Martin Martinson is an odd 40-ish-year-old guy who lives with his mother and has an Internet-based business making Civil War figurines out of meat.
Martinson is just one of Tim Beasley’s characters he portrays onstage as a member of FST Improv.
“He’s a strange dude,” Beasley laughs.
Beasley is also an odd 40-ish-year-old guy, but he doesn’t live with his mother and, considering he’s a “sometimes vegetarian,” it’s safe to say he isn’t making miniature Ulysses S. Grants out of ground beef. He is, however, an emergency-room nurse with a clever sense of humor.
In 2001, Beasley found an ad seeking students for an improv class taught by Rebecca Langford (now Rebecca Hopkins, director of FST Improv). One thing led to another, and he and 15-or-so fellow students were performing free shows for their friends and family, then for the public. It slowly evolved into the improv troupe that it is today.
Beasley, along with Hopkins and Christine Alexander, is one of three remaining comedians left from the original FST Improv group.
Beasley isn’t known as the type of cast member who hogs the spotlight. He’s the quiet guy — or as quiet as a comedian can be — who once in a while delivers that perfect one-line zinger with a faint drawl that only a man from Montgomery, Ala., could.
The one-liner art form takes a well-honed balance of cerebral, visceral and impeccable timing. It’s the type of humor developed by a guy who in high school was almost voted funniest but walked away superlative-free, instead.
“I’m the smart-ass,” he says proudly.
And he has been that way since junior high, when he discovered he was funny.
“(I was) devious. Everybody thought I was the good child, but I got away with more than they knew,” he says.
When Beasley was 10 years old, he would make long-distance calls to “The Gong Show” trying to get on the NBC late-night talent show hosted by Chuck Barris.
“It would show up on the phone bill, and (my mom) never knew I did it,” Beasley said. “She would call the phone company and cuss them out, and I didn’t tell her until many years later.”
Beasley thinks his mother, Brenda, inspired his humor.
“She was really good at one-liners and sarcasm that would come from nowhere and shock you,” he says.
Beasley doesn’t typically like standup comedy but does enjoy Jerry Lewis, Bob Newhart and Ellen DeGeneres.
“Physical comedy, if it’s done really well (makes me laugh),” he says. “Because I’m not physical, it kind of amazes me when it’s done right.”
And Beasley would rather be sitting than “standing up,” anyhow.
“I’m known as the non-physical member of the group; everyone deemed me that,” he said about the running joke among the ensemble members. “They say, ‘Get Tim a chair, he wants to sit down.’”
Though he lacks the high energy he considers to be a characteristic of a good improv actor, he’s still rolling in the laughs.
“This is my therapy,” Beasley explains.
Beasley spends two 12-hour shifts a week as an ER triage nurse at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota. He’s been working in the emergency room for eight years; he was in intensive care for 10 years before that. Beasley says intensive care is depressing — he prefers the pace of the ER.
“People are in and out; that’s a bonus, I think — there’s no real attachment,” he says.
One of the questions people often ask is if he gets good material working there.
“(We get) strange complaints like, ‘I have termites crawling all over me,’ or people calling an ambulance for a toothache. It’s stuff normal people probably wouldn’t go to the ER for.”
But, for Beasley, ER jokes are as off-limits as jokes about Sept. 11.
“Either people wouldn’t believe it, or they think you are being mean,” he says.
Beasley is far from mean.
But his cast members can’t expect “Nurse Beasley” to come to the rescue when someone gets hurt. The last time a cast member slipped and fell down, he just laughed like everyone else.
On the other hand, he has had to use his FST skills in the ER.
“There’s a lot of improv that goes on in the ER,” he says. “You never know what’s coming next.”
And, sometimes, comedy has a curing effect on him.
“Sometimes I’m driving (to a show) and I’m like, ‘Oh God, I don’t want to do it tonight,’” he says. “Then there’s something about the audience that just turns it on, and I remember, ‘Oh yeah! This is fun!’”
IF YOU GO
Sarasota Improv Festival 2012
See two days of non-stop comedy featuring 11 troupes from all over the nation performing 45-minute sets.
When: 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, July 20; and 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 21
Where: Cabaret and Keating theaters, 1241 N. Palm Ave.
Cost: $10 per performance; $49 weekend pass
For more information: visit floridastudiotheatre.org or call 366-9000
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