A Canadian Show Business Legend!
Marla at the Famous Original Yuk Yuk's on Bay Street in Toronto ON
"When I was 14 and saw Marla Lukofsky on stage at Yuk Yuks for the first time, I laughed so hard I fell off my chair (that was a first) and it changed my life. No less than that. My dad had died when I was 12 and my mom moved us from New York to Toronto when I had just turned 14...My twin sister Jane and I were lost - with our new York accents - having to make new friends and acclimate to a new world. One Saturday night in mid-December, about a month after having moved up, we all went to Yuk Yuks (My mom, my brother, my sister Jane, and I) I still remember the table we had – the corner table toward the front with a great view of the stage. I remember the night because it transformed my family in one set – Marla’s. We had been sad, still in grief, and struggling individually and as a family – all the opening acts were great. But Marla took the stage with her guitar and her great life-force, and she was so funny and so talented – we all laughed so hard, I swear it was the tonic we had desperately needed for two years.
I will always remember that, and I will always be grateful to her – it inspired me to be a standup comic – and that night and Marla showed me that humor truly can mend a broken heart. xo” – Katie Ford, Screenwriter (Miss Congeniality), Comic
“When I first came to Toronto, I heard about Mike McDonald...but when I first SAW Marla, she rocked the room as hard as anyone I had ever seen. Damn Shame that she doesn't get the recognition she deserves. A true pioneer in the Canadian Comedy Industry.” – Kenny Robinson, Canadian Comedy Legend
“Marla Lukofsky is one of a kind, she has her own sense of humour and is ahead of her time. She is fearless and has taken chances throughout her career. I hope Marla makes a Jazz Album at some point.” – Ori Dagan, Jazz Singer, Booking Agent for Jazz Singers
“The first time I saw Marla Lukofsky perform comedy, she had me howling out loud at a routine she did called ‘The Wizard of Oz in 3 Minutes’. It was silly, funny, and very clever. Marla’s brilliantly funny but an even nicer person.” – Ted Woloshyn, Radio, TV and Podcast Personality (Newstalk 1010, CHFI, Off the Wol)
“Marla and I deal in absurdity. We’re both known as off-the wall comics.”
– Howie Mandel, Comedian
“When Marla started there was a lack of women in comedy. She was a trailblazer. Her impressions were brilliant. She’s done it all; live stand-up, tv & film acting, commercials, voice overs and more recently singing jazz. She leaves others on the sidelines.”– Kevin Steinberg: LA and Canadian Actor
While I was a teenager, taking comedy writing and acting classes, Ms. Marla Lukofsky was already making a name for herself, first in the Toronto folk music scene and then in the comedy scene.
Below is an early article on young rising star, Marla Lukofsky
During the late 1970’s and early 80’s, I spent most Friday/Saturday nights at the famous original Yuk Yuk’s on Bay Street in Yorkville watching the acts on stage. Being in awe of these talented performers and extremely shy, I never approached them after the shows. I knew I was seeing future greatness on stage. These acts included Howie Mandel, Jim Carrey, Marla Lukofsky, Simon Rakoff, Larry Horowitz, Lawrence Morgenstern, and Steve Shuster.
By the time I did my first set at Yuk Yuk’s in 1983, Ms. Marla Lukofsky had moved on to bigger and greater things in television, radio, voice overs and movies. But the comics that were still around Yuk Yuk’s always talked about how talented, original, and brave Marla Lukofsky was on stage.
Again, our paths did not cross but I remember seeing her on shows such as ‘The Dini Petty Show’, ‘The Alan Thicke Show’, ‘The Shirley Solomon Show’ and more. As Marla says, “I give great couch.”
