Right off the bat, he's funny.
"Hello, is this Mark Klein?"
"Guilty," answers a pleasant voice tinged with a gentle Southern accent.
For 30 years, stand-up comedian and "humor-driven" guest speaker Klein has been doing well for himself.
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"I've been making a good living doing what I love, in a nontraditional way," he said. "My comedy calendar is a patchwork of different types of gigs, all over the country -- from conventions to cruises to comedy clubs."
Klein, who has been performing around the Lowcountry for about 25 years, will take the stage at 5:30 and 8 p.m. today at Pinckney Hall in Sun City Hilton Head. Tickets are $10, limit eight per household, and available to Sun City residents and their guests.
Klein took time recently to chat about his expansive career, love for thoroughbred horses (he owns them) and about making people laugh.
Question. What comics or performers influenced you growing up?
Answer. I am baby boomer, a child of the 1960s, so my comic influences were all people you would see on TV watching "The Ed Sullivan Show" on a Sunday night. I always loved the standup comedians on his show -- Jackie Mason, Jackie Vernon, Alan King. I can't remember who, but I remember being 6 or 7 years old and seeing a comic on the Sullivan show and saying, "I would like to do that." After college and two years of working a regular job, I gave comedy a try. Thirty years later, I'm still at it.
Q. After 30 years of entertaining all sorts of people all over the globe, you must have some memorable stories.
A. One of my favorite stories about road life happened on a Crystal Cruise ship while I was performing in the end-of-cruise variety show. Being the only comedian among five performers, I was slated to go on third, in the middle of the program. I followed an accomplished classical pianist whose next gig was Carnegie Hall, and the cruise emcee mentioned that before bringing me on. My next gig was a Moose Lodge in Springfield, Ohio. And of course, the announcer mentioned that, too. The audience howled and I couldn't help but laugh as well.
Q. How do you deal with a heckler?
A. The heckler usually is me -- the one who has had too much to drink. No really, the way I deal with a heckler, which I get very rarely because I move very quickly when I'm on stage, is to kill them with kindness. I don't like to get mean with anyone in the audience. You can never step back from that, so you don't let a member of the audience turn you into somebody you don't want to be.
Q. How do you assemble material?
A. The type of material that I do is material that tends to write itself, as I observe the life around me. Then I sit down at my desk and refine with handwritten notes. Then I talk it through out loud at my desk and when I'm heading to a gig. You may see me on Interstate 95 talking to myself. I do get lots of looks.
Q. You possess a Kentucky native trait: A love of racehorses.
A. Well, I grew up in Louisville where thoroughbred horse racing is the major league sport. I've been around it all my life. I've been going to the track as a fan and a gambler since my late teens. When I got a little money I started building a syndicate. They race at Churchill Downs and at Tampa (Bay Downs). In my office I have a picture of Sneak A Drink, I named her myself. It's my favorite picture because she's standing in the Winner's Circle with my father, brother, sister and me. To be a thoroughbred horse owner all you need to know is how to write checks.