Welcome to our series On the Verge, where our contributors highlight comedians they feel are ready for their next big break. Whether they’re already working in television or still waiting to land their breakout gig, these are just some of the comedians we’d like to see more of over the coming years – ideally with a show, film, or other comedy project of their very own.
While comedy wrestling remains the small and controversial niche it’s always been, Chicago-based standup comedian Marty DeRosa has spent the better part of the last decade assembling a case for being the funniest person in the wrestling business. DeRosa became a beloved voice in 2010 when, together with ex-NWA World Heavyweight Champion Colt Cabana, he began calling the “action” on a dinky Highspots.com-produced regional federation called 5 Dollar Wrestling. DeRosa and Cabana were originally superimposed onto the bottom-right corner of the match like you’d see in its spiritual predecessor, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and it was there that Marty truly developed his blend of reverence and references that began to make waves with millennial wrestling nerds.
$5W highlights a hallmark of DeRosa’s comedy. Many of its competitors have special needs, but DeRosa and Cabana’s commentary never goes too far with their teasing and, as the company grew, deep callbacks and genuine affection for the wrestlers turned it into a cult phenomenon and gave a platform on which the men could live their dream. One, Freight Train, even had a touching documentary made about his first trip to wrestle in Europe. Most comedy in wrestling will lean – thrive, even, if you consider the lasting legacy of D-Generation X – on homoeroticism or other assorted dick jokes, but they always took care to keep it inclusive.
From there, DeRosa became Cabana’s very own Mean Gene in a YouTube series called WORST PROMO EVER!, featuring Colt blundering his way through promotional interviews for his real-world bookings. Though he’s comfortably the straight man of the act, Marty’s strong background reactions to Cabana’s lunacy are a frequent highlight.
He can now be heard on Wrestling with Depression and on the MLW Radio Network on his podcast with Sarah Shockey (who we profiled two years ago), where the two do impressions of wrestlers and interview each other. It’s a weird, wild world of interlocking imagined relationships; the latest through line in the universe has been Marty fighting the likely truth that he fathered Kyle the Choir Boy after a night out with Tanya from Taster’s, a midrange fast-casual dining establishment that the wrestlers enjoy. Last year, Marty (as Ryback) and Sarah even won an award in The Year in Comedy Podcasts. DeRosa’s impressions, particularly that of the alternate reality puroresu megamark Roman Reigns, are often pitch-perfect and crafted, again, from a place of sincerity. Fans of the show – Buddies, as they’re called – are quick to note that Marty’s interpretations have helped them grow affection for the real people he lampoons.
Marty DeRosa deserves all the credit in the world for forging an inclusive voice that’s still secure enough to be blunt. It’s one that was able to turn a group of shitty wrestlers into a heartwarming hero’s journey. It’s one that can find a way, in one of the few times in history, to effectively tell a joke about 8-year-old boys that doesn’t marginalize childhood sexual abuse. Sometimes, that voice even morphs into a goofy caricature of a kindly but braggadocious professional wrestler. And sometimes that’s all you need.