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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stanhope cometh

Lying in bed, sick as a dog, is a good time to scour the internet for upcoming acts. I unearthed a good one. Then again, maybe it's common knowledge and no one told me about it. It happens. Did you know (I didn't) that Doug Stanhope has a Canadian tour this summer? And he's playing Vancouver. The last time he played here, it was at Yuk Yuk's and he wasn't at his best. But that happens sometimes. I have full confidence this is a show not to be missed (unless you are a sensitive soul who doesn't like raw comedy). I see he's playing a venue I'm not familiar with: The Bourbon. I have no idea where it is but I've got a couple months to figure it out. Here's his northern itinerary. Gotta admit I'm kinda chuckling that he's bypassing Ontario altogether.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Grand Poobah speaks

I told you I'd get back to you. The always-charming Mark Breslin, the founder and CEO of Yuk Yuk's, answered my questions regarding today's press release (scroll down for previous entry). It turns out the four new lower mainland locations are neither as imminent as the press release implied nor (at least for one of the locations) as 'lower mainland' as it suggests. Highlights of his answers:
"You know, in Toronto we have five locations in the GTA. This should have been done a long time ago but we didn't have a franchisee interested in expanding the brand so now we're doing it ourselves. We've sought out new franchisees and we've got one certainly for downtown Vancouver and we're looking at others for suburban Vancouver. I can't reveal about the others yet. Because we're not closing down a club and opening up a new one [in these other locations], it's not as pressing to explain what we're doing quite yet. But the other thing [the new Vancouver location] is something that people are going to be wondering about what's happening."
The press release made it seem like all four locations would be opening this summer, but that's not the case.
"Our plan is to open up all the others. You know, licensing, all these different things come into play, but I'm hoping that within a reasonable amount of time that there'll be a circuit up and running of Yuk Yuk's in the Vancouver area."
He wouldn't reveal any of the other locations yet:
"Not yet. But soon. That's just a first press release. That's only meant to tickle your tongue."
But I managed to get one out of him when I asked about Victoria:
"Well, Victoria is actually what I consider to be another one of those in those four. If somebody used the term 'lower mainland' wrong then I guess they need to be slapped. But yeah, Victoria would be one of those locations, definitely."
When I mentioned the other club remaining open under another name, he informed me it won't be immediate:
"They have to close. Not forever, but they have to close down for a period of time. I don't have the legal thing in front of me; I don't know how long it is. But I guess you could find out from them. But it will not be a Yuk Yuk's with the traditional fun bells and whistles that Yuk Yuk's provides and the Yuk Yuk's talent that people like to see and the national vision that Yuk Yuk's has or any of those other things."
Is the summer 2010 timeline for sure?
"Is anything for sure in our world?, he said philosophically with a small Jewish lilt to his voice. Oy!"
Is it as for sure as things can be in this world?
"As sure as things can be in this world, yeah... It's not a hope, not a dream. We're actively involved in it but we haven't signed the other franchisees yet and they haven't found locations yet. Well, actually they have but they didn't work out. We've been working on this for quite a while, for at least the last two or three months. The downtown Vancouver franchise, that's real. There's a real person looking. There's an offer to lease already out. So that's why that one, I think end of summer, that's reasonable."
Final thoughts:
"Look, we're excited about the new challenge. I feel that it was never quite done exactly right with these other people but now we have a chance to do it closer to what we really see as the vision."

Breaking news

Just got this over the wire (I like to give the illusion I work in an old-fashioned news office). It's very interesting, to say the least, if a little fuzzy. I will definitely be making a few calls and getting back to you. First, read the press release and then we'll discuss:

YukYuks to open four new venues in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland

Burrard Street location set to close May 1

Toronto, April 26, 2010—YukYuks, Canada’s largest chain of comedy clubs, with 17 locations coast to coast, is pleased to announce it has found a new Vancouver franchisee and intends to open four new clubs in the lower mainland, beginning summer 2010. As a result, their Burrard Street location in Vancouver will close as of May 1.

Breslin said the future site will “blow all the past locations away.”