In fact, around 1985, I was interviewed on a segment of Global TV’s ‘That’s Life’ starring Ann Romer and Peter Feniak. The crew told me that Marla Lukofsky did an interview for their show a year before and was hilarious. No pressure on me. LOL
Ms. Marla Lukofsky had press from every major newspaper across Canada and the smaller ones, too. The Globe and Mail called Marla “A suave stylish comedian,” the Toronto Star said she’s “A captivating story teller with the lightning-quick comic timing of a mercilessly cutting stand-up and the expansive narrative tug of a raconteur.”, the Toronto Sun called her “the reigning queen of comedy” and “brilliant and one of the most hilarious impressionists around”, the Ottawa Citizen says, “Her solo routine is a side-splitter, almost too fast to follow,” The Montreal Gazette states, “Lukofsky’s act is one of the most hilarious to ever play the club” (the club being Montreal’s Yuk Yuk’s) and The Winnipeg Free Press says “Just Talking Gets Laughs.”
The USA press was noticing Ms. Lukofsky’s shows too, with mentions in ‘The Washington Post’ and the ‘San Francisco Examiner’ as well as the ‘Detroit Free Press’. Marla was also the first female comedian to ever perform at Yuk Yuk’s Bermuda location stated the ‘Bermuda Sun’. And in the UK, Scotland’s ‘The Scotsman’ loved Marla’s performance representing Canada at the Mayfest Festival held in Glasgow, calling her “a diminutive, dynamic Michelle Shocked on speed.” Gossip columnists like Montreal’s Thomas Schnurmacher and Toronto’s George Anthony loved mentioning Marla’s hithers and tithers but it was Toronto Sun’s Sylvia Train in particular, who was an enthusiastic fan of Marla’s accomplishments. “Whenever I had a show or a TV taping or filming a movie, whether in or out of town, Sylvia Train’s column followed my whereabouts in the press. I owe her a lot.”
Tony Dillistone, writer, producer of TV and movies remembers, “I first saw Marla Lukofsky perform at a great monthly industry variety show called Curtain’s Up. Anyone who was in showbiz at the time was there. She may have been the only stand-up comic invited to perform come to think of it. Each time she was on stage, she blew me away. Her impressions were hilarious and her act, clever and quirky. She was ground-breaking and a definite stand-out in the crowd of performers. I’ve been a fan ever since. Back in the 80’s, Marla’s face and voice was everywhere. Radio like CBC’s Basic Black and Vicki Gabereau Show, interview shows like Alan Thicke, films like Honeymoon, Midday on CBC TV, game shows like Baloney, you name it, she was on it. Her material was as brilliant live as it was on these other platforms. Very respected in the biz. Since I live and work on the west coast now, producing movies and TV, I can’t catch her shows live but I love watching her entertaining videos on Facebook. She deserves loads of credit for contributing to the comedy scene in our country. She’s a Canadian treasure.”
You heard it folks. Like Tony said, whether in the press, on radio or on TV, Marla Lukofsky’s name and face was everywhere in Canada.
“There was a time during the mid 80’s being so prominently featured in comedy clubs and having national Television exposure on CBC’s news show Midday where I was a regular last word humorist columnist, completing 100 segments on that show, when I’d walk into local restaurants like Bemelmans after a late show at Yuks and a waiter would come up to me and ask, “What table would you prefer Ms. Lukofsky and by the way, I loved your show at Yuk Yuks last month” or “I loved your segment today on Midday.” Marla even had a cancer patient stop her on the bus and say “the only thing that gets me and everyone else at the hospital through our chemo treatments is your Midday segment. It’s the highlight of our day.” That made Marla’s day, too.
“Never mind the press. I knew I had truly made it when my Parents said their name was LUKOFSKY, and people started to ask them, “Do you know Marla Lukofsky the famous comedian?” and they proudly said, “That’s our daughter” with a twinge of shock that I had really made it in the field they did not want me to go into.”
