Mark Schiff is one of the funniest people alive. And that’s not just coming from me – Jerry Seinfeld agrees! In fact, just last December, Mark opened for Jerry in Tel Aviv, Israel. Speaking of Israel, Mark has performed there before with an incredible organization – the Koby Mandell Foundation – which aims to help bereaved family members rebuild their lives after experiencing great tragedy and suffering. Twice a year, the Foundation brings in comedians to perform as part of their fundraising efforts and Mark was incredibly humbled yet uplifted to be a part of it. And, as Mark puts it, performing in Israel is one of the greatest things in the world – especially for someone with Jewish ancestry. When he’s up on stage there, he feels like the whole room is family. So, going back to Israel with his good friend, Jerry Seinfeld, was like a homecoming for him.
Mark and Jerry go way back. They started performing together in 1978 in New York. But, the roster of guys Mark came up with doesn’t start and end with Seinfeld. Larry Miller, Paul Reiser round out their little troop they call “The Funniest Men in America”. These four very “humble” guys get together for lunch ever New Years Day since they were all out of work, struggling comics in the early 80’s.
I can only imagine what those annual lunch conversations are like. The level of comedy tossed around that table is off the charts! Then, after they eat, the four “Funniest Men in America” head somewhere to laugh and reflect on the previous year.
Yet, Mark’s greatest epiphany didn’t come from those lunches, but from a performance he saw as a young pre-teen. Mark is an only child, so when he was twelve, he was able to convince his parents that the three of them should celebrate their wedding anniversary together, go to a night club and see comedy legend, Rodney Dangerfield. After just a couple minutes of watching Rodney through out his one-liners, seeing the adults all around him bursting out in laughter, and seeing happiness and joy overflow from his parents, Mark knew right away what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
Years later, Mark had the pleasure of becoming friends with Rodney and was able to share with the legend how much of an impact he made on Mark’s life.
One of Mark’s greatest achievements was being recognized as one of the greatest “first timers” on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. There are so many opportunities for comics to be seen today, it’s easy to forget how much it meant for someone like Mark to get on the Tonight Show back in 1988. There are stories like David Brenner’s, who received $10,000 worth of work the very next day after appearing on the Tonight Show stage. Mark may not have received that kind of overnight success, but he did receive a level of clout in the industry that could only come from being accepted by Johnny Carson. There was no higher standard – Johnny was the Gold Seal!
To see proof of this, you don’t have to look any further than Mark’s marriage. When Mark was dating his wife, his future mother-in-law was not very keen on the idea of her daughter spending time with a comedian. However, once he booked a spot on Johnny Carson, she couldn’t be prouder and told ALL her friends that her daughter was dating this wonderful comedian!
In addition to performing on stages all around the world, Mark also wrote a book titled, I Killed (not to be confused with O.J. Simpson’s autobiography). The book is a collection of True Stories of the Road from America’s Top Comics, including Mark, Ritch Schyner, Christ Rock, Jay Leno, Mike Myers, Tim Allen, Joan Rivers, Drew Carey, Larry David, Paul Reiser, and many more. What needs to be understood firstly, is the violent nature of great comedians. When they walk offstage after a successful set, and are asked “How did you do?”, their responses range from “I killed ‘em!” to “I demolished the room tonight!” to “I slayed them all!” On the other hand, if the comic didn’t do well, they say, “I died out there” or “I bombed”.
But it often stems from the nature of the rooms they perform in. For instance, at a comedy club, it’s not unusual for the audience to chime in. If a comic isn’t doing well, a heckler in the crowd might yell out, “GET OFF!” Yet, you’d never hear that from the patrons at a Broadway play. And comedy club audiences are the angriest. If a comic doesn’t hit it out of the park, audience members leave saying things like, “That guy just ruined my night!”
Next, my buddy Michael Fox joins the show. Michael is the Chief Impact Officer for the software company, Urthworx and creator of NBA Escape – an incredibly fun and addictive gave for your phone and tablet.
The game is not only a fun trick-shot game, but it has an amazing villain named The Dribbler, voiced by Michael, himself. Now, as a kid, I was addicted to video games and always dreamed of being involved with them… but even I couldn’t imagine that one day I’d get to be a featured voice in one! So, you can imagine my dumfounded shock when Michael asked me to provide the voice for the game’s newscaster.
At Urthworx, they make what they call Impact Entertainment – a fusion of mobile gaming and social impact. So, while their games are fun and entertaining, they also raise awareness and funds for several worthy causes. So, when you combine Michael’s philanthropic goals, his life-long love for the NBA and a 1970’s style villain, you inevitably come up with NBA Escape! The game features some of the NBA’s greatest players, all kidnapped and in need of your help to make a whole array of trick shots from within their doom rooms. But, it’s not as easy as it may seem. In addition to the physically perfect basketballs, there are also rockballs, boomballs, fireballs, iceballs and more that can either help or hurt your cause of freeing the Association’s All Stars.
One really cool aspect of the game is that as you move from level to level, you collect “UrthBling” which turns into real donations to Boys & Girls Clubs, Shoes that Fit, and other very worthy organizations.
Finally, I’m joined by my dear friends Jay and Laura Laffoon. In addition to being incredibly funny, Jay and Laura crisscross the country strengthening married couples’ relationships through laughter, entertainment and Biblical truth.
In addition to “edutaining” couples on how to better their marriages, Jay and Laura offer easy-to-do tips on how to better communication and increase harmony in the home. As Laura says, it often begins with a simple 15-minute discussion of “What’s going on?” and “How are you feeling?” each day.
But, keep in mind that men and women communicate differently. Typically, men talk about facts and activities, while women talk about people and feelings. Too often, this results in a wife sharing how hurt she was by her girlfriend and the husband sits there and says, “Get over it.” Then, he starts telling his bride about his golf game and she is beside herself in disbelief.
All this to say, don’t ever ask your wife, “What are you thinking?” Instead, ask her, “What are you feeling?” Likewise, wives shouldn’t ask their husbands, “What are you feeling?”, ask them what they are thinking.
Another tip for married couples is to schedule a date for just the two of you at least every two weeks. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive – the key is dedicated time alone, even for a quick sandwich for lunch. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be creative for the best effect.
Finally, Laura and Jeff tell couples that they need to be prepared. From office parties to school activities to church and family commitments, it’s important to get out of your own bubble and know the family calendar. Then be prepared to be flexible and be ready for unprepared moments.