Comedian Bob Marley is most recognizable as one of the busiest and most entertaining stand-up comedians in the industry. Inspired by the likes of George Carlin and Don Rickles, Bob has pursued his career from one side of the country to the other. With eighteen albums under his belt and his new album, ‘Drop it Haaahd’, due in stores at the end of next month, Bob shows no signs of slowing up. Although comedy has taken up most of his time since college, he somehow managed to find time to star in the cult classic ‘The Boondock Saints’ as the bumbling and often corrected Detective Greenly. Ten years later and armed with a bigger budget, Troy Duffy is set to release a sequel to ‘The Boondock Saints’ on October 30, 2009 and guess who is in tow? Bob Marley is back as Detective Greenly and this time he has an expanded role. We can only hope that Greenly spends less time running out for coffee and donuts and spends more time actually participating in investigations. Steve Johnson of Icon vs Icon recently caught up with Bob Marley to discuss his career in stand-up comedy, his love of George Carlin, his return to the role of Detective Greenly in ‘The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day’, and what it has been like working under the direction of the controversial Troy Duffy.
Let’s give everyone a little background on you. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Bangor, Maine. I lived there for a while then went to Portland, Maine. Then college up at U Maine up in Farmington on the Canada border. Boston for two years. L.A. for eleven years. Now I am back up in Maine.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?
I think when I got out of high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I thought, “Well, maybe I’ll just hang out and see what the deal is.” Then when I was in college I did a stand-up comedy thing at a talent night they had. It went really great and I started thinking half way through it on stage, “Yep! This is what I want to do!” My parents are Irish-Catholic and I told my mother. She did the sign of the cross and said, “Oh god babe! I hope this works! I don’t know what’s going to happen.” I basically did stand-up my whole senior year in college. I was driving from the Canadian border to Boston pretty much every night and then it finally took off for me. I moved to Los Angeles and once you get to L.A. everybody tells you, “You should be an actor!” I’m like, “Ok!” Stand-up comedy is one of the only jobs where people tell you, “You know, you’re really good at that! You should be an actor!” I’m like, “Sure! Yeah!” Other people don’t get that. If you’re a plumber they don’t say, “You plumb really well. You should hang drywall too.” So they kind of segue you into that. So I started doing acting classes and auditioning for stuff. Eventually I got a shot with this ‘ Boondock’ movie. When I did the first one, a buddy of mine from Maine was friends with Troy Duffy, the director and said, “Hey, go see this kid!” So he came to see me at the Laugh Factory. Troy was nice enough to give me an audition. I went out to his apartment in West Hollywood and auditioned for it. He said, “Yep! You’re the guy!” I was like, “You’re shitting me!” He was like, “No!” I was like, “Ok!” [laughs] I had auditioned for tons of other stuff prior to that. When someone finally says, you’re the guy, you’ve got the part, you really don’t believe them.
Who/what are some of your influences?
Well, for stand-up, I like all of the older guys: Jonathan Winters, Don Rickles, George Carlin, and all those guys. For acting stuff, you look at all of these different guys like Clint Eastwood and all of those other guys. Those guys are so cool. You look at yourself in the mirror and you go, “No, I’m not going to be Clint Eastwood. That’s for sure! I don’t look menacing enough in any kind of way, shape, or form!” Then I start thinking, “Who should I look at and think I could be like?” You look at popular character actors and stuff like that and you say, “Ok maybe I fit in this bracket a little more.” Guys who can be funny in films and that type of stuff.
What are some of the challenges to performing stand-up comedy?
Oh my god! When you first start, it’s just the sheer terror of, “Is anybody going to laugh.” As you get to the next stage of, “Ok, I know I can make them laugh now.” The next stage is, “Am I ever going to get work? Is anybody ever going to hire me?” Once you finally get work, the next stage is, “I hope that guy is not going to stiff me and that check is actually going to show up.” Then when you move to Los Angeles, it’s basically like starting all over again. You’re like, “Am I really good enough to do this?” As you progress, the challenges then become, “Ok, now I am on the road. I’m away from my family. I’m going to be out for two or three weeks doing this and I am not going to see my kids.” There’s tons of stuff that will outweigh that and makes it really fun, so that you should continue to do it. Every step of the way there’s different challenges.
