Marvin Thompson, notorious stand-up comedian and star of a self-produced film, died yesterday in his home in Portland from complications from pneumonia. He was 68.
Thompson, the only child of media mogul Leopold Thompson, and heir to the family fortune, used money and connections to get bookings as a stand-up comedian around North America in the 1970s. He continued to do so, despite being regularly booed and heckled.
“I used to book Marvy regularly at the Laugh Factory in Buffalo,” long-time club owner Andy Richman said. “People used to walk out during his bit, but Marvy had already paid me enough to cover every seat in the house.”
Thompson was famous for his bits about the poor quality of airline food, the difficulty he had opening prescription pill bottles, and the stickiness of movie theater flooring.
In 1976, Thompson performed a USO show for troops stationed in Korea. “The troops never seemed to relate to his humor,” retired Staff Sergeant Gregg Edwards recalled. “After the show, two soldiers committed suicide. Despite Thompson’s generous donation of a new pavilion for the troops, we couldn’t invite him back. He killed more of our boys than the North Koreans did.”
Later in life, Thompson used his fortune to produce a film starring him and written by famous comedians, 1987’s “Airline Food is Terrible.” The films never reached wide distribution. “There were funny bits in the movie, but Marvin couldn’t act, so the movie was horrible,” comedian Steven Wright recalled. “I was able to buy a lot of coke, though, so I remember those times fondly.”
Since Thompson had no heirs, as a final joke Thompson directed that his fortune be given to the Communist Party of America. Although the Communist Party accepted the money, they did not find the joke funny.