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City Lights: The funniest man in the county

December 04, 2012|By Michael Miller
  • Mark Schumacher, winner of Orange County’s Funniest Person Contest.
Mark Schumacher, winner of Orange County’s Funniest… (HB Independent )

The following column is very funny. At least, it better be. A prize-winning comedian helped me write it.

The other week, an email landed in my inbox declaring that Mark Schumacher, a high school teacher who lives in Trabuco Canyon, had trounced the competition in the Orange County's Funniest Person Contest. The 11th annual contest, held at the Encore Dinner Theatre and Club in Tustin, puts standup comedians through one grueling round after another before a packed crowd and a panel of judges.

Schumacher, who has entered the contest several times, took home the gold this year. The thing is, though, being Orange County's Funniest Person isn't like being a beauty pageant winner. You don't get to appear at ribbon cuttings, ride the fire engine during the Fourth of July parade or otherwise represent your geographic area.

In short, even if you get anointed the county's funniest resident, many people won't know just how funny you are. So after hearing the news, I contacted Bill Word, producer of the contest, and asked him to put me in touch with Schumacher. And then I posed a challenge for 2012's champion: take some of Times Community News' recent articles and see what kind of material he could create from them. Times Community News, or TCN, publishes the Daily Pilot, Coastline Pilot and Huntington Beach Independent.

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More on that material in a minute. But first a little more about Schumacher. On the phone last week, he came off as warm and modest, someone who sounded bemused, more than anything else, that he had bested the competition.

For the last six years, Schumacher has taught psychology, economics, government and sociology at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Rancho Santa Margarita. Before that, he taught English in China and Taiwan. He often hones his standup material by telling jokes in class, and he'll reward students on occasion for their wit; once, he said, a student defined "extradition" on a government test as "more than just tradition."

"I gave her half credit," Schumacher explained. "She had a valid case."

There's something to be said for perfecting material over a long period of time. But what about the late-night comedy writers, who take the latest headlines and conjure material out of them in days or even hours? I figured anyone who qualified as Orange County's master cutup should be able to craft some topical material, so I sent Schumacher a pair of recent TCN pieces.

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