Even a natural talent like Ms. Lukofsky had to work really hard to be accepted in the boy’s club that was stand-up comedy in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. Marla remembers, “1 performed at bars, dumps, comedy clubs, auditoriums, malls. I played places that called me a ‘Dirty Jewess’. I was actually a touch impressed that the fella got my sex right. I played places that threw handfuls of pennies at me. I responded with, ‘Good, now I can take the bus home.’ That was a bar in Calgary. I played places that threw toilet paper rolls at me. My response? ‘Don’t you know I only use 3-ply?’ That was the 2nd night in Calgary. Sounds like Calgary’s a tough place. I opened for performers like the ‘Welcome Back Kotter’ star, Gabe Kaplan, Phoebe Snow, and Gloria Steinem, and I’ve shared the bill with Jim Carrey, Dana Carvey, Howie Mandel, Kids in the Hall, and Sherri Shepherd. I’ve been around.”
Barri Cohen, award-winning documentary filmmaker, who was a young barista at the original Yuk Yuk’s on Bay Street in Toronto, states “Marla’s impressions were amazing, her voice, her professionalism were outstanding. She’s an old school class act. My father adored her!” Cohen continues, “Marla took a lot of crap from the boys, on the road and in the clubs but she rose above it all to get the job done. She’s a survivor.”
Karen Hines, award winning playwright, actor/writer/director, was another seventeen-year-old waitress at the original Yuk Yuk’s on Bay Street in Toronto and states, “Marla was the only female comic I saw perform at Yuk Yuk’s at that time, except maybe Sandra Bernhard. Marla had a killer set, very wild, very theatrical, and it was inspiring: made me feel I could maybe do something in comedy. I got to meet her at a couple of parties and she was very cool and friendly to us younger ones. That’s all we needed."
One of the biggest gigs in the earlier part of Marla’s career, was a huge International TV show filmed at Hamilton Place called ‘The Palace’ with host Jack Jones. Phyllis Diller, one of stand-up comedy’s icons, was also on the show.
Lukofsky recalls, “In the lineup was of one of my favorite comedians, Phyllis Diller. It was a top-notch show and very memorable. There was a full orchestra behind me. I had my own dressing room. I did my act. Got an encore. Had Hollywood agents knocking on my dressing room door saying, ‘Who are you? You’re great. Here’s my card. Call me when you get to LA.’ (The only problem was that I wasn’t ready to move to LA… back then.) I went to the green room to watch the rest of the show. Phyllis Diller was now on stage. Someone in the green room turned to me and said,
‘Marla, Phyllis Diller watched you on the TV monitor while you were on stage.’
‘Did she say anything?’ I asked.
‘Yeah’ he replied. She said “The Kid’s Good!”.
Marla’s name became so popular and ubiquitous that for 3 consecutive years she was hired to host the Canadian Music Awards for Socan aka Procan along with JD Roberts. The organization stated that she was the only host that ever delivered exactly what they wanted.
Marla Lukofsky certainly took the Canadian Entertainment industry by storm from the first time she stepped on stage at the renowned Riverboat Coffee House ]. In 1973, Marla got tired for performing in her bedroom and called up The Riverboat to ask for a spot. Quite the gutsy move for a teenage kid with no prior experience. She lucked out as the opening act had cancelled for that night. Marla had bought herself $15 guitar 2 years prior. “It was so badly constructed that it made my fingertips bleed so I kept playing with Band-Aids wrapped around them.”
During those 2 years Ms. Lukofsky taught herself guitar and the songs came pouring out. Marla remembers, “It was a very creative time in my life. There were sad songs, funny songs, chord progressions that I can’t even recall, and I just couldn’t put that guitar down. My hands were smaller at the time, so I developed new ways to play certain chords like the awkward infamous ‘G’ chord. I played and played upstairs in my bedroom for hours on end. Nothing could tear me away from my music and writing songs and thinking of funny things to say. By the time I was 16, I was ready. At least that’s what I told myself. I had learned every Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and James Taylor song available. I was a seasoned professional, in my own mind. I thought of where I’d always dreamed of performing.
The Riverboat. I mean, why not start at the top. So one night I called them up. After all, I was a veteran of musical talent according to my bedroom walls. I’ll never forget that phone call. The Riverboat’s phone rang. My stomach got tight and gassy. A man answered the phone and I went right into my spiel.
‘Hi…My name’s Marla Lukofsky and I’m a funny folksinger and I’d like to get booked there. How do I go about it?’
