Comedian Marina Franklin went from working at the themed restaurant Jekyll and Hyde in New York City, to sharing a stage with SNL alum Tracy Morgan in her first paid stand-up gig, and back to working at Jekyll and Hyde in the span of 24 hours. Since then, Franklin has appeared in the Comedy Central series Inside Amy Schumer and the HBO comedy series Crashing. She also hosts the podcast Friends Like Us, and continues to perform stand-up.
In a conversation with NPR's Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg at the Bell House in Brooklyn, New York, Franklin talked about those early years starting out in comedy, and recording her recent stand-up special Single Black Female in her hometown of Chicago.
Then, for her Ask Me Another challenge, Franklin tests her knowledge of the weird and wonderful world of themed restaurants.
On filming her special in her hometown, Chicago:
"Most comics don't really do well in their hometown. It's a weird thing where you go home and you're like, 'You don't know me? I'm from here!' It was kind of nice to realize how supportive everyone was. Everyone really wanted to see the hour."
On bombing after Tracy Morgan in her first stand-up gig:
"It was a reality check... I was asked at the last minute to do this show with Tracy Morgan. I had to ask to get off that day from my manager at [themed restaurant in New York] Jekyll and Hyde, which anyone who has waited tables knows, that's almost impossible to get off."
"Tracy was on stage, which I should've paid attention to cause that meant I was gonna go after [him]. But I didn't know that. They didn't tell me that!"
OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
It's time to meet our next special guest. She's a stand-up comic whose special "Single Black Female" is available now. Give it up for Marina Franklin.
MARINA FRANKLIN: Hello.
EISENBERG: Welcome, Marina Franklin.
FRANKLIN: Well, hello there.
EISENBERG: How's it going?
FRANKLIN: It's going great. I'm here in Brooklyn. Come on now.
EISENBERG: You recently did a great comedy special called "Single Black Female." You taped it in Chicago. And you described the experience, which I love, as the wedding you never had.
FRANKLIN: Yes. Yes.
EISENBERG: Now I got to say, I once did a taping in front of a lot of friends and family. You're from Chicago.
FRANKLIN: I am.
EISENBERG: So I'm sure a lot of friends and family came.
FRANKLIN: My mom was there.
EISENBERG: So friend and family came.
EISENBERG: But I like - the wedding you never had is positive. I felt like I was alive at my own funeral. That's how I felt.
FRANKLIN: Because I've been doing comedy for quite some time - 20 years. And then most comics don't really do well in their hometown.
FRANKLIN: Like, it's a weird thing where you go home - you're like, you don't know me? I'm from here.
FRANKLIN: And so it was kind of nice to realize, like, how supportive everyone was.
FRANKLIN: Like, everyone really wanted to see the hour.
EISENBERG: You originally were - you were pursuing, like, theater and acting. And you had a roommate that actually encouraged you to try stand-up comedy.
FRANKLIN: Yes. I would just go into all these stories about how Grandma Moot on the South Side of Chicago would take me to church and how she was really tough. You know, like, there would be a woman who'd always give us candy, and I was like, I really like this woman. She's like, mmm (ph), she got all that makeup like Jezebel.
FRANKLIN: So - and she had a poodle named Kunta Kinte. I mean, it was just...
FRANKLIN: It just writes itself.
EISENBERG: Yeah. So you're working at the theme restaurant Jekyll & Hyde. You're doing open mics. And then you get your first paying stand-up gig opening for Tracy Morgan.
FRANKLIN: Oh, god, yes. Thank you for bringing that...
EISENBERG: OK, so how did that go? Did it change everything?
FRANKLIN: In the bad way. Like, it gave me a reality check because when you're doing all of the shows that are, like, bringer, you have your friends or - well, at that time, it was my Haitian boyfriend, who had, like, a huge family. So that was important.
FRANKLIN: And they were very supportive. In that show with Tracy Morgan, I was asked at the last minute to do the show with Tracy Morgan. And I had to ask to get off that day from my manager at Jekyll & Hyde, which anyone who has waited tables know, that's almost impossible to get off. And at the time, I had on my khakis from Jekyll & Hyde. I still had ketchup stains.
FRANKLIN: And went there. I was so excited. But Tracy was on stage, which I should have paid attention to because that meant I was going to have to go after.
EISENBERG: Yeah, you're not opening for him.
