Let Brandon tickle your funny bone
It was ten years ago, but Marshall Brandon still thinks longingly of the fish sandwich he had at Art Mel’s.
Understandably, the details are a bit hazy for the New Yorker: he can’t recall how the meal was presented; apparently, the St Monica’s Road restaurant sits on “a mountain” rather than a hill.
However, he’s certain the sandwich “was delicious”, one of the best he’s ever had.
The comedian is already planning to have another when he returns for Nadanja Bailey’s annual Birthday Comedy Show at City Hall tomorrow night.
“Nadanja’s a great guy,” the truTV writer said in explaining why he’d bothered to make the trip.
He’s also been active on screen, in the 2018 movie The Stuff and the 2015 comedy documentary Papi Ain’t No Snitch: The Rasheed Thurmond Story.
He met Mr Bailey through American comedian Beverley Nelson who performed here in 2004.
For this trip, he was happy to be able to help raise money for a scholarship for Bermudians interested in entertainment.
Last year’s show raised $4,000 for the Nadanja and Nishanthi N’tertainment Fund.
“I was lucky in that I received financial aid to attend Western Connecticut State University,” the 44-year-old said. “For a while I had a job for a little extra money, but one of my professors said to me, ‘Do you really need to work? You’ll have the rest of your life to work. Why don’t you just enjoy university?’ So that’s what I did. I know others aren’t so lucky.”
His plan was to become a lawyer, but he quickly got into the campus comedy scene. He fell in love with comedy after his father won $50,000 in a Connecticut lottery.
“He got wall-to-wall carpet, and cable,” Mr Brandon said. “I was 6.”
The stand-up comedians caught his eye.
“I did try to imitate them, but I didn’t know how to formulate a joke,” he said.
He did not figure it out until he went to university and saw live comedy for the first time.
He began helping to organise events and performing in competitions.
As time passed, he changed his mind about his career.
As fate would have it, at the time he would have gone to law school, he found out his girlfriend was pregnant.
Mr Brandon started selling traveller’s insurance and worked the Hartford comedy circuit in his free time.
“After four years I was laid off,” he said. “I decided I wasn’t going back to insurance, I’d do comedy full time.
“I just jumped for it. It was tough at first because I wasn’t making any money. My mother wasn’t too happy, but comedy was on.”
In 2000, he entered the Connecticut Comedy Festival, an annual event featuring the best new comics from New England, and was named ‘Funniest Person in Connecticut’.
Another break came in 2002 with his performance on BET’s Comic View: Caliente.
“The first year I sent a tape I didn’t hear anything back, so I called, and left a message, saying: ‘I know this is BET, so you can call me back collect’,” he said.
“A guy from BET called me and said he hadn’t listened to my tape, but everyone in the office was laughing at the message. I didn’t send a tape the next year, but tried again the third year.”
He was at a friend’s house a few months later when his mother called.
“She was screaming into the phone saying ‘BET called!’,” he said with a laugh. “She was crazy.”
He still remembers how nervous he felt going on stage.
He was 28, it was his first time on national television and the 4,000-strong crowd was booing every comedian that hit the stage.
“When I walked out, there was this sea of people dancing,” he said. “There were cameras and cranes. I had never seen anything like that in my life.”
He took a deep breath and started telling jokes about West Indians, a community he grew up alongside.
“My parents were from Alabama,” he said. “But a lot of my friends and neighbours were West Indian. There is a big West Indian community in Hartford.”
To his surprise, people started laughing.
“Being on television helps to validate you to a level,” Mr Brandon said. “After that, people were booking me for things.”
Still, he doesn’t think he’s seen the pinnacle of his career, yet.
His dream is to have his own television show, and win an Oscar.
“I always look at it like I still have more to go,” he said. “I haven’t seen a space where I said, ‘Hey, this is my big break’.”
• Nadanja’s Birthday Comedy Show takes place tomorrow at 9pm in the Earl Cameron Theatre. Tickets, $50 for general admission; $100 for VIP, are available at www.bdatix.bm and 27th Century Boutique