Curry, Mark 1964–
Mark Curry 1964–
After honing his comedic skills in nightclubs across the country, Mark Curry has become one of America’s favorite actors on television. The tall, baby-faced funny man starred for five years on ABC’s Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, a 1990s remake of the sitcom Three’s Company. Now Curry has two distinct facets to his career, as a stand up comic who addresses adult themes and as a children’s favorite on television. In both spheres, Curry finds humor in the experiences of his childhood, growing up in the often dangerous neighborhoods of Oakland, California. The comic actor is also adding movie roles to his resume and sees a future for himself in film rather than television.
Curry was born in Oakland, the youngest child in a family with eight children. The atmosphere at home was playful, with lots of teasing and joking. He majored in journalism at California State University at Hayward and did a radio show in Oakland, playing a grandmother. Curry, who stands 6’6”, also played basketball in college and hoped to play professionally. He still names basketball as one of his favorite pastimes, in addition to biking and old movies.
While working as the manager of a drugstore in San Francisco, Curry got his comedy start in an amateur “Gong Show” competition in 1987. Co-workers, who knew Curry’s ability to make customers laugh, convinced him to go on stage. Despite the fact that he was gonged before finishing his joke, the experience was exciting and inspired Curry to write some material and return to the show. He subsequently began working in small black comedy clubs. Curry later served as the opening act on a tour with Damon Wayans and preceded Whitney Houston at the 1991 Super Bowl. He names Richard Pryor as his most important comedic influence and noted another role model in the Sacramento Bee when he said, “I want to be on the road like Bill Cosby, playing Vegas when I’m 50. If you start buying the cars and big houses, you lose touch with reality and have nothing to make jokes about.”
Curry became a familiar face on television as the host of the syndicated program Showtime at the Apollo. Curry commented on the Apollo program in Essence, saying,
At a Glance…
Born in 1964, in Oakland, California. Education: California State University at Hayward, majored in journalism.
Career: Stand up comedian and actor. Previously worked as a drugstore manager. Movies: Talking Dirty After Dark, 1991, Panther, 1995, The Fanatics, Armageddon; Television: Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, five seasons, cancelled in 1997; TV appearances: The Arsenio Hall Show, Sinbad and Friends, New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, The Jim Thorpe Sports Awards, host, When Stars Were Kids, and HBO’s One Night Stand.
Addresses: Agent —Intemational Creative Management, 8942 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211.
“Not only did it provide me with a great fan base, but it’s also still one of the few places where a Black performer can go to get his props.” Curry’s television credits also include appearances on The Arsenio Hall Show, the special Sinbad and Friends, and New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, as well as hosting The Jim Thorpe Sports Awards and When Stars Were Kids. In 1991, Curry’s stand up act was featured on HBO’s One Night Stand.
An offer to star in an ABC series followed the HBO special, and resulted in Curry taking the title role in the sitcom Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper. The program’s original premise placed Mr. Cooper—a former college basketball star who is a substitute teacher at an inner-city high school—in a scenario similar to that of Three’s Company. During its first season, Curry’s character lived with two female roommates played by Dawnn Lewis and Holly Robinson. However, the program’s sexual dynamic was toned downed in subsequent seasons; Lewis’s character left the show and Curry’s unrequited lust for Robinson turned into a more conventional romance. New cast members were Raven Symone, formerly of The Cosby Show, as Cooper’s precocious 7-year-old cousin, Saundra Quarterman, and Nell Carter. Some aspects of the show, such as Cooper’s love for basketball and the setting in Oakland, California, were based on Cooper’s real-life experiences.
Some critics did not expect Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper to succeed, weary of the show’s too-familiar formula. Aldore Collier commented on the show’s first season in Ebony: “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper has connected with audiences far beyond expectations. Critics as well as cast members attribute much of the success to the chemistry among three very different personalities.” Jim McFarlin noted in the Detroit News that “The faultfinders failed to account for one critical factor: The warmth, magnetism, and undeniable personality of Mark Curry.” Audiences were tuning in to see the young comedian, who Ken Tucker described in Entertainment Weekly as an atypical leading man and “a clever verbal cutup, a solid, naturalistic actor … with his soft pudding face and long, spider-limbed body.”
