Mary Mack/ photo by Matt Gillmer

A good comic rarely misfires. A great one knows how to respond when she does. Minneapolis-based comic Mary Mack inched closer to the latter category Wednesday night during a six-minute appearance on TBS's "Conan," which has managed to stick out in the late-night wars as the most welcoming home for emerging stand-ups with more askew views than their peers.

Mack certainly fits that description. She embraces a Midwest accent and passive-aggressive nature not often tapped on the national circuit.

"I love doing shows in LA," she said, sporting a t-shirt for next month's 10,000 Lakes Comedy Festival in the Twin Cities. "I'm sick of people appreciating me for what's on the inside."

Mack's deepest impression came early in the set after a joke about the difficulties of "living in the now" got only a tepid reaction from an otherwise supportive studio audience. Mack waited -- just a beat -- and the spectators, slowly catching on to the conceptual bit, began to clap.

"That was the worst applause break ever on the show," Mack said, turning her head to host Conan O'Brien who was nearly doubled over in laughter from his seat in the shadows.

Mack, keenly aware that her reaction to the host had clicked, kept going.

"That's a tall drink of water over there," she said  Another beat. "Andy Richter."

The throw away bit, referencing the show's amiable sidekick, offered another great lesson to new comics: Know your surroundings and use them, even if the reference will only work for that one night. Audiences love exclusives.

Mack lives in the Twin Cities -- she helped judge a contest at Acme Comedy Co. just last week  -- but her routines often have more to do with her childhood in northern Wisconsin.

Wednesday's appearance was no exception as she talked about a mother's medical issues while living in the woods and what to do when your car hits a deer. See the whole routine here:


 

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