Rebecca Wallersteiner chats to comedian Mark Maier about his love of laughter – then chuckles her way through his new show at JW3
Mark Maier is not only a top Jewish stand-up comedian but also an award-winning writer and voice-over artist with a string of successful radio series, both in the UK and Hollywood.
He is popular at comedy clubs around the world and, having watched him perform at the JW3 two weeks ago, I can understand why. “My show focuses on all things Jewish and making fun of Jewish behaviour, drawing on a mixture of new and tried and tested material,” Maier explains.
“I am Jewish and proud of my German-Jewish heritage.”
“My stand-up falls more into the category of Woody Allen than political satire.”
Like many of the best comedians, 51-year-old Maier hails from the north of England. “I grew up in Newcastle and had a Jewish upbringing, going to synagogue and Cheder,’ he says.
His background has provided him with a rich supply of material for his show.
There are plenty of family stories involving accents, neuroses and gags about the various obsessions that Jews have, such as getting good value and parents who over-interfere in their children’s lives.
“Before becoming a stand-up comedian, I wrote and performed several radio commercials in America and won the great-sounding Best Broadcasting Advertisement at the 1987 Hollywood Radio and Television Awards,’ recounts Maier.
He began doing stand-up in Los Angeles but returned to England, which is perhaps better suited to his punchy style of humour. There is never a dull moment in his show Have I got Schmooze for You.
Maier’s brilliant improvisation skills and unpredictability made him exciting to watch. The intimacy and excellent acoustics of JW3’s theatre made it an ideal stand-up venue.
I chose a seat in the third row and later was thankful not to be sitting in the front. Having warmed up his act, Maier scanned his audience rather like a hawk looking for his prey. He asked a pretty girl where she came from and bantered with her on hearing that she was a Brazilian student. He then moved on and asked a man in the front row where he was from.
‘Iraq,’ the man answered (Iraqi-Jewish).
Upon hearing this, Maier lit up like a light bulb.
Despite his protestations to me that his humour isn’t politically inspired, Maier quickly seized the opportunity for some brilliant ad-libbing involving Iraqis and blind dates.
I occasionally held my breath when his comedy felt a little dangerous – but the predominantly Jewish audience didn’t seem to mind as it was all in good humour.
Gags about the problems of parking, parenthood and looking after ageing parents followed. Everyone applauded his gag about his ageing father: ‘He’s in a home. Unfortunately it’s mine.’
Other material explored Jewish identity with stories ranging from foodies, petty family feuds, accents and neuroses to organising simchas, bargain hunting and Oslo Court.
If there was a competition for the most original Jewish restaurant in England, Oslo Court, situated in a block of flats overlooking Regent’s Park would be a hot contender. “The restaurant caters to Jewish people who seem to have a birthday every week,” quipped Maier, who had me in stitches throughout the show. This was my first experience of live Jewish stand-up comedy and I enjoyed Maier’s routine.
So did the JW3 crowd.
He deserves a television series.
• For more details visit www.markmaier.co.uk