The First Couple of Minnesota Comedy

Lots of couples meet at work, but very few of those couples work on stages in comedy clubs.

Tim Harmston Photo // Wendy Maybury; Mary Mack Photo // Christina Gandolfo

Mary Mack // Photo by Christina Gandolfo; Tim Harmston // Photo by Wendy Maybury

Tim Harmston and Mary Mack, two of the best and most well-known stand-up comedians in Minnesota, also happen to be a couple. While some people may assume that two professionally funny people living under the same roof would be the stuff of reality television, it turns out they’re just like any other normal married couple from the Midwest, in the best way possible.

Sitting out on their porch on a Wednesday morning this past month, the couple chatted with us while eating breakfast, lamenting over unused Groupons and debating who is going to mow the lawn later that day. They’ve been married since September 2012, but their connection in comedy goes back to 2003 when they were both finalists in Acme Comedy Co.’s “Funniest Person in the Twin Cities” contest.

“I was living with my brother in Lino Lakes, super broke, and I saw that you could win money for being in this contest,” Mack says of her entry into stand-up comedy. “I had no idea what I was doing, so I’d wake up and I’d write something new that morning and it was awful.”

“It was pretty loose, but you were so funny in how you presented it,” Harmston adds with complete sincerity. “It looked like someone wandered in off the street and happened to end up on stage by accident.”

Acme Comedy Co. // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Acme Comedy Co. // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Harmston went on to win the contest that year, and Mack came in third. It was the launching point for both of their successful comedy careers, and also the beginning of a much deeper relationship. Six months after they shared the stage at Acme they began dating, though it was anything but common knowledge.

“We kept it a secret in early on,” says Harmston. “It was a closely guarded secret because we’d heard how other comics who had tried it had failed.”

“It’s difficult to be in a relationship with a comic,” adds Mack. “We knew that already and we didn’t need other people to tell us that too.”

While they may have kept their relationship on the down-low when it came to other comedians, their families were a whole other story.

“My mom was just happy I was dating,” Harmston says. “She fell in love with Mary the first time she met her. I think she likes you [Mary] more than me.”

“That’s the same way with my family,” Mack echoes. “They like Tim more than me. One time about five or six years ago I told my brother that I might have to break up with Tim, and he started crying.”

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Today, it’s not uncommon for the couple to share the stage at shows all across the state. This gives them a unique opportunity to spend quality time together, a luxury most comedians don’t have with their significant others.

“Our thing has always been exploring the towns we’re in when we’re on the road because we both have a curiosity about America,” says Harmston. “When we’re working together we get to be together in a cool town and see places we might not see otherwise.”

“In the last year we’ve been going on stage together sometimes, but we really didn’t do that until we were married,” Mack quickly adds. “The thing is we take a pay cut when we do shows together, and we’ve got bills to pay.”

Not only have fans had the chance to see the couple on stage, but this past month America was able to see Harmston and Mack when they were featured on an episode of NBC’s Last Comic Standing. While they didn’t advance in the competition, it gave viewers the chance to peek inside their private lives.

“People love seeing a married couple trying not to bitch at each other,” Mack says of their shared spotlight. “It makes them feel better about their own relationships.”

And with that, she heads out to the garage to fire up the lawnmower.

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