Ask anyone in the comedy industry and for years the words, “Cruise Ship Comedian” used to be synonymous with words like “cheesy, hokey or hack-filled”. But those days have changed and for comedian Bill Martin aka Cowboy Bill, the Fort Worth, Texas native has taken full advantage of it.
“For me, when my manager first called me a year ago November with the idea of performing on a cruise ship, I said, ‘no thanks’, quite frankly. I had heard horrible stories of comics who left the road to do cruise ships and they were never heard of again. All I knew was, it used to be the witness protection program for comedians,” Martin said in a recent interview.
But what Martin and many others didn’t know at the time was that many of the cruise ship lines were going thru a transformation and effectively changing the comedy industry overnight. In 2010, Carnival, announced that it was adding the Punchliner Comedy Club, a 500 seats, full-time, dedicated room for stand-up comedy. Not since the 1980s, has stand-up seen this kind of boom. The program was so successful in 2011, Carnival announced that they would expand the concept and signed George Lopez to be its curator of comedy.
The new George Lopez’ Punchliner Comedy Club offers its guest up to twenty shows plus a teaser appearance in the Welcome Aboard show in the main theater divided by up to four different comedians each week. Each comedian headlines five shows each, two ‘family friendly’ and three ‘uncensored, adults only’ show, plus the teaser show. In this format, many comedians chose to do “repeat” performances, but for Cowboy Bill, he saw it as an opportunity to stretch his comedic legs.
“When I first got onboard the ships, I knew what the minimum requirement was but I didn’t want to do the ‘repeater’ shows. I told my manager, Roger Paul, if I want five packed shows, it would require me to give the audience more. I wanted to have five completely different shows. Something that would make people want to keep coming back for more,” Martin said.
The results have been phenomenal. Martin plays for standing rooms only setting records on the ships for attendance, bar sales per night and per week, making him one of the hottest shows on the high seas. A deed, which has not gone, unnoticed. In 2012, while at sea, Martin has been working primarily on the Carnival Magic; its newest and biggest ship in it’s fleet which departs from Galveston, Texas.
What Martin didn’t realize, however, was that the ships were going to transform his show on land as well. Martin said, “When I started trying to do five completely different shows, I stayed away from material that would only work on the ships, i.e., buffet and toilet flushing humor. But because of my background working touring with country artist like George Strait, George Jones, Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts, and doing corporate shows complete with a motivational section, I knew that I had enough “clean” material to do the two different “family friendly” shows. And because of my fifteen years of working comedy clubs, I knew I had enough “uncensored” material for three different “adults only” shows. I just started laying them out, adding new and stronger bits. “
Each night he was polishing them in front of five or six hundred people per show, up to 3,000 people per cruise. Which was far better than the sparse crowds comics usually have to work out material in an open-mic setting on land. Then once on land, with over two and half hours of proven, original material at his disposal, he discovered, “it was like I was a comic beast on stage, never having to stick to the same show, the same set list. It was like pumping fresh air into me and my show.” This has parlayed to making him one of the hottest tickets both at sea and on land!
Martin said, “I’ve always had a decent fan base now but now, it’s becoming unbelievable. Last year, almost 100,000 people saw at least one of my shows LIVE! We’ve added literally thousands of people to the fan club and they beat the drum for me and they help me fill-up the venues I do on land as well.”
Don’t let the name “Cowboy Bill” fool you. Critic Punch Shaw of The Fort Worth Star Telegram says, "Martin is not your typical country-cowboy comic. There’s no talk about trailer parks or inbreeding. Sure he wears cowboy garb on stage and he speaks with a Texas accent but his comedy touches people of all cultures.”
Martin’s star is truly on the rise again. He is also committed to the start up of his new charity, “Cowboy Bill Cares for Kids ”, a program to help parents in need with kids with cancer. And later this year, he hopes to return to the Middle East where he headlined in 2009 a tour for the troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan region.
Also, more information, including complete tour schedule and discount tickets is available at www.cowboybill.com
To book your next cruise, go to www.carnival.com
FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO SCHEDULE AN INTERVIEW CONTACT: Michele Smotone, Publicist. H.E.M. Consulting, (918) 407-3469