In fact, Curry was on his way to becoming a family favorite as “Mr. Cooper.” Teenagers surveyed for the 1993 Student Choice Awards selected Curry as a winner, and, in 1994, he was named one of TV Guide s 10 “best-loved stars” on television. In his capacity as a creative consultant to Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, Curry saw that his character said and did things that were appropriate for his youthful audience. He told The Detroit News, “The kids figure, ‘Mr. Cooper did it, it’s OK…. People imitate you when you’re on a series.”
Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper was last seen on ABC in the fall of 1997, although production of the show was already on hold the previous season, and is now in syndication. Curry is unhappy about the cancellation and says so in the press. When asked to name his greatest achievement by the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, he said, “Being on TV for five years and sending out positive messages. I was the only brother on TV with a laptop in my hand, and I still didn’t get an NAACP Image Award. But I’m not bitter. No, not me.” Ken Parish Perkins noted in the Sacramento Bee that “Success hasn’t changed [the comedian]…. Patience still eludes Curry. So do diplomacy and a knowledge of spin control.” But this no-holds-barred approach is a key element to Curry’s personality and to his comedy.
Following the cancellation of Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, Curry started playing Los Angeles clubs during the week and around the country on weekends. His stand up act is a sharp departure from his TV persona, and the comedian is careful to warn parents who might bring children to his shows. As Curry told Perkins, “People always expect me to come out and be TGIF friendly; that ain’t happening…. Mr. Cooper is a kid’s show. My stand up is adult. I explore different issues.” His comedy is largely based on his experiences living in Oakland, with material covering topics such as drugs, sex, the O.J. Simpson murder trial, and even a bit about Santa being shot. Curry told the Los Angeles Times, “I talk a little about everything. People are scared of those issues like crack and O.J. You have to be on the edge to be memorable in comedy. I would rather be memorable than just laughed at.”
As reviewer Allan Johnson pointed out in the Chicago Tribune, Curry is also an exceptional comic act for his ability to improvise with an audience. Having watched Curry “meet-and-greet” his audience, Johnson said that he was “among the best at this type of laugh-generating trick” and that much of his scripted material was elevated by his ability to act out a story.
Curry has also been working on the big screen, where he has been seen in the films Talking Dirty After Dark (1991) and Panther (1995). He has since landed roles in The Fanatics, a sports comedy, and in Armageddon with Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton. The comedian also taped a Warner Brothers pilot for a late night talk show in 1996-97, but was not comfortable with the aborted project. He is much more enthused about acting in films than in returning to television—although he still thinks of entertaining a youthful audience. He described his aspirations in the Los Angeles Times: “I want to do a movie like a ‘Bad News Bears.’ I look at movies, and they are so violent…. It takes me to a place I don’t want to go.”
Off-camera, Curry is known as a straight-forward, generous, and unpretentious person. On the set of Hangin’ withMr. Cooper, he impressed the crew when he got his own coffee and talked with everyone. He is determined to stay close to his roots, as he told the Chicago Tribune: “I’m a boy from the ’hood…. I’m not Hollywood.” Curry supports the East Oakland Youth Development Center with both his time and money. He especially wants to teach the children the value of an education. It is no coincidence that Curry has appealed to youthful audiences, because children are important to the actor. He said in the Los Angeles Times, “I feel like God gave me a talent, and it would be a waste not to do something to help the kids.”
Atlanta Journal and Constitution, November 21, 1997, p. 8Q.
Chicago Tribune, January 3, 1995, p. C7; October 1, 1995, p. C11.
Detroit News, February 17, 1995, pp. D1, D10.
Ebony, February 1993, pp. 78-82.
Entertainment Weekly, September 18, 1992, p. 64.
Essence, December 1993, p. 52.
Los Angeles Times, July 12, 1996, p. F1.
Sacramento (California) Bee, January 7, 1996; September 4, 1997, p. E5.
Scholastic Update, April 16, 1993, p. 22.
Variety, August, 19, 1996, p. 25.
—Paula Pyzik Scott
Curry, Mark 1964(?)–
Curry, Mark 1964(?)–
Full name, Mark G. Curry; born June 1, 1964 (some sources cite 1961), in Oakland, CA. Education: Studied journalism at California State University, Hayward (now California State University, East Bay). Avocational Interests: Basketball, biking, old films.
Actor, comedian, and writer. Contestant in talent competitions. Performer at various venues, including comedy clubs and Super Bowl XXV, Tampa, FL, 1991. Worked as a drugstore manager in San Francisco, CA. Affiliated with the East Oakland Youth Development Center.
