Careers in show business are often seen as the “over night success” story. Pretty girl, cute guy walking down the street, stopped by super (producer, agent, director) and suddenly they’re stars. It’s the quintessential Hollywood success story. But in truth, careers in show business, like anywhere else, are made, and often over a long period of time. For Mark Roberts, the truth actually follows both trails.
Opening in June at Elephant Theatre is Couples Counseling Killed Katie, and at the same time, Where the Great Ones Run is playing at Rogue Machine Theatre, both penned by Mark Roberts. While having two shows running concurrently is not unheard of, it’s a significant event. The fact that Roberts’ is performing in Couples Counseling … only adds to the mystique, which is finally rounded out by the fact that Mark Roberts is the creator and show-runner of the hit CBS series Mike & Molly.
Mr. Roberts started his career back in Urbana, Illinois. As he describes it he was a “dumpy, socially awkward guy” who was looking for a way to meet girls. For those not in the know, that’s pretty much why a lot of guys in show business got started. But once there, he discovered that there was more to theatre than a chance to make-out behind the scenes. In time he honed his craft and took it on the road, eventually landing in Hollywood.
As with most that come to town, Mark began doing plays throughout Hollywood, as he himself has said, “I realized that at one time I have performed in almost every single one of them…” referring to the many sometimes infinitesimal theatres. Working on his craft as an actor and writer, he forged forward with some TV appearances and a fledgling standup routine that eventually landed him a few appearances on The Tonight Show. However, it was his work on stage that provided the “aha” moment.
While performing his play Couples Counseling Killed Katie, some 12 years ago, a man in the audience walked up after the show and said, “If no one has made you rich writing for television, I’d like to be that guy.” That man was Chuck Lorre, the creator of Two and A Half Men, and scribe for TV shows dating back to 1984.
Just recently Roberts has returned to stand-up, and acting after 10 years focused on his writing. When asked what about the stage draws him back to perform? His reply is, “the unconditional love.” Mark is quick to talk of the intimacy, the opportunity to connect with the audience from the stage in a totally different manner than through his work on television. “We can say things on stage that we can’t on TV.” That’s not coming from a desire to work raunchy, it comes from the fact that life is often a little grittier than we see on TV. “We can take out the stops and let emotions go where they will.” And while Roberts certainly enjoys his work for the small screen, coming back to theatre is fundamentally very important to him.
Even through all of his efforts in writing for first Two And a Half Men, and now Mike and Molly, a job which according to Roberts is “…being locked in a room for 10 months,” albeit with “…smart, funny people. (We) are crafting 22-minute stories on a weekly basis.” Roberts has also penned six plays. Drawing upon familiar lives, touching and examining real people in real situations He continues to be drawn back to his roots. “Theatre has been my sanctuary for as long as I can remember. (It is) a part of my history and what got me excited about the arts in the first place.”
Mark Roberts is an affable man, seeming to be your average Joe. Yet he is anything but average. He is a playwright, TV scribe, show-runner, stand-up comic and actor, all proving that to make that dream come true, to become a “star” a “player,” all you need is a solid foundation, years of dedication, a willingness to work ridiculous hours and more than a smattering of talent, mixed with maybe a pinch of luck. Stir all that together and you too, after a couple decades of dedication, can become an “overnight sensation.”