Martin Olson is an American comedy writer/TV producer, bestselling author and composer. He is known for his unusual subject matter, and is an original member of the Boston Comedy Scene. He is the adoptive father of actress Olivia Olson.
Olson has received five Emmy nominations, three for television writing and two for song writing. Olson also received an Ace Award for television writing.
In interviews for the Writers Guild of America, West's magazine Written By and thesop.org, Olson stated that as a child he saw the eccentric comedian Brother Theodore ranting and raving on The Merv Griffin Show, and from that moment on he knew he would be a comedy writer. Before his death in 2001, Brother Theodore became a fan of Olson's first book, Encyclopaedia of Hell (Feral House, 2011), and wrote one of the quotes on the book's dust cover.
Olson began writing for comedians before there were any comedy clubs in Boston. As a young man, he sent batches of jokes to Rodney Dangerfield, which were always returned with the same polite note scrawled at the bottom, "Sorry, Marty!" (According to his agent's press kit, years later when writing for Penn & Teller in Las Vegas, Olson produced comedy bits with Dangerfield and the two became friends.)
Olson first sold comedy material to the hosts of local "Gong Shows", which began his career as a comedy writer.
Olson and Boston comedy
Olson's friends Paul Barclay and Bil Downes started the first comedy club in Boston in 1977. There Olson became house piano player between acts, and also performed as a comedian for the first two years with an absurdist deadpan act, playing the guitar and hosting other comedians as his eccentric guests. Olson worked for and wrote with the comedians who became his friends - Sean Morey, Lenny Clarke, Bobcat Goldthwait, Joe Alaskey, Don Gavin, Barry Crimmins, Steven Wright, Jimmy Tingle, Denis Leary, Steve Sweeney and many others.
Olson and comedian Lenny Clarke became roommates in an apartment near Harvard Square where comedians from all over the country stayed while performing in their comedy club. Olson wrote for Clarke, who soon became the most popular comedian in Boston. Their apartment became known as The Barracks, a legendary hub of comedy and depravity that was the subject of a television special on Boston comedy in the 1980s, and also of the award-winning documentary on the Boston comedy scene When Standup Stood Out (2006) directed by filmmaker-comedian Fran Solomita.
Olson, the Ding Ho and Lenny Clarke's Late Show
Olson was the piano player for the second comedy club in the Boston area, the Ding Ho. He began showing short films he wrote and directed. This led to Olson writing Lenny Clarke's Late Show, a late-night comedy TV series on TV-38 hosted and co-written by Lenny Clarke. This bizarre, two-hour weekly show attracted a small but dedicated cult following. After two years, however, Olson and Clarke were fired for airing two controversial segments ("News for Negroes" and "The Mentally Retarded Faith Healer" featuring Bobcat Goldthwait).
Olson and the West Coast comedy scene
Olson took his tapes from the show and drove cross-country to San Francisco with comedian Don Gavin. There, by coincidence, the 1980 San Francisco Comedy Competition was starting up, which offered a first prize of $10,000. Olson helped Gavin audition and make it into the finals. There Olson met his future wife Kay Furtado, a writer who had been flown to San Francisco to coach another comedian in the competition. A year later they married in a ceremony in San Francisco by comedian Michael Pritchard, attended by all of the local comedians. Olson and his wife moved to Los Angeles where they raised two children, Casey Olson and Olivia Olson.
Writing and directing
Olson's Los Angeles home became a halfway house for comedians coming to the city to perform and audition for shows. Meanwhile Olson wrote HBO comedy performance specials, became staff writer for the Screen Actors Guild Awards for three years, wrote an award-winning series for Comedy Central in London and became head writer for many animated series voiced by his comedian friends. He was head writer for the first season of the Disney comedy series Phineas and Ferb.
Olson wrote, co-wrote or directed a number of off-beat stage plays in Los Angeles, including "The Head", "The Idiots", "I Never Knew My Father", "1958", "Torn", "The Ron Lynch Show", "The Bob Rubin Experience" and "Cold Black Heart" at various theaters, including the Comedy Central Stage, the HBO Theater and the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood.
Specializing in writing comedy specials and staging one-man shows for comedians, Olson became producer-writer for Penn & Teller on their notorious FX variety series Penn & Teller's Sin City Spectacular.
Through his Los Angeles literary agent Annette Van Duren, Olson sold comedy screenplays to Dreamworks, United Artists, Touchstone Pictures, and Warner Bros. His first spec screenplay, IQ 83, was sold to Dreamworks SKG and produced by Andrew Lazar of Mad Chance.
He wrote the satirical book Encyclopaedia of Hell, and sold the film rights to Warner Bros. through Mad Chance Productions. With Ken Kaufman and Howard Klausner, Olson co-wrote the final draft of the screenplay adaptation of his book for WB under a new title, D-Men.
Olson collaborated with special effects director Phil Tippet on the screenplay for Veronica's Daughter, with writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait on the screenplay Sightings for United Artists, with writer-comedian Rob Schneider on the screenplay Family Disorder for Touchstone, with writer-comedian Kevin Nealon on the screenplay Late Bloomer, and with Ken Locsmandi on the story and screenplay for Bronson Beak. Olson was a story writer and song-writer for Disney's TV film Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension. Olson also adapted the novel The Man Who Was Thursday, by G. K. Chesterton, as a screenplay for Andrew Lazar of Mad Chance.
