By David Gavri
Mark Hurtado is a Houston-born comic who has performed at all of the major Houston comedy clubs, including: The Houston Improv, The Comedy Showcase, and The Laff Stop (now closed). He has also performed at The Velveeta Room as well as Cap City in Austin, along with Hyena’s in Dallas, and Boom Town Casino in Louisiana.
Mark is also a writer/actor for the online sketch comedy group, The Deadbeat Club, which has produced two full length DVDs. Both of which are available online. The Deadbeat Club performs local shows that consist of stand up comedy, live sketches, as well as video clips from their DVDs. Aside from The Deadbeay Club, Mark was a writer/actor for the award winning short films: The More You Learn (Houston Comedy Festival winner), Award Winning Masterpiece: The Movie (Splatterfest winner), and Big Mother Trucker (Splatterfest winner).
As he embarks on his latest journey to Los Angeles to pursue comedy full-time, Mark talks with us about his move to L.A.
So do you do stand up because modeling didn’t work out for you? [Laughs]
[Mark doesn’t laugh—he just stares for a very long time. He looks at his phone, takes a deep breath, and then looks up and stares blankly at the ceiling]
I think modeling is gay. Unfulfilling would be a more accurate term. Attractiveness is temporary, and we all grow old. I don’t want to make a living on something that depreciates. I prefer to make a living with my mind and ideas—something that will only get better and stronger with time.
The Busch beer ad I did was through a connection from my aunt. It was cool because I actually got to drink a lot of beer. Other than that, it’s not for me.
Why did you get into comedy?
I have an amazing group of close friends. All very talented. Musicians, actors, film makers—all incredibly hilarious. But for some reason, none of them ever wanted to attempt stand up. I felt like any of us could have been great at it so why not me be the guinea pig?
How long have you been doing stand up comedy?
About five and a half years. I started a little earlier than that but I took about two years off. At that time I had a full-time job as a sales counselor at Royce Homes…till the company went bankrupt… but not because of me. That’s when I decided to give comedy another go.
Who are your major influences?
They change constantly. Mitch Hedberg however, IS the reason I give a shit about comedy. Before I heard his album, my perception of comedy was just old guys telling jokes. Some were funny, some were way too preachy. For me, Hedburg made comedy cool. It was like if you only listened to oldies music or the top 40 pop charts your whole life, and then someone introduces you to Nirvana. It was original, abstract, and had this underground feel to it that I really connected with. It was the catalyst for me viewing comedy as an art form rather than funny people who are just telling stories. But yeah, since then I’ve learned a lot about what comedy really is.
Descirbe your writing style and creative process.
For me, when I say something in an actual conversation that makes my friends laugh, I usually make a note of it. I feel that best captures my sense of humor. However, I just recently started to have actual sit down writing sessions with other comedians. And I gotta say, it’s incredibly beneficial.
How would you describe your comedy?
I don’t think I’ve reached a level were my style is defined yet. I’m still learning and experimenting with the joke writing process. Some have said my style is like the movie Taken with Liam Neeson.
Do you have any crazy comedy stories?
[Mark stares again for a long time. He looks at his phone, takes another deep breath, and once again, stares blankly at the ceiling]
Tell us about the Deadbeat Club and your role in it.
I was approached by Deadbeat because they wanted to film a skit based off a Spiderman joke I told on stage. At the time, I was already involved with writing and performing sketch comedy with my friends, so I asked to be involved with the writing process. They invited me to their headquarters (Steve Katz’s apt) and I guess they liked me enough to be invited to the next meeting. That, or I had really good weed… Either way, I became a core member and had a very beneficial experience in writing and performing with those guys. I now consider them all my close friends. Before that I didn’t have any comedy friends.
What is your favorite part about the Houston comedy scene?
The challenge. Most rooms here aren’t easy. All that heavy lifting can make you a really strong comedian. Sure, bar shows can teach you some bad habits that won’t translate well to a club set. But it’s easier to fix those problems than to realize you have a tepid set due to working easy crowds that gives laughs away.
What does the Houston scene need? How can it change for the better?
More clubs. And maybe some pizzazz!
If Houston knew how great of a comedy scene it has, then things will improve. Through whatever means possible, we need to generate some buzz. Websites, articles, radio coverage: all of those things. People need to know that some of the funniest comics they’ve never seen are right here in the neighborhood. Opening more clubs, combined with consistent media coverage, would not only get people informed and excited about comedy, but also grant them easier access to live shows.
Do you feel as though you have a good fan base?
I don’t really consider a “fan base” a fan base until people come out to see me and Iv’e never even met them before. Right now my fans are my friends. Animals seem to like me too.
Would people go to a comedy show knowing you are performing?
Ummm…who knows? Sometimes people die. Life is a fragile thing.
You are moving to Los Angeles. Do you feel you’ve accomplished all you can here in Houston?
I’m only going to L.A because I have an opportunity there that I don’t want to take for granted. There’s still a lot I can learn and do in Houston. But hey, sometimes you gotta go where the weather isn’t god awfully terrible and horrible.
Why not Austin?
Austin would be my second choice. It’s got a booming comedy scene and it’s close to all my family and friends that I love very much. The thing is, I kinda like the idea of losing my safety blanket. It will be good for me.
Moving to L.A. is a big step. How did you know you were ready for it?
“Being ready” is kind of a wonky term. You can define that in a lot of different ways. I think the idea is just to be really funny and maintain a focus on originality. The rest will come through experience, networking, and stealing material.
What are you trying to pursue out there? Comedy? Acting? Both?
I want to pursue comedy. But, L.A. wants me to act so we’ll see how that works out… It was never my ambition to be an actor, but now I have to enroll in acting classes so who knows? Maybe I’ll like it. Bottom line, there are some really cool well connected people who are interested in working with me provided I get some acting cred. So…I’m gonna get some acting cred. The end goal is still to be able to perform comedy for a living. Comedy is my bliss.
Do you know any other comics who are out there working in L.A.?
My childhood best friend/future roommate lives out there. As well as 3 of my really good friends/comedians: John Gard, Allen Adams, and Daniel Tosh.
[Laughs—but Mark doesn’t]
What are your goals for your move to Los Angeles?
Get established financially. Make a living doing what I love. Keep an eye on that earthquake shit that’s supposed to go down. I mean, it’s gotta happen soon.
Will you remember the little people out here once you make it big?
Lets face it, midgets are a great thing. I don’t know how I ever could’ve reached the point that I’m at without those little guys tumbling around cracking me up.
Tell us something that people don’t already know about you.
I’m in a comedy rap group with my friends called Americas Most Blunted. Seriously. My friend has a studio, so we always get drunk and make rap songs. It’s awesome. We haven’t released anything yet, but we’re currently sitting on about twenty-three songs. So keep an eye out. The Ballacaust will be dropping soon son!
Click Here for more info about Mark Hurtado and The Deadbeat Club
Interviewed & Written by Steven Padilla
Edited by: David Gavri