If you’re like me and grew up with ’90s Nickelodeon, you have an intrinsic affinity for Marc Summers. He was like the face of the network back in the day, hosting perennial mainstays, like Double Dare, and the more forgotten about What Would You Do? A zeitgeist, if you will. You could say he was my childhood.
Yesterday I had the privilege to attend the world premiere of his documentary, On Your Marc. He was there in person–someone who I’ve always wanted to meet, yet always felt like I have. And that’s where this documentary seems to get it.
I’m not sure how to critique the film as someone who doesn’t know who the man is, because I can’t even imagine what that would be like. But as someone who grew up watching him on my TV set, I can tell this documentary seems to understand what else we’d like to know about someone who’s already an open book.
It isn’t a documentary in the strict biographical sense. Sure, it covers mostly everything in his life–dripping information here and there about meeting his wife, how he was inspired to be in the entertainment industry, his performance as a father when his kids were little, etc.–but focuses mostly on his later career, post-Nickelodeon. It’s not linear, yet you don’t feel robbed of his backstory.
Marc’s dreams in show business are rooted in theater, ever since attending a performance of Fiddler On the Roof as a child. So with this stage show, he’s one step closer to Broadway–a destination that’s never left his sight. As someone with seemingly unattainable goals for my own career in this industry, it tugs at my heart strings. It’s crazy to think that the person you look up to also feels like he hasn’t quite “made it” yet.
The main topics discussed are Summers’ lifelong struggle with OCD, reaching his ultimate career goal, and his recent bout with cancer. The film uses him prepping for his one-man theater show to underlie his story–interspersing it when necessary without focusing on it too much.
But the film isn’t always so serious. In fact, it’s quite funny. It mostly finds the comedy in all of this otherwise deep subject matter, with most of the humor coming from Marc’s natural wit–as he, himself narrates a big chunk of it. After all, Summers was a stand up comedian early on in his career. The documentary actually takes his lead, fitting right into his style.
It’s funny because you never felt before like you didn’t already know the man. He’s naturally such an open and real guy, you feel like you’ve always known him. You almost forget he’s a celebrity. But with this, his vulnerabilities come through even more–making him more real, if even possible.
And it’s all so beautifully candid that you barely even feel like it’s covering much ground. But sure enough, you walk out of the theater with a much more rounded out view of a person you’ve always loved anyway. When you leave, you feel like you may know almost as much as the filmmakers at this point. It’s truly an accomplishment.
The film is written and directed by Mathew Klickstein–a perfect choice. Years ago merely a passionate fan of ’90s Nickelodeon, he’s now the acclaimed author of Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age–since then, becoming good friends with Summers because of it. A genius? Perhaps. I just wish I thought of it first.