You know him. The guy next door. That bud you hang with. The dude you crack open a couple brews with. The Everyman. He possesses just that perfect brand of likability that makes those around him pay attention. Mark Ellis is just this man and he has harnessed this appeal to make people laugh. Mark’s comedy spans a variety of subjects ranging from dating to videogames. In his new comedy album Get to the Castle Mark does a bit about hypercolor shirts that will make you wonder where this guy has been all your life. There is a confidence and vulnerability in his comedy that is undeniable. And lucky for you, in addition to his stand-up you can be exposed to even more of Mark’s humor on the movie review sensation known as Schmoes Know. Together with fellow comedian, Kristian Harloff, and “Battlestar” icon, Katee Sackhoff (squee!), Mark shares his funny and very honest opinions on the latest flicks on YouTube, podcast, etc, etc. Schmoes Know is a modern Day Siskel & Ebert “At The Movies” only much less judgy. I bet you didn’t know he was one of the first YouTube reviewers certified on Rotten Tomatoes? Mark is just full of surprises. If Adam Carolla likes him, he’s gotta be good. Right? OK, let’s allow you to form your own opinion about our new favorite comic.
Serial Optimist: Hi Mark. Can you recall the last dream you had and what it was about?
Mark Ellis: My most recent dream? It’s my recurring one: I’m back in college at Wake Forest when I suddenly realize I haven’t been to class all semester (as a Com major, this may have actually happened a few times). Then I remember I live in LA and do stand-up, and spend the rest of the dream at peace knowing that I’ll never need to pass advanced Calculus.
SO: What a relief! Can you tell the SO readers where you grew up and how you happened to step into the wide world of comedy?
Mark: I was an Air Force brat as a kid, so our family moved around all over the country before settling in Virginia…the whole stand-up thing really started somewhere around junior high. I’d see comics on TV and have the usual “I can do that!” thought, but once I started to follow guys like David Letterman and Chris Rock, I developed my own sense of humor. Really, it just felt great to make the class laugh at something, and I was hooked from there. Getting a laugh is the equivalent swishing a deep three-pointer; it’s the best feeling you can have. No athletic ability required!
This Is 40 Movie Review
SO: And no Wheaties for that matter. What is the origin story behind the movie review program “Schmoes Know” you co-host with Kristian Harloff? How far would you like to expand the “Schmoes Know” brand?
Mark: Schmoes Know started with my buddy and co-host, Kristian Harloff. We knew each other from the comedy clubs, and he was approached to do a show for Current TV. As he likes to point out, they asked him if he had any funny friends he’d want to review some stuff with…he said “no”, so they got me instead. Once we went independent and launched our YouTube channel Schmoes Know the show as it is today was born…I could easily see the Schmoes Know brand expanding even further into a television show, but work is pretty good right now. Our fan base, “Schmoeville”, is filled with movie and comedy lovers and they’re the most loyal fans I’ve ever seen.
SO: The best fans are happy ones. Please describe your flavor of comedy to folks that have never seen or heard you in any capacity?
Mark: My comedy style is really about making a connection with an audience. I’ll talk about anything, be sarcastic or energetic; clean or dirty…but it’s all rooted in finding a common base with an audience. Getting them to see my point of view is crucial; once everyone in the room is locked in together, you can really go to cool places. Of course, some times you do shows where that doesn’t work, or it’s not conducive to comedy, and that’s why God invented dick jokes.
SO: Always wondered where those came from. What is the best feedback you have received from a star of one of the movies you have reviewed?
Mark: Since Schmoes Know has become one of the biggest movie shows on the web, it’s great to see people involved in film give their feedback and even become fans. The first thing we ever reviewed was the umm, less-than-stellar Bionic Woman TV show reboot. Now, one of the stars of that and Battlestar Galactica, Katee Sackoff, is the co-host of our podcast…pretty cool stuff!
SO: Starbuck!!! What do you think has been your most critical review of all time? What movie will you forever despise?
Mark: The most critical review I’ve ever done would have to be The Last Airbender…it’s not the worst film I’ve ever reviewed, but it had such a high ceiling and never made it out of the basement. The “Transformers” franchise gets on my nerves too; all I want for Christmas is for the director of the new Star Wars films to not be named “Michael Bay”. Please, Santa…I’ve been so good this year!
SO: We all hope you get your wish. How often do you watch movies? Do you prefer going to the theatre or heating up some Jiffy Pop at home?
