I just had to post this. I’m a huge Aziz fan, and this is a phenomenal interview with him.
He talks a lot about how modern communication is ruining people’s abilities to have relationships with one another. It may be a bit of an obvious/stale topic, but I see it every day in schools and it is a legitimate fear of mine. He addresses it brilliantly. Well worth the read and if you ever doubted Aziz’s intelligence, this should put it to rest.
Occasionally, my job as a comedian takes me to places other than my hometown of Vancouver, BC, and occasionally, I will write about those experiences. This is one of those experiences.
When I first started with Yuk Yuk’s, they asked me if I had any special talents that might be useful for future gigs. As comics, we often get asked to perform in weird places and for different types of people. I told them that I was a highly competitive curler, figuring that wouldn’t mean too much in their world. They were pleasantly surprised, saying they had lots of curling gig requests, and my status as a curler may help.
Less than a year later, I was asked to travel to Fort McMurray, Alberta, to perform at the Junior Nationals. It was humbling for me, to be asked to perform at a national event for the sport I love, but it was also a bit weird. Having dreamed of making it to a national championship for years and to date still not having done so, it was a bit strange to me to be the entertainment, but I accepted the challenge.
I had never done 30 minutes of clean material before, and doing comedy for teenagers is widely accepted as the worst gig possible. It’s no offense to teenagers, it’s just that most of them haven’t developed a comic sensibility yet, and even if they have, many of them aren’t fans of stand-up. I decided to write what was essentially a brand-new 30 minutes. I figured these are curlers, and if I’m going to be a curling comic, might as well do some curling-specific material.
I headed off after seeing weather reports suggesting the temperatures in Fort Mac were somewhere in the drawstring-pulling region of -45, vowing never to step foot outside. While I wasn’t fully successful, I did a pretty good job of avoiding the elements, even though I was there for a “warm front”, the temperature gods blessing me with a bearable -20.
I arrived at the airport(I think small-town airports need different names, because airports they are not. “Air-house” or “air-shack” are my two favorite ideas) and was greeted by some great airport signage:
It was cool to know the city was embracing the event. I had a great cab ride into the city. I feel like small-town people are the best people, and my cab driver was no exception. He was originally from Ethiopia, and told me all about working in Fort McMurray 8 months out of the year to support his wife and 6 kids, who are all back home. He said the money he makes in 8 months in Fort Mac is enough to support his wife and children for 2 years back in Africa, including school fees, food, clean water, and shelter. Kind of crazy. I asked him why he had so many kids, and he said “in Ethiopia, it gets dark very early in the summertime, and electricity runs out and so the lights go out. Not much to do once the lights are out except have kids.” It was pretty great.
I got to my hotel room and found a weird, space-like contraption that reminded some of 2001: A Space Odyssey:
It had a TV on each side, so I could choose whether I wanted to watch TV in bed or on my couch. Pretty splendid. I’ve heard horror stories about being on the road and some of the places you have to stay, but it seems like these days, most places treat their comics really well, and this was no exception.
I headed down to the gig and was met with a room of about 200 curlers and parents. The curlers are all under-20, and it was cool seeing them all in the uniforms and ready to be entertained. I thought my set went well. I talked about how being a curler is seen by the real world, and talked to all the provinces and teams individually, having some fun along the way. I was worried about an audience that would be inattentive, with the nerves jangling around for the tournament’s opening games the next day. Instead, I found a lot of warm faces, excited to be there, to meet one another, and to enjoy good curling. It was great.
I was also the co-creator of the official slogan for the week, “Pop Pop”. After referencing Northern Ontario in my act, one of the players made a gun hand signal in the air. I made fun of him using the famous “pop pop” from Community, and it stuck. Curlers began to hashtag “#PopPop” on Twitter, do the gun signal to each other, and just generally shout it out for no reason. We’ll see what I can create for the BC Men’s Provincials this week.
I met a lot of very cool kids from across Canada, and I’m sure in a lot of cases, I’ll be seeing them on Tour very shortly. I was lucky enough to be able to watch some of the action the following day, with the BC girls picking up their first win, and the Nunavut teams playing their first games at a national championship.
