Have you ever known someone that was destined to be called by only one name? That’s Mary. Mary Lynn Louise Santora has too many names and too much talent. She’s not household enough to be just Mary yet however, but she’s at the forefront of Cleveland comedy.
Mary Santora is one of the only women regularly working regional clubs. She’s the only woman in the Accidental Comedy crew and the only female comedian in town that’s a phone call away from the big time. She could call a guy who could call a guy to tell Saturday Night Live’s Colin Jost his joke was trash.
Mary has opened for, featured, and impressed comics way too big to ever know any of the local worms she has to deal with on a regular basis. Mary Santora is Cleveland comedy. Hard work, determination, and miles and miles on a Kia has gained her a following. If you don’t see her soon, it’s going to cost more. Mary has an easy plan to follow: work hard, hone her skills, study her craft, and succeed. That little bit of planning is starting to pay huge dividends.
It wasn’t always long drives, corn chips, and fear of flat tires for Mary. She is a comedian’s version of a regular, well-adjusted woman—a girly girl. The classic essence of womanly stereotypes easily fit on her shoulders, and those tropes fall off of our dear Mary just as easily. For example, she was a cheerleader in high school and college. To further lock in the Northeast Ohio femininity archetype, Mary was going to be a pharmacist until one of her cheer mates at the University of Toledo organized a comedy show. After some coaxing, Mary decided to put down the pom poms and pick up a mic.
In front of 400 people, Mary found her calling. As they say in the business, “she killed.” This was her first appearance on stage and Mary had found her calling. For her, comedy was second nature. From that moment on, she only lived to be on stage.
How do you end up in front of that many people your first time doing comedy? They just stare at you, waiting for you to be funny. Mary does comedy damn near every night. She started off like every bad comic. You see, it’s common for people to tell their friends that they should do comedy. Mary is not the kind of comedian you think would start off like that. Someone with such craftsmanship and knowledge of comedy doesn’t need a friend to tell them to start telling jokes. However, on that day, job fate was bored. Mary Santora started her comedy journey in Toledo, and that journey is still underway.
Santora, the cheerleader with the sick burns, decided that she didn’t want to get people hooked on prescription medicine and left Toledo. She’d rather indulge in her vice, a newly-found love of stand-up comedy. Mary’s family had their qualms with her leaving the university to start down the path of becoming a stand-up comic.
When there is someone as wildly talented as Mary, raising that talent comes with a cost. Dedication and ambition can be poison to a creative mind. You can’t please everyone, and you certainly can’t live your fathers dreams and be happy. Mary gets her dedication to growth as a comedian and her ambition from a dark place in Berea.
When Mary was a little girl in Berea, she had to wear her brother’s clothes. “An American Eagle credit card would solve that problem later in life,” Mary says. Still, that lingering feeling of having nothing instilled in her a new mindset: If you can’t make a living doing regular nine-to-five work, then why not fail trying to reach the top of comedy? Mary is a long way from the top of the national comedy scene. However, she’s even further away from that lingering feeling, and further still from failing.
Mary is a regular at Hilarities. She’s been featured on The Best Of The Midwest for Gilda’s Laughfest, an event named after comedy legend Gilda Radner. She’s opened for Jen Kirkman, Shane Torres, and many other well-known comedians. If you ever find yourself at a comedy show in Cleveland and get to meet one of the comedians, ask them if they know Mary to break the ice.
Even while she’s busy killing it, she has time to invest in Cleveland comedy. Not everyone’s as funny as Mary, but she will most likely be there to show them how it’s done on their own program. Not because she’s petty or mean; she’s actually the nicest girl in town. If you’re a comedian in Cleveland, hope that you’re lucky enough to work with Mary. If she sees your set and it doesn’t go well, she will gladly offer you help and advice to punch up your act.
Mary is a student of comedy. She recognizes that when the show goes well, the room feels better. In turn, everyone tends to perform better. Regardless, Mary wows audiences. The unteachable skill she possesses is her wit. Her wit makes her keen at breaking down the phrasing of each tag—the joke, the turn of phrase. Her mind is made for turning the uncomfortable into the digestible. With a well-crafted joke, Mary can make you and your girlfriend mad at each other before the punchline has you laughing in each others arms. That deep understanding of comedy comes from a healthy use of sarcasm at home. Sarcasm is definitely a part of her story growing up in her brother’s clothes. You don’t come out of that type of teen-girl harassment with the courage to get on stage and not be destined for greatness.
There’s a lot of work to be done to carve yourself out as a legend especially when starting in Cleveland. Mary is doing that hard work right now. By the time this story is published, she will be a two-time performer on the Alan Cox Show Comedy Tour, an opener for yet another big star at Hilarities, and have sold out of beautiful “Crushing It” prints created by graphic artist Okay Pants. She is rightfully the role model of every female comedian in town, and it wouldn’t be surprising if she soon took over the space in your mind reserved for women like Amy Schumer.
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James Earl Brassfield or simply JEB is a writer, podcast host, humorist, actor and “Black Hunter Thompson” type madman of no ill repute. Language has yet to evolve fully to describe his unique view of Northeast Ohio and the world. JEB produces work across all media with his original and clearly stated voice. @Jearlbrass