“For the past thirty years, YukYuks has been more than a set of comedy clubs; it’s also been a talent development system,” said Mark Breslin, CEO and founder of the chain. “Our work depends on all of our franchisees participating in our national vision, and frankly our Vancouver operator did not share our enthusiasm in building a strong Canadian comedy company.”

YukYuks has been in continuous operation in Vancouver since 1988, when its Davie Street location opened. In 1990, it relocated to the Expo site where it remained until 2003 and then moved to the soon to be closed Burrard Street location.

YukYuks was founded in 1976 in Toronto and quickly grew to its current status as the gold standard for Canadian comedy clubs. Among its alumni are Jim Carrey, Howie Mandel, Russell Peters, Norm MacDonald, Mike Bullard and hundreds more. Please visit,

My thoughts:

1. "Burrard Street location set to close May 1" From what I've heard, the current location on Burrard will close only as a Yuk Yuk's but will remain open as a comedy club under a new name. I will confirm and report back. I know this is something Yuk Yuk's has done in the past when a franchisee has broken ties with the chain. Head office in Toronto sends out a press release saying they're closing down which effectively tells casual fans of the club to stay away, there's nothing to see here. It's technically true, and certainly Yuk Yuk's is under no obligation to promote a competitor, but the information is only partly correct since people can still go to the same place and see a comedy show.

2. "has found a new Vancouver franchisee and intends to open four new clubs in the lower mainland..." One new franchisee is going to open up four new clubs? Who is this Mr. Moneybags?! Or is it four new franchisees? And where, exactly, in the lower mainland will these clubs go? Vancouver is a gimme, but the other three? A quick glance at Wikipedia shows me all the communities considered to be part of the lower mainland. Discounting the tiny burgs, that leaves us with Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Harrison Hot Springs, Hope, Cloverdale, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Delta, Langley, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Richmond, Surrey, and White Rock, give or take a couple. If they are able to make a go of it in four locations in the lower mainland, kudos to them. That would be great for the Vancouver comedy scene. We lose too many comics to Ontario for the simple reason that there's so much more work there. Four lower mainland locations, plus the ones in Alberta, would be a godsend to working comics here.

3. By why stop there? BC has better locations than the lower mainland. How about my hometown of Victoria? I know there used to be a Yuk Yuk's there and Hecklers is proving there's a regular audience for good stand-up comedy. How about Kelowna or Kamloops, one or both of which already have a Yuks room (as opposed to a club)? How about the tourist trap of Whistler? I know there are regular comedy shows there. I haven't been to one but I'm sure they do well.

"Breslin said the future site will 'blow all the past locations away.'” Now this is curious. He's talking about a future site. Singular. Aren't there four sites? And where is the site? If you're going to announce it today, why not say where it is?

All very interesting. As I said, I'll keep you posted.

Episodes 185ish & 186ish

Here are two enjoyable episodes for your collection. You do collect all the podcasts, don't you? And trade them with friends? I apologize that they're slightly out of order but the station was having download issues. Whatever, they're timeless. Who cares if one originally aired before the last couple? Not I! Oh, and because of said station issues, I must also apologize publicly to Carter Hortie. He joined us on air several weeks ago and if you missed it, you missed it. That episode has been lost forever. I hate when that happens, especially when the episode is a good one. We've lost a few over the years. We'll never get back Rob Pue or Kyle Cease's second appearance or Sugar Sammy's first two appearances. Sigh. So sorry Carter, but you're in good company.

I can't post the episodes for you right here on the blog due to a problem with the server I use and my ignorance of other ones. But fret not, it's still easy-peasy. You can listen over at the Comedy Couch podcast page. And here's the link to all the shows over at iTunes. There are 186 (and counting) to choose from. But here are the latest, with individual links to the episodes.

Episode 185ish: Sean Kent talks about history, his two seasons on Last Comic Standing, his bout with cancer, politics, and a bit of basketball in an on-location interview downstairs at Lafflines Comedy Club in New Westminster, between shows. The show aired on April 11, 2010.

