Marina Orsag: the Croatian comedy master

Marina’s road to her stand-up career began at the end of 2004 when her best friend saw a poster for acting stand up comedy workshops run by Slavica Knežević. She called Marina and said: “If you do not attend those workshops, I will never speak to you again.” Naturally, Marina attended the workshops and her first public appearance was on a crowded boat “Papillon” on river Sava on 24 April 2005. This appearance was followed by numerous performances throughout Croatia and abroad.

In November 2006, Marina started open mic nights on Mondays under the title “I hate Mondays” at “Purgeraj” club in Zagreb which are still being held today. The concept of those shows is that anyone may apply and the audience chooses the winner. Those nights and Marina’s mentoring throughout the years led to the formation of around twelve professional stand-up comedians who regularly perform today. In the next few years of her career, in addition to stand-up performances, she organized eight festivals in different cities, had a nation-wide tour in Croatia, organized tournaments in dodgeball and human-sized Ludo, as well as various humanitarian campaigns, she performed as a host at numerous events and cooperated with various NGOs and festivals. Quite unexpectedly, those engagements also included a tour of all prisons and detention centres in Croatia.

In addition to Croatia, where she even performed before the then president Stipe Mesić, she won audiences in all former Yugoslav states where she now performs regularly. After numerous regular appearances in clubs around Zagreb and after the number of comedians continued to grow, Marina concluded it was time for Zagreb to have its first comedy club. With her partner from Slovenia, Andrej Težak, she started the whole story and on 1 April 2011 they opened the first Croatian comedy club “Studio Smijeha” at Vlaška Street 92. During opening and “construction”, they were greatly assisted by their colleagues from the association “Studio Smijeha”, most of all Goran Furjan and Tihomir Paravina. Simultaneously with the opening of the club, they started to cooperate with the stand-up comedy scene in Serbia that still thrives today and after a certain period of cooperation, Marina started to realize that humour was an excellent weapon against prejudice, so she started working on just such projects. The first in line was a festival called “The Revolution of Balkan Awareness” starring comedians from the entire Balkan region.

The festival was followed by the project “KAJ BRE” intended to deconstruct prejudice regarding Croatia-Serbia relations, the project “LAUGH OUT PROUD” to combat homophobia and finally the project “FEMME FRONTAL” with Marina’s colleagues Jelena Radanović and Miranda Lončar.

At the beginning of 2012, Marina received an invitation from London to perform at the international conference for stand-up comedians as the first representative from Croatia. In addition to London, she also performed in Budapest, Amsterdam, Sofia and Barcelona.

On one fun night in 2014, she had an ideal for a project called “Laughquake”, which she hopes will soon become a global event. The idea is to have free stand-up performances for citizens in the open in numerous cities around the world at the same time, so that as many people as possible laugh at the same time and send a large amount of positive energy throughout the world. In 2014, Laughquake was held in Zagreb, Karlovac, Rijeka, Čakovec, Umag and London, and this year they will be joined by Belgrade, Pančevo, Ohrid, Sofia, Birmingham and Manchester.

Marina is currently the director, or as she likes to call it “maid of all work”, of the only stand up club in Croatia – “Studio Smijeha” where she performs as part of the regular program, on theme nights and with authorial solo performances “One Woman Show”, “Yes, I Said It” and “Five Feet of Height, an Hour and a Half of Laughter”. She is the creative designer behind all theme shows held at Studio Smijeha – Sextra Large, 7 Deadly Sins, The Men Show, Žižancija and many others.

You can watch Marina live at The Comedy Club Sofia on 25 October during the Iternational comedy Festival Sofia.

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