Mark Masters Bar Show Host Reference

When I met Mark Masters I was horrified to learn that he had driven seven hours to headline our little VFW show in Missoula, Montana. Sure, the venue has free popcorn, but our combination microphone/speaker was stolen from the attached bingo hall and the host had a nervous wolfdog tied to her wrist. To an out-of-town headliner, I worried that we looked like amateur hour. 

I went in for a handshake and when the (muzzled) wolfdog lunged at him, Masters didn't even flinch. 

At 5 minutes to showtime the bar was less than crowded. Half of the audience wasn't aware there was a comedy show, and the other two people swayed behind their drinks. Masters took it upon himself to chat his way around to get a feel for the room. He was able to join conversations without intruding, like a crowd-warming roomba. 

The show trundled on as smalltown shows do. Masters took the stage as the final act and exhibited his unswayable character. In Missoula, most comedians will latch onto chatty audience members and attempt to insult them into submission. Masters, true to his surname, met disturbances with indifference and grace. The VFW is incomplete without at least one drunk heckler, and while this show was no different, the energy sure was. Local performers in the audience learned a valuable lesson from Masters: don't feed the idiots. 

At one point someone entered the bar with two wiener dogs and allowed them to roam freely. Despite being upstaged by walking sticks of butter, Masters did not sway and continued to squeeze laughs out of the previously silent audience. I've seen many comedians flounder when the attention shifts away from them but he seemed to thrive on the chance to improvise. Once the wolfdog locked eyes with the wiener dog, Masters played up the distraction as if it were an old western standoff, and the audience lapped it up. 

I was beyond impressed with Masters' helpful demeanor and appreciated that he seemed to take joy in the quirky atmosphere. His "yes, and" attitude relaxed the audience, the performers, and all dogs present, great and small. I look forward to booking him again and hope to see how he thrives in front of an actual crowd.

Eliza Oh
Missoula, MT

June 25, 2019