‘When can you get here? Our opening act just cancelled.’
‘Fine, see you then.’
I was there in 20. I had nothing to lose. I figured, if the Riverboat was good enough for Joni Mitchell, then it was good enough for me. But this time I came with my brand-new guitar and oh it smelled pretty. My First gig ever, was about to take place at the best place in town. The year was 1973. Biff Rose was the featured act.” Biff Rose featured.”
Marla was so excited, nervous, and had stage fright before performing at The Riverboat that she spent more time in the washroom than in the green room.
“Once they called my name and I heard the audience clapping, I got off the toilet, pulled up my pants, stepped on stage and suddenly felt calm, strangely very calm.
I performed my funny little tunes and the audience smiled and occasionally chuckled, but it was when I talked in between the songs, telling them what happened to me that day and particularly in the toilet just now, that audience started laughing out loud. This back and forth of song first and then talking became my pattern. When I was finished the set, the manager ran up to me and said, ‘You’re not a singer, you’re a comic.’ It was like a scene from Funny Girl.”
But before Yuk Yuk’s was even conceived, Marla Lukofsky was working the circuit. She wasn’t satisfied with playing just the folk clubs. She hit any and every club there was around town that had a comedy night. In 1975, the first real comedy club opened up. Friar’s Tavern’s drawing room at Yonge and Dundas called The Improv with host Gene Taylor, where a core group of comedians and entertainers showed their wares. There was Steve Shuster and Larry Horowitz and then there was Marla Lukofsky with her guitar, two mics, (one for each pair of lips as she said) her jokes and impressions, and sealing the deal by blowing them away with The Wizard of Oz in 3 minutes. It was a one-two punch to the audience. They didn’t know what hit them.
Rob Cowan, Radio Personality, Voice Actor, states “When Rick Moranis and I were comedy partners, we had the temerity to show up at Gene Taylor’s Improv, downstairs in the old Friar’s Tavern to face our first audience. Gene agreed to put us on that night but not until all the regulars had performed. Before we went on, we were treated to the comedy stylings of people like Art Nefsky, Peter Gross, Steve Shuster, and this tiny bundle of energy who knocked it out of the park with a slick and polished show that included her classic and hilarious ‘Wizard of Oz in 3 minutes’ routine. Not only did we have to follow Marla Lukofsky…we had to live up to the bar she had set. Quite a night.”
Night after night, Lukofsky kept hitting the Yuk Yuk’s stage, honing her craft and making it as perfect as she could get it. One night Martin Short and Second City owner, Andrew Alexander came in and stood at the back of Yuks. Rumor had it they were scouting for talent. But the truth was that Short had seen Marla’s show before and wanted Andrew to see it, too. After her set, Andrew Alexander offered Marla a spot in the Second City troupe. She turned him down. Then he offered her her own room at the Second City Firehall and work it 6 nights a week with different material monthly. She turned him down. Then he offered her a place in the touring group at Deerhurst, Ontario. That she took. That union lasted 3 months before they ‘realized I wasn’t Andrea Martin’ as Marla likes to put it, and decided to go their separate ways so that Marla could go back to working the nightclub circuit, preferring to do it as a solo act.
This was how the almost 50-year entertainment journey started for the incredibly talented Marla Lukofsky. She was one of the first women doing stand-up in Canada. Marla not only opened the door for other female comedians in Canada, she kicked them off their hinges. Whether the new generations of comedy performers realize it or not, Ms. Lukofsky was a pioneer in the industry. Whether you’re Male, Female, Ethnic, LGBTQ+ or BIPOC, Marla was there before YOU to make it easier for the performers that followed. She was the first woman to do the seminal Yuk Yuk’s Cross-Canada Comedy Tour. She was the first Canadian female to headline in Bermuda, Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Hamilton and Ottawa. Her name and face were everywhere. Marla’s quick-talking style and commitment to taking chances on stage and big chances at that, came naturally to her. She’s called a natural, has panache, side-splitting, comedy flows out of her, and she is fearless on and off stage.