Mark: Doing the Schmoes Know show and being certified on Rotten Tomatoes, we see press screenings for films as much as five times a week…it really picks up during Oscar season, we can barely keep up but somehow manage to not go crazy or gain 30 pounds in popcorn and nachos. Speaking of which, I’m a Large Popcorn, light butter/heavy salt man…love going to the theater to see movies and actually prefer to sit by myself. I’d like to see the evil act of texting in theaters to be punishable by cutting off the infidel’s hand. Let’s start it in Texas and see how it goes…
Silver Linings Playbook Review
SO: Careful what you wish for. What kind of rooms do you enjoy performing stand-up at?
Mark: Like most comics, I have rooms that I enjoy working more than others, but we’d all do sets in a barn with no mic if we had to…personally I like the “Rocky”-gym kinda feel; give me a low ceiling, tight seating and a dark room and I’m home.
SO: Cozy. Your Rooftop Comedy e-CD Get to the Castle was a real pleasure to listen to. How long did it take you to put together material for the set?
Mark: The material on Get to the Castle took a few years to get together; it’s my first album so I wanted to make sure it was the best I could do and not just the first headlining set I could put together. Some of the jokes date back to my first few years doing stand-up, but the bulk came together in the last couple years.
SO: The crowd at the venue you recorded the album at was quite lively. Was any heckling cut out? What’s the reception been like for the album?
Mark: I recorded it at the Comedy Store in La Jolla, one of my all-time favorite venues…the crowd was great but I didn’t cut out anything; what you hear is how it went down. I wanted the album to reflect what it’s like to see me live, so the crowd-interaction I left on there purposely. I love mixing it up with the audience sometimes, so a record with my name on it should reflect that. Plus, it’s hard to just ignore a woman in the front row wearing a Snuggie.
SO: Very true. On the album you point out that you are one of the few comics that does not do marijuana? What’s vices do you enjoy?
Mark: I still haven’t been able to crack the marijuana code; I’ve tried it a few times and just don’t enjoy it. Plus, the whole “it’s still kind of illegal” thing, and I’ll just keep enjoying my beers after the show. IPA, Coors Light…as long as it’s cold and bubbly, it’s all right with me. I don’t trust people without vices…they’re usually the “quiet neighbors who shocked a community” on the news.
SO: It’s always the quiet ones. You joke about the unifying subject of dating on the album. Is there any truth to your statement that you “can’t date a girl with hopes and dreams and goals”? What ladies do you date?
Mark: Dating is the endless source of material for comics…most of us pass up chances at relationships to do comedy, and the nocturnal lifestyle doesn’t exactly lend itself to meeting The One. The “hopes and dreams” thing comes from living in LA and seeing so many people believe their own hype…I’d want someone with a little life experience. You need to have failed at something; otherwise I’m pretty sure we’d have nothing in common.
SO: Oh sweet failure! Tell us about your worse dating experience? If you had to choose, would you date a werewolf or a vampire?
Mark: I’ve had tons of bad dating experiences (and I’m sure more to come)…that cougar joke on the album was based on a real experience. Met a hot older woman, go back to her place, and it’s fine…but don’t go crazy in the bedroom. Who’s making these noises come out of you? I know I’m not that good. Let’s just cuddle and tell me what it was like seeing Van Halen open for Black Sabbath.
SO: Awwww. You have a penchant for videogames. If you are the last man standing in the zombie apocalypse and you have to choose between Tetris and Super Mario brothers to bide your time which one would be the clear winner?
Mark: If I’m the last man standing during the zombie apocalypse? First off, don’t hold your breath humanity, this probably won’t end well for us. Then I’d hole up in the middle of nowhere with only one video game to keep me company, and I’d have to vote Tetris. Mario is the greatest champion ever, but we’ve rescued the princess. She keeps getting kidnapped, so by now it’s her own fault. Maybe you don’t lead King Kuppa on so much next time.
I love Tetris because there is no endgame, no “congrats, you win”…just keep playing. Go as long as you can, as fast as you can. Infinite possibilities, it’s never the same game…just like life. (Except I’m much, much better at Tetris.)
SO: Good point. What is Mark Ellis’ agenda for 2013? What movies are you looking forward to in ’13?
Mark: Wearing the proverbial shades looking at the future, between stand-up and Schmoes Know I’ll have my hands full and couldn’t be happier about it. My goal is to entertain people any way that I can, so the more work the merrier I am. I’ll probably do about 25-30 weekends at clubs around the country, and hope to tape my first special by the end of the year. So many cool movies I’m looking forward to next year; I loved the Man of Steel trailer and I think Iron Man 3 could take the story to an interesting place. And hopefully that place is the Incredible Hulk’s house…