Comics are often subjected to hecklers. Have you had any hecklers and what is your strangest encounter with one?[laughs] Oh my god! I’ve had everything happen to me. I’ve had fights in the parking lots after shows. [laughs] That was just encountered by a nice right hook. That happened. I’ve had people throw stuff at me. Just straight out hecklers, no physical confrontation. Just people generally heckling me. When you first start out you don’t know what to say. You just say crazy stuff like, “Yeah! The same to you buddy!” The audience looks at you like, “You have no idea what you are doing.” As you progress, you usually end up telling them stuff like, “Hey listen! Your friends can hear your stuff for free on the ride home. The other people paid to hear me.” After a while you become bulletproof to all of that stuff. When I am up there and I see somebody heckling me, I don’t get mad because I feel like they’re picking on me. I get pissed because I look at the couple sitting next to them and I think, “This couple got a babysitter for ten bucks an hour. They paid twenty bucks to park. They paid twenty five bucks to get into the show. Another twenty five, thirty, to forty dollars in drinks.” So I look at this guy and think, “Now you’re ruining their good time.” That’s what makes me mad.
Are there any other comedians you would love to collaborate with? If so, who?
Oh my god! If you could bring George Carlin back, I’d love to do something with him. That would be really, really cool. The group of guys that I started with. We had a good group of guys: Me, Billy Burr, Patrice Oneal, Dane Cook, and all these guys in Boston and then in Los Angeles. Guys that I worked with and came up with. All of those guys would be great to work with again. Once you start headlining rooms, you never work with the people you started with. I am a huge fan of Louis C.K., I think he is hilarious. I’d love to do anything with him. He’s just a scream. I just saw his new flick ‘The Invention of Lying’. He’s just hilarious in it man. He just can’t miss to me. He’s a really funny guy, I’d love to do something with him.
We have lost so many icons in the comedy world over the past few years. Who do you consider the greatest comedian?
George Carlin. They always have that top one hundred and it always ends up being down to George Carlin and Richard Pryor. Everybody always thinks Richard Pryor. I love Richard Pryor, but the problem is that Richard Pryor’s whole catalog, when you think about it, is really nothing compared to what Carlin did. Carlin had seventeen HBO specials and he continued to be prolific and continued to challenge himself with the writing and would always work on new stuff. For him it was all about being a comedian. I just think he was the best comedian America has ever had. In the true sense of what comedians should be.
You have also appeared in a few films. Which do you prefer, performing stand-up comedy or acting?
It’s different. I love film work when I don’t have to audition. [laughs] I know everybody has to audition, but it’s just… I do so much stand-up and I am so fortunate that I can get booked pretty much any place because I have done enough stuff and I have the chops. I can really get work any place I want. I am kind of spoiled by that. When I got to go and start auditioning for everything, I kind of feel like, “Oh god!” I just feel like I am wasting my time. Not because my acting is so good because I really think my acting is just ok, but in my head I’m always thinking, “I could be doing stand-up right now, making money and having fun. Why am I sitting in a room with four people that really don’t want to listen to me. Once I get the job and I am on a film set, that’s definitely great. This last ‘Boondock’ movie we just did, I spent three months up in Toronto hanging around with great people every single day and having a blast. That’s really irreplaceable. It’s just a lot of fun to be doing that. To get there is pain staking, it just rips so much of your heart and soul out to go and audition for that stuff all the time.
What do you consider the defining moment of your career so far?
The shining moment! Hummm…? Well there’s been a lot. Certainly in my home town on the millennium night. We did a show and sold seventy five hundred tickets for it. I came up on a snowmobile off a ramp. I was like eight feet catapulted into the air with ‘Hells Bells’ playing in the background. When the snowmobile hit the stage I saw seventy five hundred people stand up and go nuts. At that moment I remember thinking, “Yep! This is going down in my head as one of the best moments!” [laughs] Doing Letterman was a great time and really insane. Getting a standing ovation at one of the Gala events in Montreal, which is the biggest comedy festival in the world in front of like three thousand people with Martin Short. That was pretty cool. Then obviously doing stuff for ‘Boondock Saints’. Standing there with Willem Dafoe and shooting scenes with him and thinking, “Oh my god! This guy has been nominated three times and I just played the Chuk Chuk’s in Omaha.” So all of those things. Kind of different things for different times.
