Comedian Mara Marek has had enough of domestic violence and the epidemic it has sadly become. She decided to actually do something about it by spending the rest of her summer on a cross-country bike and comedy tour raising money and bringing awareness to domestic violence all while making others laugh.
Mara is a New York-based seasoned comedian who will ride her way around the United States to make people laugh about something that isn't so funny. She is taking this seriously and riding up to 96 miles a day! All of the proceeds from the tour will go to benefit and aid the victims of domestic violence.
When she isn't riding nearly a hundred miles a day for a good cause, she is also the co-host of the popular podcast called, Happy Never After. The three-time divorcee brings fun to divorce along with her child-of-divorce co-host Andrew Collins. Andrew will be joining her for some of her tour dates.
The Bike, Laugh, Heal tour kicked off on August 13th in New York City and will end on October 25th in San Fransisco after a whole lot of in-between. We chatted with Mara about her tour, comedy, and why she's taking on a global problem.
TheThings (TH): Tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you get into comedy? What path led you to where you are today?
Mara Marek (MM): I'm just a small town girl from Michigan who grew up on a lake, that was adjacent to wayyyy too much corn. Went to a private Catholic school, moved to San Diego to pursue that so called "chill" life, met and married a few dudes and got engaged over and over again. Was fired from all three of my marriages, as well as a couple of jobs. It took 7 broken engagements, career shifts and 3 failed marriages to finally start pursuing my own dreams of stand up comedy. I got in late to the stand-up game but never been happier.
TH: As a woman, do you feel that comedy is harder to get into and be successful? Do women garner the same respect as men?
MM: Relatively speaking, it isn't any harder or easier than any other career as a woman. Being a woman in any career has its own special challenges, although, I think this is a much better time for women in comedy. So many more opportunities and we (women) have been doing a much better job of working together to help one another. For a long time, I felt like feminism couldn't work because we were fighting against each other as much as we were fighting for equality, but I have been noticing a shift towards more unity.
TH: Your new tour, Bike, Laugh, Heal aims to end domestic violence, brings awareness of the domestic violence problem in the U.S. and helps survivors. What is your connection to this cause? Why are you so passionate about ending domestic violence?
MM: Every day, 4 women, 1 man, and almost 5 innocent children die as a result of domestic violence. I grew up in a violent home, and we were silenced about the subject. I was also in an abusive marriage, he was only abusive when he was under the influence, but still...It wasn't a party for everyone. Once I gained my physical freedom, I went a little crazy, because all of the trauma had me emotionally paralyzed. I lost who I was, began lying about my life to strangers, drinking, doing drugs, and being promiscuous. I didn't process any of it with a therapist and with a solid support group until very recently. I want people who are in these situations to know that they are not alone. I want those who have recently left to know that all hope should not be lost. There is a life out there for them post abuse. There are people who are on their side.
TH: Whose idea was this tour? Why did you choose to do a bike tour as opposed to traveling by car or bus? Were the tour stops around the country chosen for any specific reason?
MM: The idea of the tour was my own. My bike was always my freedom when I was younger. I was given a hand-me-down Incredible Hulk BMX bike with a number 8 on it that I could take around the lake. I was all by myself on the bike, no one could hurt me there...after the dissolution of my first marriage, I got back on the bike again, regained my freedom, used it as a profession and began my road to redemption. It's just a metaphor to show the world I can stand on my own two feet, or my own two wheels rather.
The tour stops were part geography and part people I knew. Pittsburgh was an intentional stop because the guest on my podcast, Happy Never After, who shared her story of abuse, produced a show there. I also didn't want to go too far north or south due to weather. My sister is joining me for the midwest portion of the ride, which is really special to me, and my podcast co-host Andrew has most of his family in Chicago, so we are stopping there.
TH: What do you hope to accomplish with this tour? What is the end goal? How are the proceeds helping to end domestic violence?
MM: I'm hoping to bring awareness to this epidemic. I want to bring light to it. A lot of victims don't realize they are in an abuse cycle because they are so deep in it...
The proceeds of the show will be going to the local shelters. I have been distributing those funds within 48 hours of the shows. I'm looking to start a program after this tour is over for those displaced from abuse that empowers people through fitness and cycling, art, and laughter. As well as prevention work to stop the abuse before it starts.
TH: Helps us understand how comedy and domestic violence fit together. Do you believe in the old saying “laughter is the best medicine?” Do you think humor is a good way to broach such serious topics?
MM: 100%, if you can't laugh about trauma, you will stay a victim, and you need tools to move to being a survivor.
TH: Have you used humor to work past any difficult situation in your life? How have you dealt with your personal hardships?
MM: I always use humor to move through failure and tragedy. It's my coping mechanism. and its a fun one, so why not.
TH: Tell us a bit about your podcast and your co-host, Andrew, since he is joining you on this tour. What is his role? Was it important to include him, as a male and your friend/co-host, on such a tour?
MM: The podcast is about not having shame after divorce and laughing at relationship issues. My cohost Andrew is one of my best friends. He is a child of divorce...Andrew is one of the funniest people I know. He offers the perspective of a child from a broken home. I think it helps our listeners hear about what your child could become if you raise them in a tumultuous situation...and nobody wants to raise a comedian ;)
TH: In your own opinion, why do you think domestic violence is such a global problem? What could help solve, or reduce it?
MM: Domestic violence is a basic relationship issue. And there are relationships in every culture. Hell, in a previous interview, the columnist was more interested in my current boyfriend than my actual project.
Children of violent homes often become violent, so we have to stop the cycle then. Foster children are the toughest cases, they endure the most abuse and are the most neglected, so I would like to focus most of my efforts there.
TH: How would you describe your brand of humor? What do you find funny?
MM: Self-deprecating humor. Just stories from my life...I prefer storytelling comedy like Mike Birbiglia, or Dark humor stand up like Doug Stanhope, or perfect joke writing combined with a ridiculous amount of energy like Greg Hahn...hilarious. I have a range of funny...I appreciate it all!
TH: What advice do you have for any woman, or man, in an abusive relationship? What should they know or do?
MM: Go to a professional for help. A lot of times you tell a strong friend your situation and they want to step in and help you resolve it by going to the abuser. That can exasperate the situation/abuser...so find a shelter that can step in and give you the proper steps to get out of the situation.
Thank you so much, Mara, for speaking with us, sharing so much amazing knowledge, and shedding light on such an important topic.
We cannot wait to keep up with her for the remainder of her tour!