Episode 186ish: Local boy Jy Harris somehow managed to sneak by all these years without ever having done the show before. But we eventually got him. He brought the Polish Princess with him, who provided us with a nice distraction during the show. We talked about why he doesn't drink and his two experiences on The Jerry Springer Show, among other things. This show aired on March 28, 2010.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

April 25: Vince Fluek

I'm never sure how to spell tonight's guest's name. Is it Vince Fluek? Vince Fluke? Vintz Fluke? Vince Flück? Not sure, but we'll have one of those guys on the show tonight. Vince is back in Vancouver for a short while having lived in England for the past year or two. We'll talk about his experiences in Europe, how he sees the Vancouver scene now, and whatever else I think of between now and tonight at 11. And I'll probably nail down the correct spelling of his name.

As always, you can hear us on CFRO 102.7 FM in Vancouver, at for live streaming from anywhere you happen to be, or (after the fact) on iTunes in podcast form. Got it? Good.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


The ratings are in and we are... who knows?

I don't have regular access to the numbers but I got a look today and it's just interesting to see the relative popularity of podcast episodes and transcripted interviews. There's no rhyme or reason that I can see. Obviously, the ones on-line for a longer time have a greater chance of more hits, but that's about all I can tell.

Most of my phone interviews I do for the paper are eventually transcribed and hosted at the Comedy Couch site. These are generally interviews with name comics. Here are the top 20 by request (presumably this means hits):
  1. Martin Short
  2. Greg Behrendt
  3. Louis CK
  4. Ryan Stiles
  5. Cedric the Entertainer
  6. Dave Coulier
  7. Norm MacDonald
  8. Don Rickles (the first interview)
  9. Craig Ferguson
  10. Bob Newhart (the second interview)
  11. Russell Peters
  12. Dana Carvey
  13. Tommy Smothers
  14. Colin Mochrie (the first interview)
  15. Ellen DeGeneres
  16. Keith Johnstone
  17. Steven Wright
  18. Colin Mochrie (the second interview)
  19. Ron White
  20. Nancy Robertson
Interesting that Nancy squeaks into the top 20 ahead of her hubby Brent Butt. And big ups to Colin Mochrie for being the only one to crack the top 20 twice. Well done, sir. Your fans love you.

Over on the podcast side, I've had a few celebrity comics on over the years, but mostly just working local comics and occasionally a national one. Here's the top 20 by request (once again, I have no idea how they come up with these; I'm just reporting what I'm reading).
  1. Kevin Lee (guest hosted by Morgan Brayton)
  2. Janice Bannister (guest hosted by Graham Clark)
  3. Aubrey Tennant
  4. Riel Hahn
  5. Brent Butt
  6. Barry Greenfield
  7. Todd Allen & Phil Hanley
  8. John Wing
  9. Andrew Connor
  10. Carter Hortie
  11. Jenn Grant & Erica Sigurdson
  12. Mark Dennison
  13. Paul Bae & Dana Alexander (our very first show)
  14. Alistair Cook, Taz VanRassle & Ryan Beil
  15. Jay Brown
  16. Kevin Foxx
  17. Daniel Packard (his second appearance)
  18. Sarah Silverman
  19. Pete Johansson
  20. Jeff & Ryan Gladstone
How'd you like that? The two most popular shows are when I had a guest host.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

April 18: Steve Patterson

Tonight my guest is the host of CBC radio's The Debaters. Steve Patterson snuck into town a couple weeks ago to do a corporate gig and I nabbed him for an hour-long chat up in his hotel room. We talked about his talk show dreams, how he almost quit stand-up after doing a gig at a party standing on the couch, and how he wants to stay in Canada. And other stuff, of course.

Conan vs Regan vs readers

Sometimes I think I write in a vacuum. It doesn't matter who or what I write about, nary a comment or letter do I get. Oh, I expect that here in this little corner of the blogosphere, but over at the Georgia Straight they get reams of letters on politics, recycling and education. Hell, even the odd rant disagreeing with a theatre review. Yet nothing on comedy. Man, what I'd give to be a part of Payback Time in the Music section, where readers have it out with critics and vice versa.

So you can imagine my glee when I saw my review of the Conan O'Brien travelling road show received a comment on the Straight website. Somebody named jay3 wrote:
you only found it funny at times? you got some serious high standards.
i laughed 2 hours straight and my face hurt the next day.

best show ever.
To which I replied "Guilty as charged." I guess I do have "serious high standards". I thought the Conan show was lots of fun. As I wrote, it was a spectacle more than anything else. There were some laughs, but much of it was crowd-pleasing at its best: trot out a familiar character, run down the aisles to get close to the people, and drop as many local references as possible. That's a surefire way of getting cheap laughs and applause but it's not particularly original or well-crafted. Enjoyable? Sure.

