A quick and dirty conversation with Philly comic Mary Radzinski

Mary Radzinski

Mary Radzinski has been one of the hardest working comedians in Philly, and it shows. Her insightfully odd, often deadpan brand of stand-up (David Lynch-worthy dating mishaps, an unusual regard for Renuzit) has been honed to perfection on the local stages of Punch Line and Helium during headliner gigs, to say nothing of opening slots for Dave Attell and Jim Norton. And now, Radzinski passes through the doors of tradition with the comedy album. She releases “Discomfortable” on Aug. 5, with a live gig at Helium (where she recorded the album) to celebrate.

Mary Radzinski talks new album

You’re not even from Philly, are you?

I grew up in Albion, N.Y., a really small town in between Rochester and Buffalo. I knew from a pretty early age that it wasn’t going to be a “forever” place for me. Looking back, now as a lady of a certain age, I think I have more of an appreciation for growing up in a small town now, then, I did at the time. The fact that I can walk out my front door and get brunch is mind blowing. 12-year-old me would think I’m quite the sophisticate.

Beyond brunch opportunities, why Philly?
Happenstance – After college, I ended up here because my best friend had grown up in Bethlehem, PA, so she was down for moving to a “city” and Philly was familiar. All it took was a couple of weekend visits for me to realize I liked it. A lot.

What’s with you and Renuzit?

You mean my most prized possession in the world? Let me tell you. So, God, I think I was in middle school, when an evening news story said that some guy who did the artwork/background art on the Renuzit air fresheners, had a gripe with the company and quit, but left one last gem. Apparently he put a picture of his dick amongst the flowers/in the background of one of the spray bottles and it was distributed to stores before anyone knew any better. My dad and uncle owned a mom and pop family grocery store at the time. I made my mom drive to the store immediately and sure enough, I found them on the shelves. I located the snake in the grass, if you will. I took one. I still have it to this day. If there was a fire, that would be one of the top three things I would grab on my way out. Not sure of the other two.

What were your first favorite comedy albums?

I feel sheepish saying that I didn’t really listen to comedy albums growing up… blasphemy, I know. Except for Mitch Hedberg albums in college. I memorized them. But honestly, I watched more than I listened to. I was a huge fan of “SNL” and as a kid, I didn’t quite get the difference between sketch and stand up, like I just figured it was all one big blurred thing, to be a comedian. I remember sneak watching Eddie Murphy’s “Raw” as a kid with my brother, and [George] Carlin, laughing genuinely but also laughing when you were supposed to because half of it was over my head. I loved Gilda Radner. Sarah Silverman. Dave Attell. I loved crafted jokes. My dad was always dropping Henny Youngman jokes. To this day, they are some of my absolute favorites. And like an absolute savage, I confess that I don’t listen to albums now – eek. Hypocritical, I will say. I watch specials. Gary Gulman. Sarah Silverman, Rory Scovel, Nate Bargatze. Those are some fave joke writers. I love Dana Gould. There’s so many. Gahhhh.

What is the hardest, oddest comment or criticism any audience member ever gave you in regards to your act  or demeanor, and what was your immediate reaction?

I’ve had several audience members over the years compare me to a female Steven Wright. First off, I took it as a huge compliment. But then, it goes to my energy level and delivery. As much as I personally love Steven Wright, I don’t know as I necessarily knew I came across that deadpan or low energy. Again, it’s made me consider who I am onstage and how I can be closer to the Mary offstage while delivering my material. A work in progress. No question.

What’s the point of “Discomfortable”– that title, the entirety of the live experience?

“Discomfortable” is the punchline of mine, a joke I really like. It’s about my boyfriend and how he’s “smarter” than I am. I screw up words. I’m close but always a hair off. An example of this is one time I was joking around and told my boyfriend to keep his “beef hooks” off me. Not meat hooks. I chose that as the title for the album because it sort of sums up who I am. Yeah, I have the confidence to get on stage and tell jokes and share personal truths in a self- deprecating way, however, I’m always slightly anxious and out of sorts. Heartbeat of a hummingbird.

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