Depending on who you ask, returned Mormon missionary Marco Lui is either a successful working Italian mime/comedian whose name is linked to Italian version work on a number of popular movies and film projects including "March of the Penguins," "Ice Age 2," "Robots," "Garfield," "Alien vs. Predator" and the Italian version of "Young Frankenstein."
Or he is a children's cartoon creator whose name is mud — or more specifically Mister Him.
His cartoon creations (which have run just prior to the end of the ads after children's cartoons on the Italy 1 channel) have been attacked by parents and Internet viewers since they started airing in 2005. The critics demanded the gags be removed and even suggested Lui be "banished from the Earth." (The shorts were dropped in July 2008.)
Lui, in a response to Web site attacks, reminded his critics that his product is designed for children and is only broadcast with cartoons.
"The kids love this (Mister Him) character and I would say that they enjoy it very much. The same is true for many adults," Lui said. "I love Mister Him, because in live performance I try to not only make people laugh but smile in their hearts with something poetic."
He's proud that the shorts ran for three years 30 times a day on a national channel. He maintains that parents were happy to have a comedian who didn't swear or behave crudely to make kids smile.
"It's strange that if we believe in good things, our work will reflect what we are," he said. "On the other side (generally) people looking for other things in the life do not appreciate it so much. It was for me interesting to note."
Lui, a native of Milan, is considered by many to be the Italian heir to English comic Mr. Bean.
He currently lives in Verona. He graduated from the University of Verona with a degree in movement science with a specialization in motor rehabilitation of children and began his show career 18 years ago performing as a cabaret artist and entertainer who did imitations of Michael Jackson.
His family joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was 5, and he served a mission in Sicily from 1997-99, turning down a recording contract.
"Some people suppose that God has to bless people who go on a mission," Lui said. "When I came back, I spent five years performing the most humble work to pay university tuition and I realized one thing, the blessing from God came not because I went on a mission but the blessing was in what I learned in the mission. So it became that to go on a mission was not a favor I did for God but again the contrary."
He's won several comedy competitions in Rome, written comedy and hosted a variety of television shows.
He produced a video that combines entertainment, science and dealing with children's locomotion skills.
In his spare time, he teaches rugby, swimming and gymnastics to children. When he's in town, he teaches Sunday School in his Verona LDS ward.
He isn't married yet because he "hasn't found the princess of my life."
He's currently immersed in a movie project he believes in passionately — so much so that he's willing to foot the production costs himself and shop it around to get it distributed.
"It was the hardest thing I did after my mission. Until last week, I slept four hours a night. I faced so many unexpected difficulties that I didn't believe," Lui said. "But I did it. I don't know how but I did."
He's not sure if he were married that he would have felt free to risk his life savings on his movie, but he's sure his movie is of a high quality with an important message.
"So I made a movie as many comedians have made, connecting a smile with a tear. Funny with tears."
He's not sure what the title is yet either.
Maybe "On the Way Home"?
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