It’s still pretty crazy to me to get flown out to a gig, to be somewhere for only 24 hours, but it was a ton of fun and I hope this is just the first of many curling gigs to come. It was great to meet the future of curling in this province, and I hope both BC teams bring home the gold!
Sometimes, I’m going to write about things that happen to me in my comic life. Lots of people ask me what it’s like to be a comic. Most of the time, it’s great. Sometimes, it sucks. Sometimes, it gets super weird. This is one of those times.
Last night, I performed a show in Vancouver at a new restaurant/bar in Yaletown called Hooker’s Green. For those unfamiliar with Vancouver, Yaletown is the richest area in downtown, and the bar, as such, has a certain clientele. That’s what made last night even more strange.
The bar itself is a weird set-up for comedy. I am good friends with both guys who run the room and they are doing their best, but unfortunately, the construction gods are against them. The bar is very narrow, and the stage is buried in the back. It has a small viewing area in front of it, and then the rest of the bar feels somewhat detached(with several tables out of view of the stage), which makes people who are not directly in front of the stage feel no guilt/shame over talking. Loudly.
So the room was already conspiring against us, but the comics before me had done a nice job eking out their sets. As the comic before me took the stage, a patron from the bar area of the show wandered in by herself, and took a seat right in front of the stage. As his set went on, it became increasingly obvious that she was both
a) insanely drunk; and
b) very much wanting to be a part of the show
Unfortunately, the other comic had to essentially make his entire set about dealing with her(more on that later). At one point, she threw her boot on stage at him, and while he handled the situation with great aplomb, he ended his set right there, as there’s nowhere really to go from there in terms of telling jokes effectively.
I was up next, and was sort of hoping that “Lulu”(she said that was her name but I’m not sure she was coherent enough to even know her own name) would’ve got what she wanted and left me alone.
So I got on stage, and she immediately began to assert her authority over my set by yelling “boot! boot!” at the boot she had thrown on stage. I told her that it was, in fact, a boot, and I was impressed with her ability to name objects. I think she wanted me to hand it to her, but that wasn’t about to happen. I then pointed at the stool on stage, and asked her what that was. She said “stool!” and took that as an invitation to sit on it. So now she was on stage. It was a glorious moment for both of us. In hindsight, I should’ve threw the boot at her and done us both a favor.
In an attempt to get her off stage, I took her boot, threw it off stage, and told her to “fetch.” Instead of doing that, she danced around on stage for about a minute, while I watched. She finally decided to leave the stage, and I thought my set was about to begin. I began the set by talking about the books that were on shelves at the back of the stage–what I thought was a weird set design–and Lulu took that to be an invitation back on stage, to come choose a book for home. So again, I had to secede the stage to my drunk friend as she “picked a book”. I made fun of her a bit more, and then finally, mercifully, the guy running the bar came on stage and removed her from the show.
People who had seen the show would’ve said I handled the situation “well”, as I kept the audience laughing throughout Lulu’s antics, and there still seems to be a sense that heckling/participating in the show without being asked is an okay thing. It isn’t.
I will never understand, no matter how drunk someone is, their desire to be a part of the show. You are at the show to be entertained, not to be the entertainer. In that sense, stand-up comedy is the weirdest art form. No one brings one of their own works to an art gallery showing and just tries to put it on display. No one brings a guitar to a rock show and starts trying to have their own show. No one walks on stage during the middle of a performance of Macbeth and tries to be a part of the festivities.
It seems odd to me that these people think they are improving the show. Here’s the thing. I have a day job. I am a very busy person. I make time out of my day to go down a bar late at night, pay for parking, deal with drunken idiots, so that I can work on some new material. The stage time that we have is our work time. It’s our time to become better as comics, especially when we’re there on a Tuesday night in a venue not suited for comedy, performing for 70 people, only 20 of whom are paying attention. We’re there for that microphone and that stage. That’s about it. When a show gets interrupted in that fashion, there’s simply no way to recover.