Student Choice Award, 1993; named one of the best-loved stars on television, TV Guide, 1994.
Television Appearances; Series:
Host, It's Showtime at the Apollo (also known as Showtime at the Apollo), Showtime, 1992-93.
Mark Cooper, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper (also known as Super Mr. Cooper, Echt super, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Cooper et nous, and Vivir con Mr. Cooper), ABC, 1992-97.
Robert Soulard, a recurring role, The Drew Carey Show, ABC, 2000.
Host, Don't Forget Your Toothbrush, Comedy Central, beginning 2000.
Host, Coming to the Stage, Black Entertainment Television, 2003.
Host, Animal Tails, PAX TV, beginning 2003.
Host, Bachelor Pad, ABC Family Channel, 2004.
Himself (contestant), Celebrity Mole: Yucatan (also known as Celebrity Mole), ABC, 2004.
Comedian, Poker Royale (also known as Poker Royale: Comedians vs. Pros), Game Show Network (GSN), beginning 2005.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Bob Arness, Motocrossed, Disney Channel, 2001.
Norton Ballard, The Poof Point, Disney Channel, 2001.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Fox New Year's Eve Live, Fox, 1991.
Sinbad & Friends All the Way Live … Almost, 1991.
Himself, One Night Stand, HBO, 1991, 2000.
Mark Cooper, ABC Prime Time Preview Special, ABC, 1992.
Mark Cooper, ABC Saturday Morning Preview Special, ABC, 1993.
Himself, ABC Mark Curry & Delta Burke's "Back Lot Special," ABC, 1994.
Himself, Comic Relief VI, HBO, 1994.
Bob Hope's "Christmas Show: Hopes for the Holidays," NBC, 1994.
Host, When Stars Were Kids, 1995.
An Evening of Stars: A Celebration of Educational Excellence Benefitting the United Negro College Fund, 1998.
Himself, Just for Laughs: Montreal Comedy Festival, 1999.
Himself, "Mark Curry," Comedy Central Presents, Comedy Central, 1999.
Voice of giant, The Valiant Little Tailor: An Animated Special from the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child" Series (animated), HBO, 2001.
Himself, Platinum Comedy Series: Roasting Shaquille O'Neal, 2002.
Host, Bachelor Pad, ABC Family Channel, 2004.
(In archive footage) Himself, I Was a Network Star, 2006.
Appeared in other programs, including HBO Comedy Showcase, HBO.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
Presenter, The Seventh Annual Soul Train Music Awards, syndicated, 1993.
Apollo Theater Hall of Fame, 1993.
The Essence Awards, CBS, 1993.
Presenter, Nickelodeon's "Eighth Annual Kids' Choice Awards" (also known as Kids' Choice Awards), Nickelodeon, 1995.
The First Annual Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards (also known as Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards), 1995.
The Second Annual Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards (also known as Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards), syndicated, 1996.
Host, Caribbean Music Awards, syndicated, 1997.
Nickelodeon's "10th Annual Kids' Choice Awards" (also known as Kids' Choice Awards), Nickelodeon, 1997.
The 1997 ESPY Awards, ABC, 1997.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Coach, "Basketball Tryouts," My Brother and Me, Nickelodeon, 1994.
Tony Ross, "A Tale of Two Tattles," Living Single (also known as My Girls), Fox, 1994.
Grandpa, "I Remember Grandpa," Hangin' with Mr. Cooper (also known as Super Mr. Cooper, Echt super, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Cooper et nous, and Vivir con Mr. Cooper), ABC, 1995.
Host, Soul Train, syndicated, 1995.
Himself, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, syndicated, 1996.
Ronnie Cochran, "Power to the People's Court," Martin, Fox, 1997.
Sergeant Easy, "Traffic School Daze," The Jamie Foxx Show, The WB, 1997.
Guest host, MAD TV (also known as Mad TV and MADtv), Fox, 1997.
Sergeant Easy, "I Am Too Sexy for This Shot," The Jamie Foxx Show, The WB, 1998.
Dr. Collins, "The Pregnant Pause," For Your Love (also known as You Send Me, Foer kaerleks skull, and Tris di cuori), The WB, 2000.
Himself, The Daily Show (also known as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Global Edition, Ha-Daily Show, and I satira tou Jon Stewart), Comedy Central, 2000.
Himself, Intimate Portrait: Holly Robinson Peete, Lifetime, 2000.
