A famous uncle and a school principal influenced Dayton man’s comedy career

Mark Gregory cites high school principal as good influence.

The long lines to get into Beavercreek’s Funny Bone Comedy Club on Feb. 4 and 5 wound through several hallways and included friends, relatives, and even a former principal of Mark Gregory, a Colonel White graduate who’s making a big mark in the world of comedy.

“I was a troublemaker in junior high,” said 41-year-old Gregory. “My principal at Fairview Middle School, Gerry Griffith, knew me then, and saw my transition when he became my principal at Colonel White High School, where I became an All-American and four-time All-Southeast Conference sprinter. He’s been to two of my comedy shows in the Dayton area, and told me last week how proud he was.”

According to Griffith, now principal at Stivers, “I saw so much growth in Mark - he was always a character, and impressed me even when he was doing what he shouldn’t have been. I was glad to see that he was blessed with track, where he had a lot of good influences to help him out, and it’s good to see him now.”

Gregory, who went to college on a track scholarship, says “I wasn’t the kind of kid who was supposed to make it until I started succeeding at track – that gave me confidence and a reason to study.”

His parents were much older than most of his friends’ parents, and the embarrassment that caused him – like many of his other personal life experiences – found its way into his routines.

The nephew of comedian and activist Dick Gregory, Mark read his uncle’s autobiography in college, “and decided to give comedy a try. I ran jokes by my trackmates, then put a show together on campus; about 50 people showed up and I got good reactions.”

A major in criminal justice, he decided that wasn’t for him and moved home. “I worked a day job, and did stand-up comedy at night and on weekends. From 2006-09, it felt like a ‘flirtation,’ but then I decided to take it seriously and quit my day job.

“I went to Chicago where they have some of the best comedy clubs in the country, and went back every month - that really helped me to hone my craft.”

In Dayton, he hosted a monthly comedy show at The Taste, and began writing for other comedians. In addition to U.S. tours, he did a USO tour in Germany for the troops.

Gregory won a major comedy competition, went on tours with David Mann, aka Mr. Brown in Tyler Perry’s plays. “Then, I went on a national tour, doing some shows with Uncle Dick.”

They attracted crowds ranging in age from 20-80. “A lot of folks over 50 remembered my uncle,” he noted.

“Uncle Dick passed away in 2017, and I told some jokes at his funeral – a lot of famous comedians were there. I saw Bill Cosby, and he was laughing hysterically. His people reached out to my cousin and I thought it would be a gamechanger in my life – but two months later, Cosby went to jail, end of that story.”

Gregory moved to New York the following year. “I still toured, and would get on 3-to-4 stages a night. I was at the Apollo in January 2019, before COVID hit.

“During the COVID lockdown, I reached out to do virtual shows and online comedy workshops. When things started opening up, we were doing outdoor comedy in parking lots and rooftops, where we’d have to pause before a punchline every time a train went by.”

Now, he’s starting his second year of the comedy workshop, has done taped comedy specials streaming on Amazon Prime and Apple TV, has begun traveling again, and is writing jokes for other comedians and scriptwriting.

“I’ve shown my script for a sitcom to some famous comedians who say they’ll produce it for me when it’s done.”

In short, Mark Paul Gregory, who “wasn’t supposed to make it,” has. Unfortunately, his parents had passed away by 2005 and never got to see his shows – but they remain in his acts, which he says “are about 95% autobiographical.”

Contact this writer at virgburroughs@gmail.com.

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