I tried to tell the new joke I had been working on after Lulu’s little escapade, but here’s the thing: telling jokes after these episodes rarely works. Once the show becomes about someone other than the comic on stage, it is very difficult for that comic to recover. It’s very hard to transition back into telling jokes, because the audience’s disbelief is no longer suspended. They’ve just witnessed one of the weirdest things they have ever seen during a stand-up comedy show(it was certainly one of the weirdest for me and I’ve been to probably a thousand shows at this point), and they associate me with the whole escapade. Even though I made the audience laugh nearly the entire time Lulu was doing her thing, the whole show becomes a waste of MY time because now I can’t do anything that I wanted to do. I love doing comedy because I love making people laugh, but there comes a point where practicing the craft has to take precedence. Make no mistake, at 11 PM on a Tuesday night when I have to be up to teach the next morning, I’m there mostly for myself. I want this new bit to work, because I want to make people laugh a bunch more over time(and not just during this one episode) and now I’ve just lost valuable practice time.
So yeah, Lulu, you were kinda crazy and kinda funny, and yeah, audience at Hooker’s Green, we laughed and we bonded over one of the silliest things that has happened to me so far in this comedy journey. But Lulu, what you did was intensely selfish and bizarrely self-aggrandizing. You aren’t the show. I am. And last night, I couldn’t be.
If you want to yell a little something at me, as long as it isn’t offensive or a denigration of my skills, I don’t mind it. I find hecklers can be a fascinating part of the show and I don’t mind a little interplay. But once it’s over, it’s over. Some people might say “but how can we know when it’s over?” Trust me, you’ll know. People aren’t at the show to hear you yell at me, or to hear me put you down, no matter how funny it might be. People see douchebags interact all the time, they don’t need it when they’re paying $5-25 a ticket to have a night out.
Oh, and if you’re going to get really drunk, do it somewhere else. You’re not going to get the jokes anyway, and unless you enjoy having an entire room of people absolutely loathe you, I hear there’s a lot of “dance clubs” looking for your business.
While I’m not going to be discussing too many of my shows in this space, I just want to talk a bit about last night.
I had two shows last night. The first was a lot of fun, it was at one of my favorite rooms, layout-wise, in the city, Rowan’s Roof. The showrunner Chip Ellis is a great guy, takes care of comics, is well-organized, and the shows are always fun. Sometimes the show struggles to find an audience, but last night had a crowd of an attentive 60, and it was great.
However, I’m writing this post because mostly I wanted to talk more on the other show. I headed across town to perform at Pop-Up Pizza. Well, at a room previously used for storage that has no fixed title and sits next door to the (now defunct) Pop-Up. I walked in to the incredibly small space, and was amazed to find that 20-25 people had somehow found their way in to this little den for the show.
As it was when I played music, I’ve always had the most fun doing comedy in a small room with a small, yet appreciative, audience. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of performing with Brett Martin and Simon King at a bar out by my old place in White Rock. There were maybe 30 people there, but the three of us still talk about the magic that was in the air that night. There’s something about the intimacy of a small crowd that just seems to make everything hit harder, everything feel more real, and small shows can be just a ton of fun.
I love performing for lots of people too, but last night was a refreshing change and I really hope that room continues to get some love so that its showrunner, Brendan Bourque, can continue to make things happen there. It also helped that last night’s line-up featured a few of my favorite comics in the city in James Masters and Phil Hanley, and the crowd loved my new joke.
But still. It was great. I encourage you to check it out if you can soon.
I’m trying to flex my comedy muscles back into shape after taking about 3 weeks off while I curled and moved.
I have two shows tonight, and I should be performing about 10 minutes at each one. New jokes will be featured.
The first is at Rowan’s Roof, a very cool little spot on 4th Avenue across from Safeway. The line-up is very strong, and the best part is that the show is FREE! So come join us at 8 PM.
The second is a new show, so your support would be very much appreciated. It’s at Pop-Up Pizza on Kingsway, just south of 12th. It starts at 9:30 pm and is a VERY strong line-up featuring some of my local favorites and headlined by Phil Hanley, fresh off an appearance on the Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Cover is $5 for a very reasonable night of entertainment.
So come join us. Would be nice to see you.