Marthame ‘Marty’ Elliott Sanders Jr., 69, comedian

By RACHEL POMERANCEThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution Tuesday, December 16, 2008

“I got some defective M&M’s. Some of them were W’s, and they melted in my hand.”

sandersobit.1216That was one of Marty’s lines, delivered deadpan during his second career as a stand-up comic.

Marthame “Marty” Elliott Sanders Jr., 69, died last Saturday. A memorial service will be 2 p.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta. R.T. Patterson Funeral Home and Cremations is handling arrangements.

Mr. Sanders, of Atlanta, entertained others from his beginning.

As a kid, he’d impersonate TV stars or people they knew. And he’d tell and retell stories, especially the one known as “Braillesworth,” about a grocery store rat who woke the other rats before the garbage collector could get them.

“It was sort of his signature,” recalls his sister, Sylvia Kelley.

That, and the Elvis impersonation he performed at the Westminster Schools.

“I’m sure he shook all over like Elvis, and that was just considered very unmanly, crude, at that time,” Mrs. Kelley said.

But decades later, people still asked him for an encore at reunions.

When their kid brother was too young to attend the church youth group, his two sisters brought him along. “We saw what an attraction he was,” Mrs. Kelley said.

The three siblings played together as children, inviting their friends over to play at their Ansley Park home, the old carriage house on the Inman estate. Their father, Marthame Sanders Sr., an Atlanta builder, renovated the home with a yard ample enough for the kids’ games.

Mr. Sanders went to work for his father’s renovation and remodeling business after his Army service and ultimately ran Marthame Sanders & Co. for more than 15 years until closing the business in 1990.

“His heart was in making people happy and being light-hearted, and the construction industry, as you know, is a very hard and technical and precision industry,” said Blaine Kelley, Mr. Sanders’ brother-in-law and colleague.

In Mr. Sanders’ second career, “you could tell that he was in his element,” Mr. Kelley said.

Mr. Sanders regularly performed at The Punch Line. He also taught comedy in continuing education classes at Emory and Kennesaw State universities, even creating a textbook culled from his research, with chapters on comedic rules such as, “Words that start with K are funny.”

“He could be funny and all of that, but he could be very serious,” said his son, Marthame Sanders III, a pastor at Oglethorpe Presbyterian Church in Brookhaven. “He would always tell us how much he loved us, how proud he was of us,” and “there was nothing left unsaid.”

And in comedy, there was plenty of space for the somber and silly to collide.

“He used the comedy as a therapy,” his wife Betty said, explaining that he found humor in difficult subjects.

For example, he’d had a stroke at 51 and explained to the audience “the only thing affected was my spleech.”

Additional survivors include a daughter, Alecia Gray of Lawrence, Kan.; a sister, Angelyn Chandler of Atlanta; and a grandchild.