When can we look forward to any new stand-up releases on DVD or CD?
Next month. I have a new CD/DVD. A two disc set that will be released probably mid-November to end of November. It’s called ‘Drop It Hard’, but in Maine terms. It’s HAAAHD. ‘Drop It Haaahd’. It’s got a picture of a plow truck on the front. In Maine when you plow, you usually get in there with a bunch of your buddies and you grab a twelve pack of beer and you go, “Drop this bitch haaahd and let’s push some snow.” So it’s called ‘Drop It Haaahd’. That comes out this fall. I had one last spring called ‘Runamuck’, which kind of a Maine term that means everything has gone to shit, better check up on something. I have eighteen albums out now, so I keep really, really busy. I write all of the time and I’m always recording stuff. So yeah, we’re working away at it. I’ve got my own show coming on Sirius/XM radio at the end of the month. Tuesdays at 5:00 pm on Sirius 150. The album comes out. The movie, as you know, is going to be released October 30th in theaters. That’s called ‘All Saints Day’. Yeah! I’m really pumped up about everything!
Did you ever expect ‘The Boondock Saints’ to reach the cult status that it has, and what has it been like being a part of one of the biggest cult sensations in years?
When we were shooting it, everybody was really, really excited. Then when it first got cut and we were waiting for distribution and stuff to happen, nothing happened. So we were like, “Ok, well maybe it’s just going to go away.” Then like a year, year and a half later, it just took off. I was like, “Oh my gosh!” I would get emails. People would show up at my shows. I’m like, “Wow! This whole thing is taking off! This is crazy!” So then we all kind of realized, “I think we’ve got a cult hit on our hands.” It has been for the last ten years really growing and growing and growing. A lot of people now even come up to me and say, “Gee! I just rented that movie the other day. When did that come out? A couple of years ago?” I’m like, “No that came out ten years ago dude.”
Troy Duffy is often looked at in a negative light, which isn’t necessarily fair. What do you think is the biggest misconception about Troy Duffy?
The biggest misconception is that he is a hard head. That is just not true. I’ve known the guy for years and years and years. I’m from New England and he’s from New England. Maybe it’s just the way that Irish guys from New England are. When someone says, “Dude gtet the fuck over here and shoot this. Shut your mouth. Let’s go.” In New England you go, “Oh, ok no problem let’s do it.” If you say that to someone in Hollywood they’re like, “Oh my god! Did he say the f-word? Oh my god! Somebody call the Hollywood Reporter! You’ve hurt my feelings!” I’m standing behind them going, “Shut the fuck up!” I just think that the documentary that was done about him was a hatchet job. That ‘Overnight’ documentary. The guy that shot that thing, Troy gave him carte blache to come and shoot all that stuff. The guy just kind of screwed him on it. They were buddies, he just cut it the way he wanted to and I don’t know… I think if everybody knew him in the same light that we do, they wouldn’t think that. Look at all of the greatest directors in film history. When you think about the scope of their job and what they’re responsible for and what they need to achieve from conception to actual delivery of film, it takes a certain type of person to do that. Look at Kubrick and all of those great film directors you always hear stories about them. I always looked at it like… People are like, “I can’t believe he spoke to me like that!” I’m like, “Listen! You’re getting paid whatever, one hundred and fifty grand to be in a movie asshole! Just sit there and when he says get over here, do it!” It’s probably just that I am a lower class Irish guy from New England, so I think like that. Like, “What’s the big deal? Sit in your trailer and eat a cookie until he comes and gets you. Then go over there and do what he says to do.” Most people would give their right arm or leg to be in the movie. Sometimes it gets out of control. He’s a great guy, I love the guy and I’ve always gotten along great with him. He gave me some great opportunities with this film and the last one. He’s been nothing but great to me. I’ve personally just haven’t seen that side of him, that craziness. He’s a good guy.
It has been ten years since the first film. Has Troy evolved as a writer/director?
