Jackie Martling learned early on how powerful telling jokes could be.
“I think I was in the third grade when an older cousin of mine told a joke in front of a large group of people and I saw everybody light up,” Martling recalled. “The reaction, all the laughter must have struck a chord in my head because, from then on, that’s what I wanted to do.”
And so he did. Today, Martlng, affectionately known as Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling, has gained a reputation for his off-color humor, his ability to remember every joke he’s ever heard, and as head writer on the Howard Stern radio show for several years.
On May 23 and 24, Martling will be appearing in The Razz Room in the Ramada Inn in New Hope, entertaining audiences with an hour of his favorite funnies and playing one of his favorite games — “Stump The Joke Man” - where audience members are challenged to start a joke that Martling can’t provide the punch line to.
“If they stump me, they win a prize. And if they don’t stump me, they still win a prize,” Martling laughs.
Martling began his show business career as a musician on Long Island, playing with an original music and comedy trio, “The Off Hour Rockers,” until the late 1970s. When the band broke up in 1979, Martling segued into performing solo as a standup comedian.
Martling’s big breakthrough into major radio came in 1981, thanks to longtime writer/producer Rick Dees.
“Rick loved my work, but my jokes were too off-color for him to use on his morning show. So he asked me to do daily joke segments just for him. In fact, it was Rick, not Howard, who began referring to me on his show as ‘The Joke Man,’ which has stayed with me all these years,” Martling said.
It was during this time that Martling recorded several comedy albums, which he mailed to Stern. A guest appearance on Stern’s radio show in 1983 led to his eventual hiring as a cast member. Along with Fred Norris, Martling wrote bits, song parodies and material for the infamous “Jackie puppet” for Stern’s show.
“Over the years, I had asked for more money and my demands were always met,” Martling said, “except the last time in 2001. So, after getting up at 4:30 every morning for years, going to a show that made me a little famous, and a little rich, it all took its toll and I decided to leave.”
But, he adds, don’t feel sorry for him. That departure left time for Martling to produce joke books, his first musical CD and appear in many films, among other ventures. He’s also found time to give back to his community and world, including a 2008 trip with former American Idol runner-up Bo Bice to entertain U.S. troops in Kuwait.
“You know, I’m just the guy at the party who people gravitate to because he tells the funniest jokes. On stage, I become the college sophomore out to make people laugh. I can be politically incorrect but it’s all in fun and just to make people laugh. And the harder they laugh, the happier I am. I would say that’s the essence of me.” ••
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