Greg Morton’s Standup, songs, and impersonations at Funny Bone
Photo: Greg Morton performs at the Dayton Funny Bone the first weekend in December
By Gary Spencer
For a lot of professional comedians, most of them knew at a young age that doing standup was their calling in life. But that isn’t the case for Canadian-born comic, Greg Morton, who took a long, winding road to his celebrity status as a funny man.
“When I was kid, I used to love cartoons. I would sit in the corner, watching and drawing cartoons, making up my own characters and cartoon strips,” Morton explains. “I thought my career path was set at age five.”
However, around the same time, Morton got his first exposure to standup comedy. While he was still addicted to cartoons, these initial experiences with onstage comedy made a deep impression upon the young man.
“When I was five, my dad took me to see ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’,” Morton says. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was a who’s who of some of the greatest comedians alive – Jonathan Winters, Jerry Lewis, The Three Stooges, Milton Berle, and Buddy Hackett. All those comedians had a huge influence on me.”
Morton even dabbled in doing standup comedy himself in his formative years based off a Bob Newhart performance he had heard.
“In the eight grade my English teacher brought to class ‘The Button Down Mind of Bob Newhart’ which became the basis for my first standup routine in high school, Morton says. “I replaced Bob Newhart with my driving instructor – a very brash, bellicose, chain smoking woman who would snap at us during one of her frequent nicotine fits. I did that routine at a school assembly and the whole school just howled because they knew exactly who I was impersonating.”
In spite of this early flirtation with being an onstage funny man, Morton enrolled in the Classical Animation course at Sheridan College in Ontario in 1977. His first job as an animator was working on the legendary Scooby and Scrappy Doo Show. This evenutally led Morton into doing voice over work for Saturday morning cartoons during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s such as Hello Kitty and Police Academy: The Cartoon, as well as directing shows such as Hammerman with MC Hammer and Super Mario Brothers. He even worked for a while as a mobile DJ and while doing so, decided that his efforts were better served elsewhere.
“My back was killing me carrying all that equipment and all those milk crates of vinyl up and down two flights of stairs every weekend,” Morton explains. “I used to play the Legion Hall once a month and every one of them had at least two flights of stairs. You have all these disabled vets and you make them climb two flights of stairs to get a drink? That’s a damn war crime right there.”
From there, Morton decided to revisit his interest in standup comedy. Things got off to a rocky start as the budding comedian was trying to figure out who he was as a comedian, and his career took some creative twists and turns along the way.
“My first standup performance was in a steak house that converted a back room into a comedy club,” Morton explains. “I invited all my friends out to see me and bombed so badly, I didn’t invite anyone out for three years! Then I tried doing race based material like comic heroes Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor, but it wasn’t working for me. Everytime I performed at some seedy redneck bar, I was getting heckled with racial slurs – a fight would break out and that would be the end of the show. So I scrapped all my old material and started writing a new routine.”
Morton’s new routines harkened back to his childhood of watching variety shows such as Carol Burnett, Flip Wilson, and The Smothers Brothers and put the focus on celebrity and song parodies, improvisation, props, and skits based on real life and pop culture. Since that epiphany, Morton blew up on the Internet with “Obama Man” (a parody of Candy Man by Sammy Davis, Jr) and his impression-laden mashup of quotes from the initial Star Wars trilogy set to the franchise’s theme music, as well as other forays that merged song with comedy. In addition, the evolution of Morton’s standup material also incorporates no frills, just funny observations about everyday life things that anyone can relate to.
“My show is like a one man variety show – impersonations, song parodies, standup, ventriloquism, partial nudity – whatever strikes me as funny,” Morton jests. “Don’t expect to see your average run of the mill comedy show.”
And Morton doesn’t see his comedy as therapy – just a positive way of having a good time.
“There’s no therapy – just belly laughs – its more of an ab workout,” Morton says. “I can’t imagine getting therapy from a comedian, that sounds like a hostage situation. Trust me, you don’t want some pot smoking, alcoholic narcissist to be your therapist. I’m a pretty happy person, I just want to bring joy to people. Thank God I found standup.”
Greg Morton will perform Friday Dec. 1 through Sunday Dec. 3 at the Dayton Funny Bone, 88 Plum Street at The Greene in Dayton. Tickets are $15 and up for all performances. For more information, please visit http://www.Dayton.Funnybone.com