Himself, "Episode 101," Comic Remix, Comedy Central, 2002.
Himself, "Episode 109," Comic Remix, Comedy Central, 2002.
Himself, Pyramid (also known as The $100,000 Pyramid), syndicated, 2002, 2003.
Himself, Hollywood Squares (also known as H2 and H2: Hollywood Squares), syndicated, 2004.
Himself, On Air with Ryan Seacrest, syndicated, 2004.
Himself, 101 Most Unforgettable SNL Moments 80-61 (also known as E's "101"), E! Entertainment Television, 2004.
Himself, The Wayne Brady Show, syndicated, 2004.
Shorties Watchin' Shorties (animated), Comedy Central, 2004.
Max Cooper, "Big Butts," Fat Actress, Showtime, 2005.
Max Cooper, "Hold This," Fat Actress, Showtime, 2005.
Morpheus, "Get Away," Less Than Perfect, ABC, 2005.
Himself, The Daily Buzz, syndicated, 2005.
Himself, "The ‘Grammy’ Goes to Camp: You're a Star & Kids Are Helping Kids," In the Mix (also known as In the Cutz), Urban American Channel, 2006.
Himself, "John at ESPY Awards," Howard Stern on Demand (also known as Howard TV on Demand), iN DEMAND, 2006.
Def Comedy Jam (also known as Russell Simmons' "Def Comedy Jam"), HBO, 2006.
Himself, "Betty White and Mark Curry," Back to the Grind, TV Land, 2007.
Himself, "Hitting Rock Bottom … Life After," The Montel Williams Show, syndicated, 2007.
Also appeared in other programs, including The Arsenio Hall Show (also known as Arsenio), syndicated.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Made a pilot for a talk show, The WB, c. 1996-97.
Television Work; Series:
Creative consultant, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper (also known as Super Mr. Cooper, Echt super, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Cooper et nous, and Vivir con Mr. Cooper), ABC, 1992-93.
Executive consultant, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper (also known as Super Mr. Cooper, Echt super, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Cooper et nous, and Vivir con Mr. Cooper), ABC, 1992-97.
Television Work; Specials:
Executive producer, Mark Curry: The Other Side, HBO, 1996
Antonio, Talkin' Dirty after Dark, New Line Cinema, 1991.
Lombard, Panther (also known as A fekete parduc, Les black panthers, Mustat pantterit, and Panteras negras), Gramercy Pictures, 1995.
Fly Walker, The Fanatics (also known as Fumbleheads), 1997.
Robbie, Switchback (also known as Going West and Going West in America), Paramount, 1997.
Stu (the cab driver), Armageddon (also known as Armageddon—Das juengste Gericht, Armageddon—giudizio finale, and Armagedon), Buena Vista, 1998.
Jeff, A Man Is Mostly Water, Dog Park Productions, 2000.
Drew, Bad Boy (also known as Dawg), Wartex International, 2002.
Performer at comedy clubs and various venues and toured with a comedy revue headlined by Damon Wayans.
Contributed the voice of a grandmother to a radio show in Oakland, CA.
Himself, Paul Mooney: Jesus Is Black—So Was Cleopatra—Know Your History (also known as Paul Mooney: Know Your History—Jesus Was Black … So Was Cleopatra), Image Entertainment, 2007.
Appeared in other videos, including videos relating to Def Comedy Jam (also known as Russell Simmons' "Def Comedy Jam").
Teleplays; Stories for Series:
Hangin' with Mr. Cooper (also known as Super Mr. Cooper, Echt super, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Cooper et nous, and Vivir con Mr. Cooper), ABC, c. 1992-97.
One Night Stand, HBO, 1991, 2000.
Mark Curry: The Other Side, HBO, 1996.
"Mark Curry," Comedy Central Presents, Comedy Central, 1999.
Contributed material for other programs, including HBO Comedy Showcase, HBO.
Teleplays; with Others; Episodic:
"Episode 101," Comic Remix, Comedy Central, 2002.
"Episode 109," Comic Remix, Comedy Central, 2002.
Shorties Watchin' Shorties (animated), Comedy Central, 2004.
Contributed material for episodes of other series.
Writings for the Stage:
Curry has written material that he has performed in comedy clubs and various venues and in a touring comedy revue headlined by Damon Wayans.
Contributor of material that has appeared in videos.
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 17, Gale, 1998.
Essence, December, 1993, p. 52.