I can't tell anyone what's hilarious to them. I can't say this wasn't the best show ever for them. I can only speak for myself. That's why I wish there were more papers doing regular comedy reviews and features. And why I'd love to see more comments and letters to the editor. Everyone's an expert when it comes to what they find funny. That's not in any way meant as an insult, either.

Two days after Conan's show, I got to see Brian Regan for the second time. Unfortunately I didn't have to review the show. Or maybe that's fortunate. Because I got to sit there without scribbling notes in the dark and just laugh... Yes, laugh. Me. My cheeks even hurt. So take that, jay3! In fact, the friend I went with said he'd never actually heard me laugh before. Regan passed through Vancouver three years ago and I've seen most of his video clips online, so I was expecting a lot of familiar material. But in his 90-minute set, I only recognized one small bit on string theory. The rest was new to me (except for the two requested routines in his encore). The guy is a comedic genius. He is inherently funny.

I was a little saddened at seeing a three-quarters filled lower section, though. But I figured he's still not that big a name in Canada. And I was even more saddened when I kept seeing the guy in front of me check his messages every ten minutes or so. I'm as addicted to e-mail as anyone, but that's beyond the pale. I mean, if you can't sit and enjoy the show without constantly checking an electronic gizmo then you don't deserve to go out. It wasn't until near the end of the performance that it all came together for me. The guy leaned over his date and stage whispered to the person to her right, "It's 2-2" that I clued in there was a hockey game that night. A playoff one yet. Which explained, but certainly didn't excuse, the empty seats and the compulsive internet checking. My God, people. It's a game. Game one, even. Don't they own a PVR? Can't you wait until after the show to get the score? I don't get it.

I won't say they missed the best show ever, but it was the best show of the year. And by far, hands down, the best show of last week.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Brian Regan's nightmare

Brian Regan is playing the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts (still the worst name for a venue in the city) on Thursday. I spoke to him a couple weeks ago and the resulting story in the Straight can be found if you follow this link. Funny story about that interview that I don't know if I should share. But I will.

It's not something a professional journalist should probably admit to, but it was the first time it's happened so my track record is pretty good. Regan is a morning person. And I'm not. Still, I'd done plenty of morning interviews over the years so his request to talk at 8:30 one Tuesday morning wasn't a problem. Or wouldn't have been had I remembered it. The night before, funnily enough, my wife asked me if I had anything coming up. I said I had to interview Brian Regan next week sometime.

Cut-to: The next morning. I'm lying in bed. My son is haranguing me to get up. I ask him the time. He says it's 8:15. i.e. way too early for me. I tell him I'll get up at 8:30. Well, 8:30 comes and I'm still lying there and the phone rings. Who the hell would be calling me at such a time? I figure it's my wife so I let my son answer. I hear a man's voice on the other end so I grab the phone, half asleep. "Hi Guy? It's Brian Regan." Shit! I had completely forgotten the interview was today. I had prepared no questions and he's a busy guy. There's no way I can ask him to call back. So I fake it. "Oh, hi, Brian. Can you hang on for just a second?" And then I scramble, running downstairs to find my iPod, which I record phone interviews with. Check. Then I need the mic attachment so I run upstairs. Not there. Run back downstairs. Not there. Run back upstairs and find it in my pants pocket. Quickly set up recording and then breathlessly greet Regan, who's waiting patiently on the phone. Good guy, that Brian Regan.

Then I proceeded to interview him without any preparation whatsoever. But I've done enough of them over the years I can fake it okay. We spoke for 25 minutes and I got some good info. But what I was most pleased in getting was his take on his Just For Laughs meltdown that I had heard so much about over the years. All I had heard was that ten years ago he had his first gala at the Montreal festival and that he kept stopping and restarting, exiting the stage and coming back out. But I had never heard his take on it. Part of me wondered if it was part of the gag and people just made too big a deal out of it. But Regan set me straight. None of this made it into the story because it's not exactly newsworthy a decade later. But I found it fascinating. And hilarious. Here's how the exchange went:
GM: Can I ask you about the Just For Laughs situation? About the time at a gala where you came out, left and came back. I keep hearing about this story but have never heard your take on it.
BR: Rough.

