The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

October 14, 2013

Mike Randall is 'on the mark'

By HOWARD BALABAN howard.balaban@journal-register.com
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — Mark Twain came alive for a crowd of people at Albion’s First Presbyterian Church Saturday night during a one-man show.

Portrayed by Mike Randall of WKBW (Channel 7), Mark Twain Live went for nearly two hours with a brief intermission.

Charles Nesbitt, a member of the church, said he saw the show a number of years ago and thought it would be good to bring Randall into town.

“I reached out and he said yes,” Nesbitt said. “I told the church I thought it would be a nice thing to do.”

Proceeds from the event benefitted church programs.

In talking about the performance, Nesbitt said, “Mike probably does the best one-man show out there. He’s been doing it for a long time and the show speaks for itself.”

Nesbitt said the appeal of Twain is timeless.

“He’s the quintessential person when it comes to 19th Century wit,” Nesbitt noted. “He was a brilliant man, he sold a lot of books, and he was quite a character who, when he said or wrote something, it made you think.”

As fate would have it, one of Twain’s distant descendants was in the audience. Barb Navarra, of Albion, said she was related to the author on her father’s mother’s side. Her father, Leighton “Slim” Johnston, was from Groveland. His mother was descended from the Samuel Clemens family tree. Of course, Samuel Clemens was the real name of Mark Twain.

Navarra said she enjoyed the show immensely.

Orleans County Historian Bill Lattin said Randall previously did his Mark Twain Live show in the county years ago at the former Apple Grove in Medina. Last year, he performed in Carlton as Charles Dickens, Lattin noted.

The show touched on a number of topics, including politics, religion, and life in general. Humor coursed through the show, and laughter from the crowd was heard quite frequently.

After the performance, Randall recalled how he started his second career as America’s foremost author. A friend of his performed some jokes, including one in which he acted like Twain telling a ghost story. “I thought it was cool,” Randall said.

That same friend suggested that Randall go see Hal Holbrook (a Hollywood actor) perform a similar show in Toronto soon thereafter, and from then on, “I was hooked.”

Randall’s Mark Twain Live has been well received most audiences in nearly every venue in which he has performed. Those venues include Geneseo, Lockport, Fredonia, Iowa, and the New York City Metro Area.

Taking the show to what are normally smaller venues is something that Twain himself did, explained Randall.

“He went on the lecture circuit originally to make some easy money,” Randall said. “It was after that when he wrote his books.”

Twain is normally the first iconic American author people think of when asked to name one, and Dickens is normally the first British author mentioned if asked to name one from England. Randall said the two men’s work speaks for itself, and remains as timeless as ever.

Nesbitt said he needed to talk with the church to possibly schedule a return engagement with Randall, only next time as Dickens.

MORE INSIDE Howard Balaban's personal thoughts on Twain and Comedy. NEIGHBORS/