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Martin Olson is a Hollywood television producer, director and composer. He is presently head writer for season one of Phineas and Ferb. He is also a playwright and poet known for comedic and unusual subject matter. Olson is best known as a "founding father" of the Boston Comedy scene, as a collaborator with comedians, composers, artists and poets, and as a writer-producer of off-beat television series and stage plays. His daughter, Olivia Olson writes songs and plays Vanessa Doofenshmirtz on Phineas and Ferb.
Raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Olson began writing for comedians before there were any comedy clubs in Boston. He sent pages of jokes to Rodney Dangerfield, which were returned with the same polite note scrawled at the bottom, "Sorry, Marty!" (According to his agent's press kit, years later when writing for Penn and Teller in Las Vegas, Olson produced comedy bits with Dangerfield and the two became friends.)
In an interview for the Writers Guild of America's magazine Written By, Olson stated that as a child he saw the eccentric German comedian Brother Theodore ranting and raving on The Merv Griffin Show, and from that moment on he knew he would be a comedy writer. (Before his death in 2001, Brother Theodore became a fan of Olson's first book, and wrote one of the quotes on the book's dust cover.)
Olson first sold comedy material to the hosts of local "Gong Shows" which began his career as a comedy writer.
Olson and Boston comedyEdit
Olson started the first comedy club in Boston in 1977 with local producers Paul Barclay and Bil Downes. There, he became "house piano player" between acts, and also performed as a comedian for the first two years with an absurdist deadpan act. His act consisted of playing guitar and hosting "a show within the show" featuring other comedians as his eccentric guests. At the club every night for four years, Olson worked for and wrote with the comedians who became his friends — Lenny Clarke, Bobcat Goldthwait, Jimmy Tingle, Steven Wright, Denis Leary, Steve Sweeney, Joe Alaskey, Sean Morey and many others.
"The Barracks" Edit
Olson and comedian Lenny Clarke became roommates in an apartment near Harvard Square where comedians from all over the country "crashed" while performing in their comedy club. Olson wrote for Clarke, who soon became the most popular comedian in Boston. Their apartment became known as "The Barracks", a legendary hub of comedy and depravity that was the subject of a television special on Boston comedy in the 1980s, and also of the award-winning documentary on the Boston comedy scene When Standup Stood Out (2006) directed by filmmaker-comedian Fran Solomita.
Olson, The Ding Ho and "Lenny Clarke's Late Show" Edit
When Barry Crimmins started the second comedy club in the Boston area called the Ding Ho, Olson became piano player at the club, where he started showing short films he would write, direct and star in. This led to Olson writing Lenny Clarke's Late Show, a late-night comedy TV series on TV-38 hosted and co-written by Clarke. This bizarre, two-hour weekly show attracted a small but dedicated cult following. After two years, however, Olson and Clarke were fired for airing two controversial segments ("News for Negroes" and "The Mentally Retarded Faith Healer" featuring Bobcat Goldthwait).
Olson and the West Coast Comedy Scene Edit
Olson took his tapes from the show and drove cross-country to San Francisco with Boston comedian Don Gavin. There by coincidence the 1980 SF Comedy Competition was starting up, with a First Prize of $10,000.00. Olson helped Gavin audition and make it into the finals. There Olson met his future wife Kay Furtado, a writer who had been flown to SF to coach another comedian in the competition. A year later they married in a ceremony in San Francisco attended by all of the local comedians. Olson and his wife moved to Los Angeles where they raised two children, Casey Olson and Olivia Olson.
Comedy Writing Edit
Olson's Los Angeles home became a halfway house for comedians coming to L.A. to perform and audition for shows. Meanwhile Olson wrote HBO comedy performance specials, became staff writer for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, wrote an award-winning series for Comedy Central in London and became head writer for many animated series voiced by his comedian friends.
Impact and Affiliations in Contemporary Comedy Edit
Specializing in writing comedy specials and staging one-man shows for comedians, Olson became producer-writer for Penn and Teller on their notorious FX variety series Penn & Teller's Sin City Spectacular.
When Olson was a writer for Rocko's Modern Life, director Stephen Hillenburg showed Olson a comic book called "The Intertidal Zone" that Hillenburg drew in university. Olson loved it and suggested that Stephen rewrite it as an undersea cartoon series, which became Spongebob Squarepants.
Selling comedy screenplays to Dreamworks, UA, Touchstone and Warner Bros, Olson was able to dedicate his time to writing and directing live stage performances in Hollywood at the HBO Theater, The Steve Allen Theater and Comedy Central Stage featuring well-known comedians and actors.
As an occasional actor, Olson guest starred in a live action sequence in Spongebob Squarepants ("Mermaid Man 5"), in "Don't Watch This Show" by director-comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, in the documentary When Standup Stood Out by filmmaker Fran Solomita, on The Tonight Show playing an Indian Yogi with Bobcat Goldthwait, and in a featured role as a fundamentalist professor in the film The Anna Cabrini Chronicles by filmmaker Tawd b. Dorenfeld.
- Martin Olson at
- Writers Guild of America Interview - Martin Olson
- Interview with Olson on Rocko's Modern Life
- Website - Martin Olson
Some of Olson's work has been published online:
- "Invasion Manual of Earth" (satirical novel)
- "Hitler's Dog: The Poems of Martin Olson" (poetry)
- [http://martin-olson.com/mandlebrot/mandlebrot.html Collaboration with sf writer Robert Sheckley
- Screenplays sold to various studios