New Orleanians

From comedy to his own clothing line, Mark Caesar is the embodiment of ‘Now or Never’

The local comedian and entrepreneur talks about what ‘Now or Never’ means to him.

In 2003, Mark Caesar was sneaking into clubs he wasn’t even old enough to get into.

It wasn’t to dance with the ladies or sneak a drink in the corner. Instead, it was to make people laugh.

“I’ve been doing comedy since I was about 15,” Caesar said. “You know, typical New Orleans ribbing, until one day a real prominent comedian from New Orleans was like, ‘You think you could write that?’ From that moment on, that moment on I started writing comedy. From there, I just started finding open mics and stuff like that. There would be times, say like at the Autocrat or something, I wouldn’t be old enough to get in but they would get me in and they would say, ‘You better get out of here right after you finish!’”

For close to 20 years, the New Orleans native has been making a name for himself in the comedy world. Even while he served in the Air Force and deployed to the Middle East, he still made people laugh.

“I’ve always been naturally funny,” he said. “My mama says she knew I was funny as a little boy or knew I had a distinct sense of humor as a child. She said I would watch Johnny Carson and I would laugh at the jokes at the right moment to laugh. She would sit back and think and say, ‘How does he know that’s funny? How does he know that’s a joke?’ So, I guess it’s always been in me.”

 

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But stand-up, by definition, is standing in front of a group of people, and since the pandemic, that in itself has been difficult.

“Early in the pandemic, like in March, I did my first online show,” he said. “That online show had 1,500 people in the live for that first one, which was crazy to me. People would tip and send me Cash app, it was really appreciated. Not even for the money, but it was just the fact that people genuinely needed that laugh and they knew that I could provide that.”

Another thing that Caesar did during the pandemic was start his own clothing line, Now or Never Apparel.

“I’ll be honest with you, I had no inclination to sell clothing,” he said. I never wanted to say, ‘Oh, I have a clothing line.’ I always had merch and I always sold a lot of merch at my comedy shows. My merch would sell out quick. But, there’s a difference between just selling merch and actually having a brand. So, I went from having merch to making it a brand. I did my comedy tour in 2016 and that was called the ‘Now or Never comedy tour.’ Then in 2017, I doubled back with the ‘Now or Never comedy tour…Again.’ So I had that and people just started knowing me for Now or Never. I had so much Now or Never merch, people started being like, ‘Oh that’s ya boy, Now or Never.’ Anything that they would see now or never on they would tag me, to the point where I said, ‘Let me just go ahead and make Now or Never a brand.”

Click HERE to watch Caesar’s special “Comedy Money”

He said cutting out the middle man on his comedy tour merchandise gave him the push he needed to kick it off.

“I have so much time during the day, I could have been doing that during the day and performing at night,” Caesar said. “So that’s how I came up and got started on the clothing brand. I started it on $200 and I haven’t looked back.”

Caesar said he came up with the phrase while working in retail.

“I was a store manager for Walmart,” he said. “As a store manager, you can make really good money. Like, life-changing money, but you don’t really have a lot of time for yourself. I felt myself turning down more and more comedy gigs because I couldn’t get away from Walmart. The store wasn’t my first love, comedy was where my heart was at. So I told myself, ‘Hey, now or never.’”

 

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He said he knew the phrase stuck one night before a performance at the Saenger Theater.

“My pastor at Epic NOLA, before he started our church he used to be a minister at another church,” he said. “My pastor came to the show of course, but before the show he came to get two Now or Never hoodies from me because he was going to announce that he was about to start his own church, but in his announcement, he wanted to unveil his Now or Never sweater to show it my time to do my thing, to branch off, to follow the footsteps that God has for me. That was so big for me because it was like, that’s the point, that’s what this was all about. That’s what Now or Never is all about.”

If you take a look at Caesar’s social media, it’s full of everyday jokes, but it also highlights another part of his life — being a dad to two young boys.

“Showing my kids things is the most important thing I can do,” he said. “I can get accolades for being a top comedian, being in a movie, having businesses, whatever. But if I don’t teach those boys something, I’m a loser.”

 

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Between comedy and clothing, Caesar also has a vending machine company and janitorial company and coaches his children’s baseball team.

“I try to also post them a lot to show people, you can be as busy as I am and still have time for your children,” he said. “I might go do my vending machine business in the morning, I might have to do my shirts and orders after that, then go coach baseball in the evening with the boys. Then, after coaching baseball and getting them settled, then go work for my cleaning company. It’s like, you have enough time, you can make it work. But, also to show I’m in my kids’ life. I’m doing a lot of things but also I’m not forgetting who comes first.”

Caesar’s new apparel for the fall just dropped earlier this month, with new hoodies and sweatpants for the cooler months. He’ll have more coming, including sweaters and jean jackets with the phrase Now or Never emblazoned across them.

 

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“Now or Never doesn’t mean do it right now or it’s never going to happen,” he said. “It means to at least get the process going, get the ball going, make the steps. Google it. Write it down on paper.”

Cover photo courtesy Sierra Hudson | Mark Caesar