Marla was the first female stand-up performer to pack up her very successful Canadian career and move to Los Angeles in 1990. Having performed with every heavyweight in comedy during her generation, this again was a gutsy move. But then Marla Lukofsky has been reaching for the stars since her first performance at The Riverboat. She constantly reinvents herself and makes everything look easy, from folk singing, to stand-up comedy, to voice overs for radio, TV and cartoons, through to acting in movies and TV, to hosting music awards, to becoming a cookie business entrepreneur, a keynote speaker, a published writer, a TED Talk speaker, and most recently a jazz singer and an entertaining humorous one at that.
So how did I finally meet Marla Lukofsky? Great questions, folks. And it exemplifies who Marla is as a person. In March 2021, I broke my right arm very badly, had two operations and a dangerous infection. When I posted about this on Facebook, the first person to reach out to me was Marla. As I stated before, I was a fan and we had mutual friends, I saw her on stage when I was a teenager, but we never performed on the same shows.
There was Marla asking me what she could do to help. Told me about her personal health issues, and the fights she had with the medical community. Now it was not just one message, and in fact we communicated on a regular basis from that moment forward. I was extremely touch but this out pouring of kindness from Marla. I later learned from Marla’s friends that she is the kindest and most compassionate person in the world.
Sandy Offenheim, Children’s Performer and Recording Artist states, “Marla’s a brilliant comedian. We first met at Synagogue when our parents died and we were saying mourner’s prayers for the year. Even though she was sad, I heard her murmur a clever comment under her breath one day and I said ‘OMG, You’re funny.’ We ended up becoming fast friends. Since then, I’ve seen her comedy shows, her jazz shows and her cancer keynotes. Whatever she creates, she puts her unique brand of humour in it because she has a unique way of looking at the world. Whether it's her impression of the iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaner bouncing off the walls or her YouTube TikTok video of being hurt by her Amazon Alexa’s insults over Marla’s new haircut, she makes any situation absolutely hysterical.”
Tonya Williams- actress and founder/executive director Reelworld Screen Institute says, “Marla was the first female comic I ever saw in Canada. She was able to take simple experiences of her day and turn them into hilarious moments – she knew how to read the audience and she adjusted to them. Then I got to know her and realized she was not only funny, but one of the most open and honest people I’ve ever met. This was back in the late 70's - early 80’s when women were not welcomed on comedy stages – she was brave and earned her place with the men and by doing so, carved out a new space for the women who followed in her footsteps!”
Ms. Marla Lukofsky was born and raised in Toronto and is a proud Canadian Entertainer, but in 1990 she packed up her dreams and accomplishments and moved to Los Angeles. “I had hoped to become a STAR in the US, but I became a WAITRESS instead and not a good one either, but for what I couldn’t serve up quickly, I made up for with the size of my big personality. In short, I made the customers laugh.” Marla loved Los Angeles and it became home.
Marla had many adventures in Los Angeles including almost losing her life during the notorious January 17th, 1994, Los Angeles Earthquake also known as the Northridge Earthquake The brave and spunky Ms. Lukofsky ran from her apartment just after 4:30am (PST) as the building was collapsing around her. Marla even saved a next-door neighbour she had never met, except for hearing the neighbour’s knocks on Marla’s adjoining wall telling her to turn her TV volume down even though it was only on 2 out of 10. But Marla still came to the rescue and carried this woman on her back, down a crumbling, disintegrating, swaying exterior staircase held together by two metal rods, to safety, all the while saying to this stranger, “We’re gonna get through this.” Due to the shock of this disaster, Marla lost chunks of her memory for names, numbers, and even parts of her act, but slowly and with great steadfast efforts, these parts started coming back.
“A year later while visiting my family in Toronto, I met that same earthquake woman again, but this time at The Jerusalem Restaurant on Eglinton Ave. I walked in with my two sisters, waited in line for a table and saw through the crowd this woman sitting with another woman who turned out to be her mother. Our eyes met, and she shouted out loud, “Mommy, there’s the woman who saved my life in the earthquake” while pointing to me. My sisters jaws became ajar, and they said in unison, “OMG, it really happened.” And I said, “I told you so.”
