Standup comedian Mara Marek is biking across the U.S. as part of her "Bike Laugh Heal" tour, which brings the funnywoman to Philly's Punch Line on Wednesday. There, Marek will perform a set in a night of all-female comedy dubbed "Really Funny Comedians (Who Happen to Be Women)" as part of the tour, she told the Inquirer via a recent phone interview. Tickets are available now.
Launched earlier this month in New York City, the tour also includes a charitable element aimed at raising $1 million to prevent domestic violence and support survivors on their journey. Marek, a domestic abuse survivor and three-time divorcée, says the cause is close to her heart, and hopes to donate ticket proceeds to local charities dealing with domestic abuse at stops on the tour.
She also is no stranger to stand-up comedy or long-distance cycling. Marek, in fact, is a former professional cyclist whose career ended prematurely after she was hit by a car, which resulted in 17 pins in her hip — two of which still remain. In addition to her comedy career, Marek works as a personal trainer in New York City.
After leaving professional cycling, Marek began pursuing stand-up comedy on a whim, and has been performing for about seven years. She also hosts the popular relationship podcast Happy Never After alongside co-host Andrew Collin, who Marek says will follow her on part of the tour, but not by bike — instead, he'll ride along in a truck that will tail her out on the road.
We caught up with the comedian ahead of the start of her tour last week, which so far has taken Marek from Caroline's on Broadway in New York City to New Jersey's Comedy Cove, about 25 miles by bike. To get to Philly from there, Marek will have to ride up to 85 miles. She plans to wrap everything up Nov. 15 in San Francisco, Calif. after three months on the road.
I used to be a competitive cyclist, and that was after my first marriage, where I was in a domestic abuse situation. We had a guest on our podcast. Happy Never After, who was one of my coaches previously, and she was in a situation with my other coach. She came and told her story, and I got thousands of messages after that from people in the same situation. So I made a decision to do this, and I'm very scared.
This will be my first time. Before, I rode on closed courses. I was on the roads this weekend, and I was like, "This is scary." Getting to places on time and not having enough snacks makes me nervous. I eat a lot of popsicles after I ride, so I have to think where I'm going to get said popsicles. Really, I like the hard-hitting questions: Where am I going to get popsicles?
I think it does. I've been training a lot, and riding at least 50 miles every day. I get a little bit of a brain fog afterwards. I can't process a lot of things, so I'm a little worried if I don't have time to take a nap or collect myself. But I think the adrenaline kicks in always for comedy. All I think about are jokes, which you can't write down while you're riding.
In every city, I want to donate the ticket proceeds from each show to local charities within a 100-mile radius. In Philly, we're doing Women Against Abuse, a shelter. We're donating directly to them from the show. Additionally, we want to donate across the board to other shelters, so you can donate on the website, BikeLaughHeal.org.
Living in New York, you have to work 9 million jobs just to survive. You always have to be moving and hustling. I think it will be great to stop and be focused, work on this goal, and have a moment alone in my own brain for a second. I can't wait to see the stars and the sky. We have a tent, so I'm excited to do a little camping — like, a little camping, not a lot of camping.
I've been married three times, and I've been engaged seven times. There is a lot of shame around divorce, and I don't think that there should be. We're trying to show people that divorce is normal now, and it is just the way life is. That's OK, and you can move forward as you are. If you made this choice, this is an alternate out of it, and it's not going to kill you or send you to some weird Island of Misfit Toys.
I started in Los Angeles. I was working at a health club out there, and we had quite a few comedian members. I said one time, "I really want to do stand-up." I was brought to comedy club, and it was like, "So go do it." They forced me to go up. They sat me down and said, "go up and do five minutes. I don't care what story you tell." It was crazy. They did it to me for a full week, and I never looked back.
Yeah, 2002 or 2003. My dad gave me an Incredible Hulk bike when I was six years old, and my mom was bipolar, so that was my escape, always. Everyone in my family is an engineer with a professional career, but I always kept personal trainer cycling pamphlets in my mattress, and everyone else had porn.
I was married and in finance, and I was like, "Screw this." After I left my first husband, I was like "This is my only time that I have to do what I need to do for me." Then I got hit by a car and was taken out. I had 17 pins in my hip, and still have two in there. But we're A-OK.
It didn't immediately. I had to rehab for a while, and then I got married to someone who was training for the Olympics. I was really focused on that — more his success than my success. When I finally became single, I was like, "Here are the things you should do for you instead of for your significant other." That was my transition.
I'm pretty goofy. I talk about my life, and the mistakes I've made, and what I haven't learned, basically. I have performed at Helium and the Raven Lounge, and couple other little bar gigs. It's a fun crowd.
Yes, you are, for sure. But I always go [on stage] after a football game, so I have to watch the game with you guys. It's crazy. It's so fun.