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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mar. 25: Jay Brown

Jay Brown is back in town so naturally he's back on the show. The Metalhead of Comedy has been living in the capital of the universe for a while now but is back in the cozy comfort of his hometown to open the new Yuk Yuk's this past weekend. It was great seeing him back on stage and it'll be great listening to him talk on What's So Funny? for an hour tonight. The guy is never short of opinion. We'll talk about Pantera tributes, gout, the new club and how much he misses the nurturing arms of our local comedy community.

Tonight. Eleven o'clock. Be there.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Showcases, openings and roasts, oh my

I just bought my ticket to tonight's roast of Terry David Mulligan at Federico's Supper Club on Commercial. Yes, you heard me: bought. I'm just a huge fan of the roast. Any roast, be it Dean Martin, Comedy Central, live, or beef. Local man about town Patrick Maliha does regular monthly shows at the club featuring just stand-up, but tonight ventures into the world of the celebrity skewer.

I love the venue. It's an old-time supper club. When I went a few months ago, I walked into a bygone era. Large screen TVs were silently playing old black and white Italian movies and the ambience, with a formal maitre d' leading us to our table, was retro cool. The price was fifty bucks but totally worth it. You got an excellent three-course dinner followed by the comedy show which in turn was followed by a live disco-like band fronted by Federico himself as the tables and chairs were pushed aside for dancing. I'd totally go again.

Tonight's roast is a little different, being a fundraiser for the Vancouver Food Bank. So tickets are in the $100 range, but this time you get appies, a drink, a four-course meal, the roast, and dancing. (I'm not a dancer but I always like to watch people wiggle and silently ridicule them.) Since we're not all millionaires, the club has opened the roast-only part of the evening to the public for only twenty bucks. So I snatched up a ticket. On the dais will be comics (and all former What's So Funny? guests) Tanyalee Davis (Doug Stanhope just tweeted about his friend today), Bob Robertson & Linda Cullen (of Double Exposure fame), and Carter Hortie. They'll be joined by Fiona Forbes and Michael Eckford of Urban Rush, TDM ghost writer and Province journo Glen Schaefer, and the unemployed David Pratt (who should be the local roast's comedic equivalent of Comedy Central's choice of The Situation to roast Charlie Sheen). Erica Sigurdson was also on the bill but I'm guessing she's a scratch since she is replacing Ali Wong, who had to cancel at the Comedy MIX this weekend.

Terry David Mulligan is quite amazing. I'm old. We all know that. But I distinctly remember being about 12 and some of my dad's musician friends making fun of him. How is it that I look older than him now?

So that's where I'll be tonight. Last night I was at the official opening of the new Yuk Yuk's on Cambie and 12th. (Read my full review for the Georgia Straight here.) It was a sold-out affair and the place looks great. Local franchisee Garry Yuill got up on stage to give his thank yous and try his hand at amateur comedy, followed by the man himself, Mark Breslin, who chose a young lass from the front row to come up and cut the ribbon. Then Jay Brown got the comedy to an official start, followed by Sam Easton, Bryan O'Gorman and finally the headliner, Emo Philips. Regular readers know I'm jazzed about finally having two legitimate clubs in Vancouver proper. I think it just might be able to work. I'll continue to patronize both Yuk Yuk's and the Comedy MIX on Burrard. It's good for comedy.

On Wednesday was the soft opening, where twenty locals got up and did roughly five minutes each for Breslin. He told me he was impressed (that interview will run on What's So Funny? a week Sunday; this Sunday we'll go live with Jay Brown). Chris Molineux, the new amateur night booker, hosted and brought up, in order:
  1. Ben McGinnis
  2. Dan Willows
  3. Chris James
  4. Rachel Burns
  5. Johnny Scoop
  6. Larke Miller
  7. Darren Elmore
  8. Jesse Carroll
  9. Art Factora
  10. Katie-Ellen Humphries
  11. Andy Cañete
  12. Benjamin Valentine
  13. Sean Emeny
  14. Kevin Banner
  15. Dennis Litonjua
  16. Jared Borland
  17. Ed Hill
  18. Chris Gaskin
  19. Andy Kallstrom
  20. Katharine Ferns
So that's that. And there's plenty more comedy around town this weekend I won't get to. I mentioned Sigurdson headlining the MIX. I also see former Madly Off in All Directions host Lorne Elliott is playing the Centennial Theatre in North Van tonight, and Giants V: Murder by Death is at the Cultch tomorrow. I'm sure there's more, too. Go see something.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Comedy wars

I'm getting excited about the competition heating up between the Comedy MIX and Yuk Yuk's. Vancouver has only ever had two clubs going at the same time for brief periods, but I think this time it could work. In the past it's been some upstart independent going up against the established chain. This time around, though, the established chain (Yuk Yuk's) has been gone for a couple years, giving the upstart independent (the MIX) a running start. So now we've got a club on Burrard St. in the Century Plaza Hotel that is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best in North America while the name everyone associates with stand-up comedy in this country, Yuk Yuk's, opens across the bridge on Cambie St., just south of 12th. The MIX should continue to pack them in while Yuk Yuk's should have an easier time of gaining new patrons than most independents do when they start out.

