Meet Mark Kendall

Mark Kendall recently performed his one-man show The Magic Negro and Other Blackness in St. Louis at The Improv Shop.

Our own Logan Short was able to land an interview with him to discuss this and his thoughts on bringing uncomfortable issues to the forefront of comedy.

Q: The Magic Negro and Other Blackness. Extraordinarily fun! The topic of race can sometimes feel tense or awkward for people, but it’s like by exploiting that tension, you made it easy to laugh with and process. How do find that balance? Was that your goal?

mkendall2A: Comedy is always a great way to ease tension. But I’ve learned that having those uncomfortable moments can be OK too. It’s OK if it’s not all fun and games. It just makes those funny moments more rewarding.

Something that I enjoy about performing the show is that one sketch may be funny for one person, but a little uncomfortable for the person right next to them. And then the next sketch it flips. But I’m not trying to balance it in any particular way really, the goal is to ultimately have the funniest show possible.

Q: A one-man show has to be a lot of work. What have you learned from putting one up?

A: It’s easier to generate material if it’s something that you care about. If you make the process as enjoyable for yourself as possible, you won’t mind doing the work that’s involved. I think the easiest way to do that is to try to make a show you would actually want to see. Also give yourself an opportunity to test things in front of an audience. Always allow for the material to change and evolve.

Q: What advice would you give to somebody who wants to put on a one-man show?

A: Try and determine what your strengths are as a performer and do that. Give yourself deadlines and stick to them. Find people that you trust creatively and get their feedback on your work. Tape your performances so you can learn from them.

Q: How do you feel your show has evolved since you first wrote it?mkendall3

A: It’s changed a lot. I think the main way that it’s changed is that it’s gotten more personal. In the original version, I only played myself for a matter of minutes. Now with this most recent version I’m working on, I play myself more than any other character.

Q: Do you workshop your show before a select few of people before you put it up?  

A: Yes. Definitely. There are people who I really respect and rely on for their opinion.

Q: How do the change of location/audiences influence your sketches?

A: Not much. I have some material about Atlanta that I’ve performed out of town, but the audience doesn’t relate to it in the same way, so I generally shelve that material when I travel.

Sometimes more practical elements will necessitate changes. I have some sketches that are more tech-heavy that I might cut depending on the capabilities of the venue.

Q: What drew you to comedy? To put up shows like this one?

mkendall4A: With comedy, you know pretty quickly whether or not an audience finds it funny. I really enjoy that.

The thing that drew me to solo performance was the level of control. I feel more comfortable experimenting if it’s just me for some reason. Logistically it’s easier working alone than having to meet up with a group of people and rehearse.

Q: What’s some of the best comedy advice you’ve received?

A: Do it as much as possible and never stop doing it.

Q: How do you think comedy is conducive to the dialogue on race and other serious topics in general?

A: I think on some level, laughter is a form of agreement. So if you can make someone laugh, there’s a good chance that they at least understand your point of view. I think people are more likely to listen to you if you already have them laughing.

Q: Do you have anything coming up we should check out or be aware of? You’re based out of Atlanta, right? What’s happening down there? Give us the scoop.

A: I’m based in Atlanta and I am always performing at Dad’s Garage Theatre – we perform improv and scripted comedy. It’s an awesome place and if you’re ever in Atlanta, please come!

I’ll be traveling to different festivals this summer and I post updates about all of my shows on my Facebook page –

photos c/o Mark’s Facebook Page.

For more Sketchpad Comedy interview with comedians check out Meet Ben Kronberg, Griffin Wenzler, Kevin McDonald or Peter Kim.

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