10 QUESTIONS FOR
MILL VALLE Y
In Marin / CURRENTS
Ten years of comedy in Mill Valley are being celebrated this month courtesy of
“Mark Pitta and Friends.” Getting its start in November 2004 at the then newly
renovated and reopened 142 Throckmorton Theatre, the show began drawing
crowds right away — thanks in part to frequent unannounced guest sets by
Pitta’s friends (and fellow Marin residents) Dana Carvey and the
late Robin Williams. Pitta has been the consummate host for the
show, having been a stand-up comedian since the early 1980s,
a guest star on TV shows like Third Rock From the Sun, and the entertainment
reporter for five years on KTVU’s Mornings On 2 program. MARC HERSHON
1What gave you the idea to do the “Mark Pitta and Friends” show? Panic. I had just
lost my job at Channel 2. I saw that Will Durst
was performing at this theater five minutes from
my house. So I asked the owner, Lucy Mercer,
“Can I do a show here?” She said yes. After I did
my show I asked, “Can I do a weekly show?”
2 What is your relationship with Lucy like? I’ve called her my guardian angel because
her giving me the opportunity to host a show
saved my life. At the time, I’d just bought a house,
and I had to pay for it.
3Why Tuesday night? I did that on purpose. Local comedians are either back from a gig
or they haven’t left for a new one yet. Comedians
coming into the Bay Area for a gig have to come in
a day early, to do radio promotions.
4What were your expectations for the show? As I have in life: None. And no planning. I’ve ended up here. So be it.
5In the 10 years you’ve been doing the show, what’s a high point for you? When Albert
Brooks walked into our green room, and Robin
(Williams) was there, and Mort Sahl. I looked at
my wife, Jocelyn, and said, “This is really important!” And I just got to hang with those three guys
at the same time.
6And the low point? The day that Robin died. That next day was a Tuesday and it was the
first show I’ve ever canceled that wasn’t a holiday.
The first show canceled because of grief.
7What’s a favorite place in Marin where you like to hang out and unwind? Coyote Coffee
in Tam Junction is a place I like to go to have coffee and talk to the locals. I love Greg and Leslie,
who run it. And it reminds me, at my age, that
wow — I really am living life like Petticoat Junction
or Green Acres.
8Is there a place that you and your wife njoy going to relax? Don’t laugh — this
is absolutely true: we bowl. We just head to
Country Club Bowl in San Rafael and bowl. We
blend right in. I want to go to the pro shop and get
her a ball for her birthday but it has to be sized.
How do you do that as a surprise gift?
9You keep who’s going to be on “Mark Pitta nd Friends” a secret — why? Because I like
the audience to be there to see comedy, not to
see a famous person who has a TV show. That’s
why, whether they see Richard Lewis, or they
see funny comedians who aren’t famous, they
go, “Holy cow — there are a lot of funny people
out there.” So you get a pure comedy audience
instead of just people who are lured by fame.
10Is there anything about Marin that is missing? When I see a vacant store in
Marin I think, Why didn’t they just combine
the places that went out of business? We
should have Yogurt Yoga. You do an hour
of yoga and then get a tasty treat. M