Pain from parents. The pious. And the patriotic.

Mark Roman Empire
5 min readJul 13, 2019


My food, clothing, shelter, and letters

I earn from entertaining. Entertaining strangers.

Sometimes as a costumed busker on Hollywood Boulevard.

Sometimes an actor working on his SAG-AFTRA union card.

But how could this possibly be?

Industry brains explode upon discovery.

Boulevard characters are mentally ill and homeless!

Actors are — well at least they can kinda dress.

Sure, I can cosplay familiar primary colors, easy for everyman to digest.

But why not improv? A kind of Don Rickles! But in public spaces! As court jest.

Hijacking what feels vaguely familiar to locals and tourists in stride

Performing without the protection of royal guards, bouncers or being inside.

Within 30 days Jeselnik on Comedy Central wanted to know:

Thomas Lennon, how you feel, this guy pretending to be you from that show!

“He’s a really big dude, he’s looks really good, he’s a lot bigger than me”

“Everytime he gets 2 dollars, shouldn’t I have one?” Tom did plea

The OG Lt. Dangle just gloriously validated me on cable television!

It’s been 6 years. Why do I have absolutely NO representation?

Worse, Hollywood representation I do not even seek!

Can shards of my life offer explanation? Let’s take a peek:

Homework, Sunday School and “I’ll be an Eagle Scout”.

Star Wars? No, let’s watch Joni find Jesus and paint with her mouth.

See, my father was a Dick, and not just long ago:

“The Dick and Marilyn Show” led by a “Richard”? “Shut up Marilyn, no!”

I was kicked out of college, the student editor without a clue

By a father of not just one God-fearing family value

Not my father biological — is it too late to test?

King George of Hillsdale College. You know, the “Harvard of the Midwest”!

During high school chemistry class I’d read National Review

Others might opt for Playboy, not exactly a family value

Like drunk driving and sleeping with his son’s wife?

But I’m on the FBI’s Subversives List. Is that for life?

George Roche died with diabetes and in disgrace.

I’m still alive! And I can run per my own tastes.

Like Mulder, I want to believe, even in the latest team.

Failed to discuss while a uniform in that one Californication scene.

Walked, in a glorious frame, right past a pensive David Duchovny.

Hey, can Scully on my FBI status at least do an autopsy?

The truth is out there. And it is brutal.

Why could I never be represented by Boston Legal?

Back in the days of America Online and dial-up modems

No GoFundMe in my case against Hillsdale’s millions

Just a former professor, not quite Atticus Finch, and “You’ve Got Mail!”

Not yet Catholic, but a legal Mary I was persuaded to hail!

And … fail. Ruled a “celebrity” by a federal judge dismissing

A decade before my extra roles in The Big Short, and Adam Ruins Everything.

Mother taught me to read. Father learned me how to hate.

Both want me to pray and find a good born-again Christian mate.

After Hillsdale, I remained in Michigan.

I guess you could say, a child’s way of taking a Mulligan.

Like a zombie Custer, oblivious of his own defeat.

My Paradise Lost was The Matrix. But Morpheus I had yet to meet.

I quickly found an older woman. With PTSDs like me!

We didn’t know what to call them. We argued into the AM. Past three.

Six years later we had a son.

Six months later she was done.

She took him and left for Washington.

Back to California, a Cannonball Run to which I gladly rose.

My Michigan decade finally came to a close.

An accidental mortgage broker seeking larger amounts.

As Depeche Mode sang Everything Counts.

Why can’t I be a better salesman? Who can obey?

My silver spoon, type A, soon to be ex-fiance wondered. Back in the day.

She was born Catholic. Months of classes made my religion align.

She never did make one single comedy performance of mine.

The Big Short slammed my life like a tsunami reaching the East Bay.

Now I’m broke. Hey, I wasn’t that into selling mortgage loans, anyway.

Get paid, fed & educated on a film or television location or set.

Or pay to perform for disgruntled comics bred to not laugh at your tender set.

Economics dictated my early actor path, my artist within suddenly aware,

A near stranger’s parents in Orinda ill, his Santa Monica condo he could spare.

Party? I really wouldn’t know. Background acting gave me the lay of the land.

Sally Field needs me to sit while she knits. Nicolas Cage needs me to stand.

Busking and Runyon replaced suicide ideation and hospitals that bill.

My marble menagerie of well-intended traumas relentlessly remain. Still.

Leaving Las Vegas is better than a Vegas library card.

Therapy via relationships leads to ruin. That’s no canard.

Lt. Frank found his banana, his legwarmers, his citations, his voice.

Thanos happened, and so did my beard. So now I’m also Cap. Noice!

Marc Maron apologizing to podcast guests in the old garage was my rally.

Not former actors with classes to sell in the Valley.

My one-man show? Screenplay? Or series on new media?

So much to discover and learn. Mostly not on Wikipedia.

If my child abuse was Jesus, what’s the Phoenix? That’s entertainment!

The Show, my vital therapy, must go on. And it pays the rent!

My tiny experience eviscerates what the bold and loud claim to know.

Why should that be any different from the business we call Show?

I perform and strangers laugh, children jump with joy, the jaded smile.

I’m also known for contributing to TV & film: Background Style!

I’ll continue to transfigure pain that might make some psychotic.

Pain from parents. The pious. And the patriotic.

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Mark Roman Empire

“Hero Tears” creator, “Son of Elmer Gantry’s Bitch” poet, expelled student editor, religion survivor, former improv comedian busker “Lt. Frank”, SAG-AFTRA actor