While in Los Angeles, Marla performed in regular comedy clubs and bars as well as many smaller clubs and ‘joints’ as she likes to call them. Her favourite was ‘The Rose Tattoo’ in West Hollywood where Marla performed weekly. Marla was devoted to The Rose Tattoo and they were to her. The feelings of adoration were mutual.
“One of my comic colleagues there was Sherri Shepherd who went on to become a regular on The View with Whoopi Goldberg and many TV shows and movies. At the time, Sherri didn’t have enough material to get a headliner set, so she was my opening act and we toured around several clubs within a two-hour radius of LA proper. We had fun and got along very well. I really liked Sherri. She was always very kind and supportive to me and I loved her act, too. She was and still is very funny. We had a mutual admiration thing going on.”
During the 90’s, Marla kept flying back and forth from LA to Toronto to do more radio and TV commercials, act in movies like ‘Zero Patience’, voice animation series like ‘Rupert the Bear’, ‘Care Bears’, ‘Sylvanians’, ‘Alf Tales’ as well as perform in some highlighted stand-up gigs at the ‘Winter Garden’s Theatre’, ‘The Queen’s Bedroom’ and ‘The Molson Canadian Comedy Relief Festival’
Below is Andrew Clark’s "Eye Magazine" article ‘Mini Mistress of Mirth’
“I’ll never forget that day in 1992. I was in Toronto for the summer, working the scene. I decided to walk home from downtown while contemplating my life’s work, wondering where I truly belonged and should I stick with it. As I approached the famous Casa Loma Castle on Spadina Rd. a cool breeze suddenly blew my way and a newspaper page began flying around. I watched it swirling in the wind’s current like a scene from American Beauty. Finally that newspaper page flew in my direction and got stuck on my leg. I reached down to get it off. (Germs, you know.) And then I saw what was on the page. It was this amazing featured article of ME. Headlined, ‘Marla Lukofsky: The Mini Mistress of Mirth’ by Andrew Clark from Eye Magazine. Wow. To think that this paper could have been wrapping some smelly chicken scraps but instead here it was stuck on my leg in this random breeze on a hot summer’s day in Toronto. If that wasn’t a sign to keep doing what I’m doing, I don’t know what was. It was a woo woo moment for sure. All that was missing was some angel music.”
In 1998, while living in Los Angeles, just as Ms. Lukofsky was getting more notability career wise, she discovered a lump in her breast and unfortunately was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully, the Los Angeles Medical System saved Marla’s life. “They literally saved my life. There were no waiting months to get an appointment, no 15-minute time limit to talk to doctors. This was high end medical care and the doctors were always available to speak to me whether in person or on the phone or they’d call me back within the hour. And they always welcomed questions and were happy to give answers as well as copies of my test results. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced here in Toronto. Maybe I just lucked out with the best doctors ever.”
In 2001, Marla took a slight detour to Oregon to work on a relationship and continue recovering from her cancer treatments. By 2003, she was back in Toronto, to get stronger and planning to move back to Los Angeles but life stepped in, and Marla helped with her father’s health issues and his subsequent passing. A year later Marla’s Mother took ill and also passed way. “I was broken. I didn’t have the stamina to go back to LA and build my life back up again at that time, getting new agents and a home, etc. so I stayed in my apartment in Toronto to get stronger.”
Life was not finished kicking Ms. Lukofsky in the butt, or more specifically in the leg. “Six months after my mom died, while walking my dog in a park before going to synagogue to say mourner’s prayers for my mother, two dogs ran into my leg, and it broke into pieces. I was in a long cast from my hip to my toe for six months and was stuck in my apartment during all that time. I had a private caregiver during the week, and CCAC twice a week to help bathe me, but I lost my dog, my business and any hope for showbiz work.”