GM: So it is true?
BR: It is true.

GM: Because I thought maybe you were doing it as a joke or something.
BR: No. No, I wish. I mean, there are some people who say, "Was that like a performance art kind of piece?" I guess I could take the easy way out and go, "Yeah, people just didn't seem to get it." But it wasn't at all. (laughs) It was a disaster is what it was! An absolute disaster. I remember all four moments. I can actually defend every time I walked offstage and came back on but I guess in hindsight it sounds ridiculous. Ultimately, to make a long story short, it was one of the worst nights of my career.

GM: Really?
BR: Oh, yeah. That night I was so embarrassed and everything. I talked to my manager. This isn't like bombing at a corporate gig where nobody knows and you lick your wounds and go up to your hotel room; this is bombing in front of the comedy community! (laughs) I said, "I just feel horrible about this." He said, "You know what you ought to do?" – and I give him a lot of credit for this – he goes, "You ought to walk right downstairs" to where the bar was where everybody congregated at each night at the Delta, and he goes, "Just hang out. Have fun." And so I did that. I went down there. Everybody came up. Everybody wanted to talk about it. It was the talk of the festival! But at least I was there laughing it off. Hopefully I have a decent enough reputation amongst comedians where it wasn't a career killer, but it was about as close to a career killer as you could get without actually going down.

GM: When was it?
BR: It was about ten years ago.

GM: And obviously it didn't affect you.
BR: I don't know if it affected me at all but in my mind it certainly was an ouch moment, you know?

GM: Was it just that you flubbed a line? Why did you keep starting over?
BR: Well, the initial reason why I left the stage was Dame Edna was the emcee, the host, and she came out – he... she... I don't know what the politically correct way of saying it is – her character came out and did a lot of self-deprecating stuff saying, "Yes, it's truly me, it's truly me! Can you believe it? Yes, I'm right here before your very eyes! It actually is me!" And the crowd was going nuts. They loved the character. I was the very first comedian after her. I was the first comedian that she introduced. So she introduced me and I came out. And I thought I would be self-deprecating and make fun of myself, so I said, "Yes, it's truly me!" You know, like a little call-back to what she did. "It's truly me! Yes, can you believe it?! I'm actually here!" And they did not laugh at all. No one laughed. It just bombed. So in my mind I'm thinking, Wait a sec, maybe they thought I was making fun of her. Which wasn't my intention. I was trying to make fun of me! So then I got into my bit. I just started getting into my routine and it got nothing. Like, literally nothing! I'd never heard silence be so loud in my life. It was getting like nothing. I was like, How is this happening? And then I started getting paranoid thinking they must have thought that I was slamming her and now they just collectively don't like me.

GM: All these things just racing through your head.
BR: Oh, my gosh, my brain was just trying to figure things out and all of that. One time before in my career I had stopped a taping when I had flubbed a line and got off stage and came back out and redid it and killed. So I had that little red flag in my head going, "You know what I'm going to do? I'm gonna try that trick!" So I said, "Hey, folks..." I didn't want to try to over-explain it with the Dame Edna thing, so I said, "I think I messed up here. I messed up a line." I kind of white-lied it. So I left the stage, came back out and didn't do the "Yes, can you believe it's me?" stuff. I just went into the bit. And then they still didn't laugh at all! (laughs) They didn't laugh one bit.

GM: They were in shock. What did he just do?
BR: Yeah, I think they were stunned. Like, nobody knew what was going on. My manager, who I saw briefly backstage when I ran off, didn't know what was going on. Everybody was looking at me strange when I left the stage. So now I'm out there and I'm thinking, "They're still not laughing." So I stopped it that time and I said, "Oh, folks, just try to react naturally. You know, normally." Now I'm scrambling.

