Meet the Inmates - Mark O'Connell
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Role: Main Stage Actor
Performs:Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturday
Tenure: Since 2011
Cami: Where are your roots? Are you from Boston?
Mark: No, I grew up in Falmouth in the Cape, but I’ve lived in Boston about twenty-something years.
C: How did you get into comedy?
M: I took a standup class and then from that I did open mics. Then I got kinda bored of doing that. You gotta write new stuff. If you go to open mics a lot, you know you’re performing in front of a lot of other open mic comedians. There are twenty people in the room, they’re all comedians, they’ve all heard these jokes before, know what I mean? So it gets old fast. That said, there are people who stick with it and are obviously very good. I think there’s a lot of great standups in Boston, but I don’t wanna be one of them.
C: So you like improv and sketch better?
M: Absolutely, much better.
C: So tell me a little bit about Awkward Compliment.
M: I started taking improv classes around 2007, and I took another in 2008. We - myself, Brian DiBello, some other people who are no longer here (they’re out in LA) - we had all met through House Teams and started our group called Awkward Compliment. There were six of us, and then Ryan McFarland joined. He’s still around. We’d perform every Thursday at Somerville Theatre in Davis Square. That show actually still goes on, but I think they’re only doing it once a month now. For six and a half years though, we did every Thursday.
C: Nice! And that’s completely separate from your work at Improv Asylum?
M: Yeah, other than the fact that most of the performers in Awkward Compliment started here. And we’ve had Jeremy and Norm and other people come down.
C: Awesome! Are you excited or your next Main Stage revue? What is this, your fifth or sixth one?
M: I think it’s my sixth, because when I came into Victoria’s Secret Drinking Problem, I didn’t do that process - I jumped in after Trevor and Cavan were on their way out. But I guess technically this is my sixth.
C: What scene, if any, would you say is your favorite so far?
M: I’m not sure I know that yet. There’re a lot of things I like, and there’s stuff that we’re still working on. So we might find out later on as the scenes develop.
C: I really do enjoy watching the shows evolve from the beginning to the end of their runs. I noticed there are a lot of political scenes in this one.
M: Yeah, you know. It’s election year. Whether or not you want to interpret all of it, it’s in the news, it’s in the front of everyone’s minds. We’re not trying to hit people over the head with Trump vs. Clinton or anything like that, but I think when writing in this process, that’s definitely something we were trying to focus on, at least to try some satirical content.
C: I think it’s really special that you guys are tapping into certain issues that people don’t wanna talk about, but you shed them in a certain light so as to show optimism while still making it a topic of conversation.
M: Yeah and that’s the purpose. Hopefully people don’t get offended by any of it.
C: Yeah, we’ll see what happens after November 8th, too. We’ll see where the show goes from there!
M: Yeah, exactly. Maybe we’ll write new sketches.
C: That’s exciting! So, outside of Improv Asylum, I understand you work in healthcare?
M: I work for a health insurance company, yes.
C: Do you ever find that the jobs sort of overlap? For example, do the skills you use working at Improv Asylum help you over there, or vice versa?
M: They’re pretty much two different worlds. Occasionally we’ll interview someone and they’re in the healthcare field and that gives me something to talk about.
C: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen happen down here in the theater?
M: Probably just people getting puked on. Drunk people wandering to the corner and forgetting that there’s 200 other people in the room who can hear every word they’re saying. I don’t know how “crazy” that stuff is…oh, there was a midnight show - this probably wasn’t even a year ago - I don’t remember if it was Show Against Humanity or Raunch, but people in the front row of Section 4 got puked on by people in the second row.
C: Multiple people got puked on by multiple people?
M: Yeah. But they cleaned up. They washed up and came back in to watch the rest of the show. That felt kind of amazing.
C: I’ve been puked on by people here before.
M: If I get puked on, I’m going home.
C: What’s your favorite thing about Boston?
M: I guess my favorite thing about Boston is Improv Asylum. Isn’t that nice? I’m a big sports fan too, I do like having good teams to follow. Also, the people here are kinda - well, I mean, not everywhere but - there’s an attitude here, and I kinda like that. You don’t have to be overly polite. Especially doing this, you can have some banter back and forth with people and they’re not gonna get wicked offended.
C: Yeah, I’ve noticed a big part of your humor onstage reflects that attitude, but people love it. Not everyone can pull it off like you do. Some people are just straight up assholes.
M: Some people are definitely assholes.