That business Marla mentioned was started after she moved back to Toronto. Once again Ms. Lukofsky was ahead of her time. This time in the cookie business. Marla remembers,
“I started my own cookie business, ‘Marla’s Marvels Flaxseed Cookies’ The Cookie that will move you in more ways than one, was its slogan. It took off like hot cakes. Every store kept selling out. Every woman in Toronto became addicted to my cookies. After all, they were Wheat free, dairy free, gluten free, and yet still a tasty, delightful fiber gem. It was a hit. I had orders and offers from coast to coast including Los Angeles and New York City to get the recipe or buy my business. I worked day and night. I had a goal. I had a purpose. I still had trouble remembering my featured length comedy act, and my acting career seemed on hold, and I wasn’t getting many calls for voice work either. I wasn’t thin anymore and didn’t want to be on camera, so… I stuck to the cookies and it saved my life. It focused me. Grounded me. As my dad said, ‘It keeps you out of trouble.’ I just kept making those damn cookies.” That was before the broken leg.
Recovering from a severely fractured leg, and her cookie business figuratively and literally going down the toilet, what was next for Marla Lukofsky?
While convalescing from her injury, a friend came to visit and read Marla’s cancer memoir that she wrote while living in Los Angeles. The title… ‘I’m Still Here…and so is My Hair!’. The friend suggested that Ms. Lukofsky turn it into a 1-hour speech and become a keynote speaker. And that’s exactly what she did.
Like everything else in her life, Ms. Lukofsky put all her energy into becoming a keynote speaker. While stuck in a wheelchair with a huge cast, she restructured her memoir into a powerful one-hour keynote, sent it out and started getting bookings. She not only became a keynote speaker; Marla became a hugely successful one and one of the best. And the press followed her again.
Below is Diane Flacks article titled 'Stand-up becomes inspirational'
“For the next five years, I traveled across Canada and even went to Miami, South Beach sharing my story. I got rave reviews in many newspapers, seven to be exact. Once again, my name was on the map. Not only was the press writing featured articles on me but many radio stations were interviewing me about how this all came to be, from stand-up comedy to keynote speaking and what was my message. I mean, I re-invented myself, again, and it was a hit. I was combining my two favorite traits, humour and honesty. I had a new following and it was growing. The phone kept ringing off the hook and the bookings kept coming. This time my material was making people LAUGH and CRY and LEARN. It was the best thing that came out of having cancer. That and meeting amazing people. After the hoopla calmed down about me and my cancer, things started to die down with the speaking engagements, too.”
Marla closed off that part of her life with two invitations, and important ones at that. One was from a leading doctor in India and another was from a student who saw Marla doing her keynote show at a local high school. The invitations were for the renowned ‘TED Talks’. That connection with the medical community abroad led to a slew of publications of personal non-fiction stories, essays, and prose. Lukofsky had a strong following once again and this time with the patient friendly physicians in the USA and in India. Many of her essays/stories were published in various international medical journals including Cell2Soul, International Journal User-Driven Healthcare, OJCPCD (Online Journal of Community and Person-Centred Healthcare) and Health Story Collaborative. These publications are online and circulated amongst the best medical facilities including Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Mayo Clinic, and Tuft University just to name a few.
At one of Lukofsky’s last keynote speeches in Toronto in 2014, Marla was approached by a singer who happened to be a fan of her comedy and vocal talents. She encouraged Marla to come sing at a local jazz club in town called Chalkers. Marla did just that and never looked back. About a month after reviving her singing repertoire at this local joint, a young man came up to her, bowled over by her voice, sense of humour and stage presence. It was Ori Dagan, [Jazz Singer, Booking Agent for Jazz Singers]. In 2015,Ori offered Ms. Lukofsky the featured spot to headline at a brand-new club in Toronto. It was the famed 120 Dinner in downtown Toronto.
The show was on July 3rd, Marla’s birthday, “It was like I was back in 1973, singing with funny stuff in between. I also sang songs in a strong cabaret style that brings on humor all its own or it can make them cry with the right delivery.”