FRANKLIN: No. But I didn't know that.
EISENBERG: Oh, that's weird.
FRANKLIN: They didn't tell me that. And Tracy was killing. He gets off stage and, I mean, they - thunderous. And I go on stage, and the first thing I say was, oh, well, I haven't performed in front of a black audience before.
FRANKLIN: They're like, boo. I mean, like, they - it was, like, really quiet, which is even worse. Then I was like, well, see - I grew up in a white neighborhood, and I tried to do that. And they were like, nuh-uh.
FRANKLIN: And I think I heard a woman go, she don't know herself, you know.
FRANKLIN: And then after the show, I see everyone, and it's like, everyone clears from you, like you're, like, an infected disease or something.
EISENBERG: Oh, yeah.
FRANKLIN: So no, nothing happened from that day.
FRANKLIN: And I continued working at Jekyll & Hyde, I think, for another year, yeah.
FRANKLIN: Keep your day job.
EISENBERG: I mean, did you kind of bounce back? Because you were kind of new to it.
FRANKLIN: I would continue to just work, you know.
FRANKLIN: Because I loved stand-up. When I started, I was like, I know I'm good at this. I know that this was an experience that I just hadn't had. So I just need more of those experiences.
EISENBERG: Yeah. All right, so, Marina, because you worked at a theme restaurant called Jekyll & Hyde, we have a game for you about the wonderful and weird world of themed restaurants.
FRANKLIN: Oh, that's perfect.
EISENBERG: An exclusive Belgium restaurant is only open 10 days in June. It costs 295 euros a person, seats only 32 guests. Where are they seated? A, suspended 150 feet in the air by a crane; B, in a monastery with beer-brewing monks; or C, in a cave 500 meters below sea level.
FRANKLIN: I'm going to say the monks.
FRANKLIN: Yeah. Monks...
EISENBERG: Monk sounds right, doesn't it?
FRANKLIN: I'd like to get drunk with some monks.
EISENBERG: It's actually suspended 100 feet in the air by a crane.
FRANKLIN: Oh, really?
EISENBERG: You're in some - yeah - hanging restaurant 150 feet in the air.
FRANKLIN: That's crazy.
EISENBERG: Yeah, I don't think I want that. Or do I?
FRANKLIN: I'd rather get drunk with the monks.
EISENBERG: Drunk with the monks.
EISENBERG: Oh, maybe you know this one. Until 2012, a futuristic restaurant in Times Square invited patrons to ride what into the dining area - A, a UFO; B, the world's shortest monorail; or C, they got a piggyback ride from a captain Jean-Luc Picard impersonator.
FRANKLIN: I think it's the the first one.
EISENBERG: UFO. Yeah, that's right.
FRANKLIN: Yeah, that piggyback sounds like a lot of work for somebody.
EISENBERG: (Laughter) No one would want that.
EISENBERG: Do you remember Mars 2112? Do you remember that restaurant? It was closed for good in January of 2012, 100 before schedule. Yes.
FRANKLIN: Ooh, I forgot how great you are. I love you, girl. Yes.
EISENBERG: At Medieval Times...
EISENBERG: ...Customers eat while watching a simulated jousting match. The chain has existed since the 1980s. But guess what? Recently, they came out of the Dark Ages, but in what way? A, customers now have to use silverware - they can't eat with their hands, for sanitary reasons; B, the live actors and horses have been removed, and customers have a virtual reality experience; or C, the lead role was changed to be a queen instead of a king.
FRANKLIN: Ooh. Because I'm a germaphobe, I want to say A.
FRANKLIN: Now, virtual - that doesn't sound like that would be a successful - they would be closing soon.
EISENBERG: I think you're right about that.
FRANKLIN: So I'm going to go with the C part because, yeah, it's time to make it a queen.
EISENBERG: It is time to make it a queen. That's what they did. Yeah.
EISENBERG: But the waitresses are still referred to as wenches.
FRANKLIN: Oh, no.
EISENBERG: Ew. Can't have everything.
FRANKLIN: Can't have everything.
EISENBERG: Can't have everything.
FRANKLIN: Yeah. No, no.
EISENBERG: You did it. You won. Fantastic. Marina's podcast is called "Friends Like Us," and her new comedy special "Single Black Female" is streaming now. Give it up for Marina Franklin, everybody.
FRANKLIN: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.