In 2016, Olson was staff writer and songwriter for Disney's Milo Murphy's Law, and co-wrote the story for Nickelodeon's revival TV movie of the classic series "Rocko's Modern Life."
As an occasional actor, Olson has guest-starred in a live action sequence in SpongeBob SquarePants ("Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy V"), in "Don't Watch This Show" by director-comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, in the documentary When Standup Stood Out by filmmaker Fran Solomita, on The Tonight Show playing an Indian yogi with Bobcat Goldthwait, in various comedy web series, and in a featured role as a fundamentalist professor in the film The Anna Cabrini Chronicles by filmmaker Tawd B. Dorenfeld. Olson also plays Hunson Abadeer aka "The Lord of Evil" on Cartoon Network's Adventure Time with Finn and Jake and his real-life daughter Olivia Olson voices the role of his character's daughter, Marceline the Vampire Queen. Olson also appears in videos by Garfunkel and Oates, Melinda Hill, Katie Schwartz and Adam Scott Franklin.
Music and songwriting
Olson is a twice-Emmy-nominated songwriter, and an Annie-nominated songwriter, having written or co-written over three hundred songs produced for television or film. He has appeared as a singer on several television shows, including SpongeBob SquarePants and Phineas and Ferb. His satirical songs were regularly featured on many television series, including London Underground (Comedy Central), Rocko's Modern Life (Nickelodeon), Get That Puss Off Your Face (HBO), Camp Lazlo (CN), Penn and Teller's Sin City Spectacular (FX) and The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat (ABC). Olson has written or co-written over two hundred songs for Phineas and Ferb (Disney), as well as dozens of songs for "Milo Murphy's Law" (Disney), and eight songs for Disney's TV film Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension. Olson and Bobcat Goldthwait co-wrote the theme song for Don't Watch This Show (Cinemax).
At Disney Studios in 2011, with songwriting partners Dan Povenmire and Swampy Marsh, Olson co-wrote songs with Bobby Lopez, co-writer of Broadway's The Book of Mormon and Disney's Frozen. In 2015, Olson co-wrote five songs with Povenmire and Marsh for their film Dick! the Musical. In 2016, Olson, Povenmire and Marsh began writing songs for Disney with Mike Stoller, whom they idolized as a classic American songwriter. At Disney, Olson co-writes songs for a diverse array of singers and performers, including Clay Aiken, Chaka Khan, Jack Jones, Weird Al Yankovic, Kenny Loggins, Kate Pierson of The B-52s, Fee Waybill of The Tubes, Michael McKean of Spinal Tap, Wayne Brady of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Jack McBrayer of 30 Rock, Malcolm McDowell, Jaret Reddick of Bowling for Soup, Richard O'Brien of Rocky Horror Show, French Stewart, Ashley Tisdale, Christian Slater, Carmen Carter, Allison Janney, and his daughter, singer-songwriter Olivia Olson.
Olson first collaborated with song-writer Jeff Root on four home studio albums in the 1970s. Their independent lo-fi album Idiot's Delight (1975) was praised by Beatles producer George Martin as "the best songs on a home-recorded disc I have ever heard."
Olson's latest CD was written and recorded with his daughter Olivia Olson (July 2013) and called The Father-Daughter Album of Unspeakable Beauty, released at Comicon SD 2013. Their new album, Still Evil, has a release date Oct 9 at Comicon NYC 2016.
Olson's encyclopedic satire Encyclopedia of Hell is published by Feral House (July 2011); the film rights were bought by Warner Bros. through producer Andrew Lazar for Mad Chance. The French edition was published in 2016 by Les Editions Lapin, Paris. His notorious children's book The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia (July 2013), published by Abrams Books, reached #5 on the New York Times Best-Seller List. His latest Abrams book, The Enchiridion/Marcy's Super-Secret Scrapbook, was cowritten with his daughter Olivia, and released at Comicon NYC 2015. Olson also wrote two collections of poems, Hitler's Dog and Imaginary History of Reality.
2016 Emmy Nomination for Primetime Animation "Phineas and Ferb," 2010 Emmy Nomination for Songwriting, 2009 Emmy Nomination for Primetime Songwriting, 1997 Annie Award Nomination for Songwriting in an Animated Series.
- Olson, Martin (2005). IQ 83 (PDF). Martin Olson.
- Olson, Martin (2011). Encyclopaedia of Hell. Feral House.
- Olson, Martin (2013). Adventure Time Encyclopaedia. Abrams Books.
- Olson, Martin (2007). Hitler's Dog: The Poems of Martin Olson. Martin Olson.
- Olson, Martin (2010). Imaginary History of Reality - Selected Poems. Martin Olson.
- Sheckley, Robert; Olson, Martin (2007). On the Good Ship Mandelbrot. Martin Olson.
- Screenplays by Martin Olson
- Interviewing Comedy Writer Martin Olson - Retrieved: 8 April 2009
- Mp3 Jeff Root - The Secrets of Love tradebit.com - Retrieved: 8 April 2009
- 60th Prime Time Emmy Noms: Music cinemusic.net - Retrieved: 8 April 2009
- Martin Olson at the Internet Movie Database
- Official website
- Trainor, Lisa (Kiczuk) (February 27, 1999). "Lisa (Kiczuk) Trainor interviews Martin Olson, writer for Rocko's Modern Life". The Rocko's Modern Life FAQ. Pat Trainor. Retrieved March 10, 2009.