The pianist backing Lukofsky up was the great Mark Kieswetter. The room quickly sold out. Suddenly it was standing room only. Half of the crowd were old followers from her decades in comedy. The other half were new music pals and acquaintances wanting to see what she had to offer on stage. One thing was for sure. Everyone was curious, asking themselves, ‘Will she still be funny?’ or ‘Can she still sing?’ or ‘Does she have what she used to have?’ The end result after Marla’s two-hour jazz comedy show was a standing ovation and an encore. She was back…and the rest is history.
In 2016 Marla was featured in the TD Toronto Jazz Festival and the press came out again. "Comic reinvents herself as jazz singer".
Below is the article by Ruth Schweitzer in 'The Canadian Jewish News'
Since the pandemic hit, back in March of 2020, Marla’s been keeping busy expanding her YouTube channel as well as her Tik Tok presence by writing, filming, and editing funny videos and posting them on social media platforms and loving every minute of it.
“I love the format of being in control of every aspect of creating videos without any attitudes to deal with. I just go with where my mind takes me with no one saying, ‘the network won’t accept that idea’. Sometimes it takes up to 50 setups for a 3-minute segment, but it fills the days of the Pandemic and it fills my heart and soul with its demand for the creative process that I continuously have eating away at me, chomping at the bit.”
So, what does the charming and talented Ms. Lukofsky do to relax?
“I watch a LOT of documentaries and dramas and the darker, the better. I’m into truth. I’m not into ‘light’ and ‘fluffy’ stuff or ‘feel good’ things or ‘dick flicks’. I rarely watch comedies or reality TV. I’m a very serious person on my own time along with this strong sense of humor within me and sometimes, strangely enough simultaneously but never as a coping mechanism. It’s just innate. And it helps me come up with new material. I also enjoy cooking and eating but not necessarily my own food and not necessarily in that order. I love patting horses and kissing big dogs and I also love spending time with my wonderful girlfriend of 3.5 years on Saturdays and Sundays. I really wanted to be on my own for the rest of my life, but she hunted me down and was persistent. I'm glad she did. How do we make it work? We live separately and that’s how we like it. It makes our weekends feel like mini holidays. We enjoy watching TV, eating, walking, talking, seeing jazz shows, sleeping and other stuff that's none of your business. Ahem.”
The next chapter in Marla’s career will surely be as exciting and successful as the previous 50 years.
“I want to get back into the jazz/ humor scene again when I feel safe to do so.
Having had a few serious bouts of Pneumonia, I have to be careful, especially during this Covid era. I also want to do more stand-up, under great conditions, with good people around me and getting the position in the lineup that I want. I don’t have much tolerance for bullshit anymore. Never did actually so it’s gotta be a bullshitless atmosphere. SMILE! I don’t think I’m asking for much. Do you?”
After Marla’s jazz shows, people would approach her and comment, “I remember seeing your act at comedy clubs and you were so funny. I even remember your jokes.” Marla confirmed. “Some people even quoted my jokes, word for word, from decades ago. I guess I made quite an impression on them and you know what? The jokes still work.” But there’s no doubting the fact that after all these decades of entertaining the troops, Ms. Marla Lukofsky was born with a mic in her hand and meant to be on stage!
“I came full circle. I started off as a singer who was funny and now, I’m singing again with an entertaining funny show. It’s been quite the run. I’ve got some scars to show for my life’s journey, but who doesn’t? As my memoir says, ‘I’m Still Here…and so is My Hair’, and because I’ve lived so long, the title of my show and memoir has been changed to, ‘I’m Still Here…and So is My Hair but Now it’s Growing on my Chin.’ Hello Laser treatments? I better make more money. Those things are expensive.”
Marla Lukofsky at the Toronto Jazz Festival in 2016 Photo by Marie Byers
Marla Lukofsky at The Comedy Bar 2017 Photo by Joanne Riven
Marla Lukofsky Promotional Shot Photo by Justine Apple
Marla Lukofsky at Spirits Bar 2017 Photo Joanne Riven
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