurt, there’s not a joke. If there’s not a sting somewhere, either the fat girl gets hurt or the Jewish guy gets hurt or I get hurt talking about myself or your momma, it’s in the name of fun. Now Imus offhandedly insulting people that weren’t defending themselves or whatever, it’s the kind of thing that could go flying by and people could hear it or not hear it.

To me, the insult, the whole thing in my estimation is he said “nappy-headed.” Because to me, the word “ho,” it’s not like saying “whore.” I’ll never forget the first time I saw Johnny Carson say “aw, this blows” in his monologue. I couldn’t believe it. Because coming up through the fifties and sixties, when you say “that sucks” or it means “it sucks cock.” “It blows” means you blew a dick, you sucked a cock. Now, “aw that sucks” or “aw, that blows,” it’s like saying “aw, that stinks.” So when somebody says “ho…” If I say “aw, she’s a ho,” I’m not saying she’s a whore and fucks for money, it’s like “oh, she’s a ho,” I don’t even know what it means. To me, I don’t think it has the… Like if I say aw, “you blow,” I’m not saying you suck dick. I’m saying you’re a jerk. Do you see what I’m saying? Maybe I’m not making any sense here.

This ties into the whole Michael Richards thing. I asked Lisa Lampanelli the same question when I interviewed her: What’s the difference between what Richards did and let’s say Lisa’s or your racial jokes?

It’s apples and oranges. He did a full on frontal attack on somebody. Now I don’t know Michael Richards and I wasn’t there. So I have absolutely no idea why or where he was coming from.

How about clubs that say, because I know Laugh Factory in L.A. where this happened, the owner has said now if you use the N word, we’re going to fine you $20?

I have never, ever used the word “n—er” or “k-ke.” (Sorry, folks.. I’ve got Google searches to worry about — JK ) I once in a blue moon say “cunt” to be funny. Like I’ll say “vagina” or something and then I’ll go off mike and yell “cunt!” And there’s some Jesus jokes I don’t do and it’s not only self censorship, I don’t use the word “n—er” and “k-ke” in my… it’s not part of my vocabulary. It just isn’t. And as far as being dirty, I’ll be as dirty as the audience can handle. If say something, if I do a joke with the word “cunt” in it, it throws people. I’m there to make them laugh. I’m not trying to see how dirty I can be to upset my audience. What makes them laugh, that’s the only thing I have governing me. Whatever makes them laugh harder, I’ll say. And I don’t say “Polock” anymore. I used to say “Polock” and then I realized that’s insulting. So when people stand up and say I’m playing “Stump the Jokeman,” somebody will say “Why did two Polocks…” I go “Yeah, you don’t say ‘Polock,’ you say ‘Polish Cocksucker.'” I make a joke out of it. Or somebody stands up and says “You know, three ni—rs went to the well.” I say “We don’t say that.” I don’t use the word well. Just being stupid, but making the point.

But basically as far as the comedy club saying that you can’t use the word…?

I think that’s great. But it shouldn’t have to be a rule. Well, the truth of it, the only person that uses the N word are the black communities. I mean, I can’t listen to that. You know (rapidly) motherfuckinni—r, motherfuckinni—r, motherfuckinni—r. You know.

Is there saturation right now in stand-up comedy?

I don’t know. I know there was in the 80’s. I always tell people, in the 1970s, if you were going around the TV and you saw a comedian, a standup comedian, you locked on that channel. Wow, standup comedy. Rodney Dangerfield or Robert Kline or something. In the eighties, it was exactly 180 degrees. If you saw a comic, you couldn’t turn the fucking channel quick enough.

So after 28 years, you still get a kick out doing stand-up?

I love it. I stay after the show, I sign autographs and take pictures and sell stuff to the people. When I get a new joke, I can’t wait to get up there and tell them. I got up there (recently) and said, “Listen, I gotta start with a clean joke. It’s the funniest fucking joke I ever heard.” And I told the joke and people were like, “Oh a clean joke, fucking Jackie.” But they fucking went nuts. There’s nothing like it.

What was the joke?

Mark Farner from Grand Funk Railroad found Jesus like 20 years ago and, he told me a joke about a stuttering Bible salesman. Do you know that one? The stutterer gets a job selling Bibles door to door. And the first day he sells five hundred Bibles. He comes back and the boss says, “How’d you sell five hundred Bibles?” He said, “It-it-it-it’s easy. I just g-g-go, knock, I go to the door. And when they answer, I say do you want, do you want, do you want, would you like to b-b-buy a Bible or you want me to read it to you?” (laughing hysterically at his own hilarity…) It’s so fucking harmless but the fucking people are giggling.

You watch, you’re going to tell that joke 30 times. It’s so bad. You can tell your grandma, but look at it. It’s not harmless. It’s completely demeaning to a stutterer. But it’s as harmless a joke, that’s a fucking, that’s a Jesus guy telling that joke. Because if somebody doesn’t get stung, there isn’t any joke.

2 thoughts on “An Interview with Jackie “The Jokeman” Martling

  1. CM says:

    If Haight-Ashbury ever made love to the Borscht Belt, the resulting child would probably be a lot like Jackie “The Jokeman” Martling.


  2. dudedue says:

    love this guy. But i sometimes cringe thinking how much richer he’d be if he had just accepted the chump change they wanted to pay him.

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