Oh yeah. The first movie that we did, I had done some stuff prior to that, so I probably wouldn’t have known as much. Having done stuff in between, watching him on the first movie, and all that other stuff, absolutely. Just the way he was able to consolidate scenes. I’m not a great actor. I do a good job, but when I look at myself I am a realist. I’m like, “Yeah I did a good job in that part.” Troy was able to get stuff out of me that I didn’t know was there. I’m like, “Whoa! This guy is a good director because I didn’t know how I was going to get that scene accomplished and he really directed it out of me.” He’s really great. He’s very, very particular and he knows exactly what he wants. He pays attention to detail, detail, detail. That is so important because that’s what builds fans and that’s what people look for. That’s what makes him stylistically who he is. He’s a brilliant kid, he’s really, really bright. He’s just a great talent.
Without giving too much away, what can fans of the original film expect to see in the sequel?
I think this movie, ‘All Saints Day’, is like ‘ Boondock Saints’ on steroids. Stylistically the fans are going to dig it because it’s similar in that sense to ‘Boondock Saints’. The elements that they liked about the first one are still there. There’s more funny, there’s more action, there’s more drama, there’s more of everything. They had a bigger budget and they spent it on all the right things. It really is a slick picture and it’s going to be great. I think people will really dig it, it’s a cult hit. It’s like if someone said to me, “They’re going to make a Reservoir Dogs 2.” I’d be like, “Oh! Ok!” I would definitely go see it, no matter what. You’re going to have some people that will like it more and some people that will like it less. If you are a ‘Boondock Saints’ fan it doesn’t matter, you have to go see this movie. It plays everything out. It’s awesome!
You are returning as Detective Greenly, what can you tell us about your character in the sequel?
My character in the sequel has grown. In the first one my guy would pipe in and just kind of have wise guy comments throughout the scenes and Willem Dafoe would yell at me and put me in my place. I didn’t have as much information that drove the story forward and my character really didn’t have much of a story line. I was there as the supporting guy. In this one, my guy actually has a little bit more of a storyline and in some of the scenes that I show up in I have a lot more information. Troy used my character to pass along information that drives the story forward. I got a chance to spread my wings a little bit more and not just be a wise guy. It’s nice. I pop up in a lot of the film and there are a lot of standard ‘Greenlyisms’ throughout the movie, where my guy is just being kind of an imbecile. We’ve got a great cast. There are so many funny people in the movie. Julie Benz is in it with us and she is just super sexy. Clifton Collins, the guy who was in ‘Traffic’, he played Frankie Flowers in it. He’s been in ‘Babel’ and ‘Capote’ and ‘Star Trek’. We’ve just got a great cast. Shawn and Norm are back and better than ever. Everybody has evolved a little bit more. All of the characters from the first movie have evolved a little bit more. It’s just really nice to see all of them back.
Did you have any input into your character in either film or was it laid out for you in the script?
A lot of it was laid out in the script. When Troy asked me to audition for the first one, I was on book the whole time. I started throwing stuff out at him after I got the part. He was like, “That’s funny, that’s funny let’s do that, do it like this.” It was a collaboration of both of us. It’s really Troy’s words and then it’s me messing around with stuff here and there and throwing a lot of stuff in it. This time he was cool. He said, “Ok put this in. Put this in.” There were some scenes where he’d be like, “What else do you got? Can you make this a little more funny?” I’m like, “Yeah, but in this scene there’s really nothing to be funny about. I’m just passing information along.” He was kind of like, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” It was definitely a collaboration of the both of us. The movie is set in New England, so I would say, “What if I called the guy a dink.” He goes, “That’s so funny, that’s such a New England word.” I go, “There are so many of them. Like hard on, dink, queer bait.” All of these words that these blockhead guys up here say. I’m one of them admittedly. Maybe not anymore, but I definitely was for years.
Did you do any special preparation for the role?
I got back in shape and lost some weight. I had gained probably thirty pounds since the last one. Ten years and three kids later I probably gained some weight. I was real thin when I did the last one anyway. I popped the first one in and watched it and said, ” Geez! If this is a sequel, I’ve got to match what I did!” So I got into shape a little bit. Lost some weight and then read the script. I did a ton of driving from Toronto, back and forth to New England because I had shows every weekend. So I put the script on audio and then I’d listen to it the whole ride back and forth to Toronto. I worked on my stuff there.
What was the vibe like on the set? Was there anyone in particular you were looking forward to working with?