GM: "Laugh, dammit!"
BR: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I said, "Oh, this is for a TV thing. I know it's weird that I started again but if you could just laugh normally and it'll all be cool. Alright, I feel like a moron. I'll be back in a second." So I left the stage for the second time. I run back out and I start doing the routine again. Now they start laughing like sarcastically over-the-top. I said, "Hey, I'm Brian" and "Ahaha!" and huge applause. Now I'm thinking this is a nightmare. If anybody watched the tape, they're not going to show the first two, I'm thinking. So I stopped again, the third time, and said, "You know what, folks? I know you're trying to help me out and I appreciate it but this is for a TV thing so no one's going to understand why you're laughing like that, over-the-top. So just try to react normally." So I left the stage again! (laughs) And then I came back. Now this is my fourth time on stage. And now the audience, I'm sure, is like, "the hell with this guy!" So I started the bit again and they just stared at me for the entire time. I'm no fool! (laughs) I'm not going to leave a stage a fifth time! Only idiots do that! (laughs) So I stayed out there and bombed. Got nothing for my ten, twelve minutes and then just said goodnight and walked off to the most tepid applause I've ever heard in my life! (laughs) I was shell-shocked. I was absolutely shell-shocked.

GM: That's a great story. Maybe they put you on the French gala and they just didn't understand you.
BR: (laughs) Yeah, I wish!

GM: Did you ever think of defending it as some people thought, that it was performance art?
BR: No. I'm too honest. I like to live and die on my sword, or whatever that expression is. That actually happened so I just try to explain it honestly to people if they were curious. It was a tough deal, man. And I worried that it could have been a career killer at the time. But it ended up just a little bump in the road but it didn't hurt overall.
Now that's comedy! If you're not familiar with Brian Regan, do yourself a favour and check out his clips on YouTube. Here's one of my favourites:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

April 11: Sean Kent

Look at me twenty minutes before showtime scrambling out a post. What did I do all day that I forgot before now? Beats me. Maybe because the show is pre-recorded. No excuses.

Our guest is Sean Kent, an American comic from Texas based in Seattle. We spoke between shows at Lafflines a couple weeks ago. I'd never met him before but we had a very interesting chat. I had seen him on two seasons of NBC's Last Comic Standing and that's almost all I knew of him. During the course of the interview, I learned he was a history buff, so we talked lots about that. Not funny but I found it fascinating. We also talked about his battle with cancer, why he's anti-social and his views on teabagging. And only ever-so-briefly about basketball.

Alright, gotta run. Got a show to do.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Episode 184ish: Allyson Smith

I've got some good shows lined up for the next few weeks. And they're in the can, as they say, so I can sit back and relax for a few Sundays. Check the upcoming guests over there on the right and you'll see just what I mean. More on them in the days and weeks to come.

Meanwhile, I've got another podcast for you. If you missed last week's live show, it was a goody. Allyson Smith is just fun to have around. And what a set of pipes on the gal. Once again, she serenaded me near the end of the show with a rousing rendition of I Could Have Danced All Night. Gotta love karaoke. It's not comedy, but it is. Anyway, give it a listen if you're so inclined. You can click below or over search it out at iTunes, remembering, of course, to leave a comment and/or a rating. One day, I swear, someone will and I shall rejoice.

Allyson Smith from Easter Sunday, April 4, 2010

(Due to some issues at the station, I'm bringing you this podcast out of order. Still to come are shows with Jy Harris and Carter Hortie. Look for those next week sometime.)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

April 4: Allyson Smith

It's 10 a.m. as I write this and I have a belly full of chocolate already. And I've got plenty more to go (especially once I dip into the little one's Easter basket). Will I experience a sugar crash on air tonight? You'll have to tune in and find out. But you'll want to tune in for other reasons, too, namely the lovely and talented Allyson Smith. The last time I saw the former school marm was in Saint John, New Brunswick, back in October where she was nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award. She last visited us in studio back in 2007, when she was still a resident of this fair city after moving from Alberta. Now she makes her home in Toronto. Is she on the run? We'll find out tonight.

We've had plenty of guests over the years perform live humorous music for us, but Allyson – a karaoke queen – is the only one to belt out Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive, complete with orchestration. Gotta love the spirit. I'm going to beg for another song tonight and hopefully she'll comply.