Monday, March 24, 2003


By John Berger

So how long does it take to earn the right to call yourself a comedian? "If you haven't been in it for 10 years, you haven't been in it yet," Mario Joyner replied emphatically last week, speaking from a mainland hotel.

Funny men

Mario Joyner with opening comedian Jo Koy

Where: The Laugh Factory, Queen Kapiolani Hotel
When: 8 p.m. today through Sunday
Admission: $25 with two-drink minimum (discounts for students, military personnel and kamaainas)
Call: 931-4490

"No squawking about how hard it is (and) how you should have your break, if you haven't done it 10 years."

The subject came up when Joyner, who passed that career milestone almost a decade ago, mentioned that comedians mostly hang out and relax with other comedians rather than with the general public.

"Comedians are like a family. Comedians only know and can really hang out with other comedians; everybody else is like civilians. I've known (Jerry) Seinfeld for 17 or 18 years, Chris (Rock) for, like, 15 years. It's fun working with them."

Joyner has professional ties to both those stars. He's been playing club dates with Seinfeld this spring, and has a role in Rock's new movie, "Head of State," which opens Friday.

Joyner opens tonight at the Laugh Factory with comic Jo Koy as his opener.

Joyner played the old Honolulu Comedy Club and did some other shows for civilian and military audiences; this will be his fourth engagement here. Koy was one of the few bright spots at the amateurishly produced Snoop Dogg and Ludacris concert at the Blaisdell Arena in 2001. In fact, Koy was forced to stretch his material to buy time for the promoters, as well as improvise between several third-rate rap and deejay acts, as the crowd waited several hours for the headliners to go on.

It was a comic's nightmare, but Koy connected with the crowd each time he had to return to the stage.

BUT back to Joyner, whose latest success is that role in the new Chris Rock film.

"I was one of the four stars of 'Hangin' with the Homeboys,' (but) in this movie, I play a lotto man. It's a small part ... (but) I'm in the movie throughout, so it's not just one scene."

Joyner is working a longer engagement than usual. He works an average of 36 weekends a year on the road but rarely works a club for a full week. Many mainland comedians might work a week in Waikiki just to be a block from the beach, but beach access is no big deal for Joyner. He lives in Santa Monica, Calif., one block from the beach.

"It's a very long week for me, but I'll just make it a nice writing clinic. I'm working on some stuff, and I'll just bring my computer and write and work out and write. It's no big deal."

Joyner says he always knew he was going to give comedy a shot. "I just had to give it a try," he said.

He made his film debut in 1988 in "Three Men and a Baby," playing a taxi driver who picks up Ted Danson, Steve Guttenberg and Tom Selleck. He was also in the Chris Rock 2001 vehicle "Down to Earth" and in Seinfeld's documentary, "Comedian."

TV viewers know him from his comedy specials on HBO and as a regular on Rock's show (he wrote and performed on the show), as well as the host of MTV's "Half-Hour Comedy Hour" from 1988 to 1992 and as a repeat guest on the Leno and Letterman shows.

Joyner is a veteran of almost 20 years in the business and equally comfortable in a comedy club, doing a concert-size show or playing a film role.

He describes his show as talking about things that happen around him. "It's observational. It's funny. It's not too dirty. I'm a single guy in my 40s; I talk about that a lot -- about being single and getting up there in age and staying single. (I'm) straight, could've got married but just doing the single thing ... and that's fine with me."

And, like many entertainers who start out as comedians, Joyner says that being out there and doing comedy with a live audience is what he enjoys most.

"When you perform in a film, that's not really performing for me because there's no immediate response. You're giving a performance but it's totally different. You can do it over again, and you don't get it right back."

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