I love Billy Connolly. Billy Connolly is just awesome. I always look forward to just hanging out with him as a person. He’s super cool. When he is on set, he just raises the bar. He’s so talented and so funny. If I ever had scenes with him, I couldn’t look him in the eye because I’d just start laughing. We both do stand up and we have a lot in common. He’s just a great guy and a real mentor. I really look up to him so he was cool. The vibe on set was totally easy going, everybody was joking around a lot. There were really serious days where there’s serious nature happening in the text. People would know that and be respectful of that. Then there would be other days where you would show up and there would be a thousand fans hanging around waiting to meet people. It was really like a big family. Really festive and super cool. We’d go to dinner a lot and hang out a lot. The first movie we were a lot younger, all of us were ten years younger, so we were all out whoopping it up every night. That really wasn’t the case on this one.
Do you have any interesting stories or challenges from the set?
Challenges? Hummm… There’s a guy named PJ. I forget his last name. I am embarrassed to say that I forget his last name. He’s on ‘One Tree Hill’. He’s a big dude. I had a scene with him in this apartment scene and I approach him and push him in the arm. He went to push me back and I had a pair of dress shoes on and there’s broken glass under my feet, he pushed me back and I slid about twelve and a half feet across the room. Troy goes, “I’m keeping that in the take, just so people can laugh at you.” I was like, “Come on dude!” I don’t think he kept it in the final cut. That was pretty funny. There’s some days where you get there, it’s three o’clock in the morning and you’re freezing and it’s outside. You have a paragraph of dialogue and you can’t get your tongue around it and everybody is staring at you during the rehearsal. Then you roll on one take and amazingly enough you get it on one take. Everybody goes through those challenges. It’s one of those things where it’s like a reunion the first day on set because you see everybody that worked on the first movie, including crew and some cast mates. You’re also meeting new cast mates as well, so it’s a little bit like the first day of school.
Do you have any future film projects that we should be on the look out for?
I don’t right now. I really don’t. I don’t chase them a lot because I do so much stand up. When I first started doing stand up, the film stuff looked so much more lucrative. I’m one of these tweener guys. I’m kind of between smaller parts and bigger parts. I’m not going to get paid tons and tons and tons to do a film, therefore I really can’t take tons and tons of time off from stand up because I lose money. When I first started in stand up my rate of pay was so low that I could do that. Now we’re filling theaters or clubs everywhere we go. I make a lot more money. For me to take a bunch of time off to make a film, it just kills me financially. ‘Boondock’ was a different story because they paid me really well and obviously I would have done it for free just to be with these guys again.
Where can people catch up with your stand up act?
I’ll be in D.C. in November. I’m doing a lot of stuff in New England. Big, big shows in a two thousand seater in Portland, Maine. Between Christmas and New Years we do six shows. So we’ll sell about twelve thousand seats there. I’ll be in Boston October 17th at The Wilbur Theatre. I’m just always cranking, always working. I’ll be all around the country. I just worked in Cleveland, I was in Denver, I’m in New York City. It’s www.bmarley.com for tickets, information, and all of that stuff.
What is the best piece of advice that someone has given you along the way in your career?
Oh gosh! I had a friend of mine from Boston named Don Gavin, who was an older guy that does comedy. He said, “It’s not rocket science kid.” He said, “Write the jokes. Show up on time. When you get on stage, stick to your time. That’s it!” I was like, “Ok!” It sounded really elementary at the time, but it’s proven to be the absolute truth over the years. So that was a really good piece of advice.
That being said, do you have an advice for anyone who would like to get involved in the entertainment industry?
Yeah. If you get involved with it, you can’t give up. My philosophy is, if you’re dumb enough to get into it, you have to be dumb enough to think you are going to make it. [laughs] It’s like somebody saying, “I dunno, maybe I’ll be a Navy Seal.” It’s like, “Ok, if you’re going to be a Navy Seal, expect to get killed at some point.” [laughs]
Do you have any last words?
‘The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day’ is in theaters October 30th. If you don’t go see this movie, you’re going NOWHERE! [laughs]
Thanks for your time Bob.
Thanks a lot. Have a good one man.
For all the latest news and tour dates for Bob Marley, swing by his official website at www.bmarley.com!