I got my first live exposure to Maine humor god, Bob Marley, last night, at Merrill Auditorium. Marley, back in his home state for the fifth year in a row, headlining over the holidays, sold out all seven of his shows. Showcasing his Maine-derived humor, which relies heavily on nods to a certain caricature of Mainers and their idiosyncratic way of life, Marley had the audience in the palm in his hand for his hour-long performance. George Hamm, a talented performer in his own right, warmed up the audience, but it was clearly Marley they came to see.
That Marley is able to sell out the Merrill’s 2,000 seats, not once, not twice, but for four nights, including both performances New Year’s Eve, is truly amazing. I don’t know if there is another Maine performer who could pull this off. Even more incredulous is that Maine has never been a place known for comedy and where you’d be hard-pressed to name more than a handful of venues that book comedy of any type.
Lest you think that Marley is just a local yokel, or regional phenomenom, think again. He’s performed on Letterman, Leno, as well as Late Night with Conan O’Brien. In addition, he regularly performs at comedy meccas like Hollywood’s Laugh Factory, Caesar’s Palace in Vegas, as well as other clubs of national renown, such as The Improve in Washington, DC. Not bad for a guy from Portland who believed in himself, when many others surely encouraged him to get a “real job.” I mean, he’s got his own kiosk, at the Maine Mall, for Chrissakes.
Some of his routine relies on physical comedy, particular mannerisms and facial contortions that can best be called Maine hick chic. While Marley now resides in LA (that’s Los Angeles, not Lewiston-Auburn, for the locals) where he’s lived since ’95, he hasn’t lost his knack to know what people, places and Pine State reference points to mine, such as the Cumblin' Faya (that’s Cumberland Fair, to you flatlanders), bean suppers and restaurants like the Village Café and Captain Newicks. The Merrill shows were the fifth year in a row that he’s come back to Maine and headlined over the holidays.
It appears that Marley has become a Maine treasure, much like Stephen King. I’m sure he’ll be selling out shows in Maine as long as he cares to come back to his home state.