Take a look at these upcoming schedules and tell me this isn't good for comedy consumers in the area:

March 22-24: Ali Wong Erica Sigurdson (the MIX)               Emo Philips (Yuk Yuk's)
March 29-31: Ari Shaffir (the MIX)                                         Glen Foster (Yuk Yuk's)
April 12-14: Tom Rhodes (the MIX)                                Gilbert Gottfried (Yuk Yuk's)
April 26-28: Chris Porter (the MIX)                                      Darryl Lenox (Yuk Yuk's)
May 3-5: Moshe Kasher (the MIX)                                          Aaron Berg (Yuk Yuk's)

There's no sense being loyal to one club. Just go with the act you want to see. Whoever brings in the best acts, wins. Sure, the location and service and full comedy experience factor into it, but ultimately it's about the acts. If you go see someone and laugh your ass off, chances are you'll go back. And they're not mutually exclusive, either (unless you're a comic, but that's another story). With each act playing five shows over three nights every week, you can catch both of them if you so desire.

You'll notice some of the weeks aren't listed above but that's only because Yuk Yuk's still is only listing a few weeks. The MIX has the following dates already booked and listed on their site:

April 5-7: Brendon Walsh
April 19-21: Tom Segura
May 10-12: Ian Bagg

Plus they have the added bonus of being open Tuesdays and Wednesdays, while Yuk Yuk's is starting things off with only Thursday thru Saturday shows.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Decline of the American Empire

I got a sneak peek of a TV special that's airing tonight (Mar. 20) on the CBC and thought I'd pass it along to you, in case you're interested. It's essentially a Just For Laughs gala, only with a theme. The almost comically-accented John Oliver (he always sounds to me like Dick Van Dyke trying to do Cockney in Mary Poppins) hosts an hour of political stand-ups whose sights are aimed at our imperialist neighbour to the immediate south. Thus the title of this blog post and the title of said TV special. Oliver brings out, in order, former What's So Funny? guests Alonzo Bodden and Marc Maron, followed by Mark Critch, Greg Proops, and Colin Quinn. It was filmed last summer in Montréal.

Canadians, with our ingrained inferiority complex, love to take potshots at America so it's nice to see an international group effort here, including four of their own. There are, naturally, some pointed barbs, but comics being what they are, there are plenty of others saved for Canadians, British, French and Chinese, so don't feel too bad about the Yanks.

My sneak peek was the full special, but you can get a sampling of what's to come on the JFL website. Follow this link; it'll take you there.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mar. 18: Chris James

Gotta first-timer on the reel tonight. I've enjoyed stand-up comic Chris James every time I've seen him (which is saying something) but he hasn't been at it all that long, relatively speaking. He reminds me slightly of another bearded comic I really like, Jon Dore. Not just because of their facial hair, though. Both have a somewhat earnest, straight-faced delivery and smart-alecky quality that I like, which is also evident in the web series The Chris James Show. Last I heard, Chris was opening for Todd Glass a couple weeks ago, so he can tell me all about that since I wasn't there. And we'll find out everything else there is to know about the guy. So tune in, won't you?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Brian Regan interview 2012

With Brian Regan playing the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts tomorrow (Mar. 17), I thought I'd get you ready by sharing the transcript to the phone interview I did with him a couple weeks ago. The story I wrote from this interview runs in the Georgia Straight this week and online forever here. As always, there's so much more I couldn't get to in the article than I got in the interview. So enjoy. I did.

Brian Regan – February 20, 2012

 "I think my comedy is glom-proof because people tell me that they tried to tell my joke at a party or somewhere and everybody just stared at them. I don’t know whether to take that as a compliment or not. I’m like, alright, well, maybe you need the whole thing. Maybe it’s gotta be me saying it or else it just kind of falls flat. So that makes it glom-resistant." – Brian Regan

Guy MacPherson: Hello.
Brian Regan: Hey, this is Brian Regan for Guy MacPherson, please.

GM: Brian, hello.
BR: Hey, how are you?

GM: Great. How are you?
BR: Good.

GM: I say ‘great’ but I apologize in advance for any hacking cough or sneezing.
BR: Aw, man. Well, I wish you the best.

GM: Thank you. I imagine you have to perform sick, right?
BR: I do sometimes, yeah. It’s not fun, you know?

GM: What’s the sickest you’ve been on stage?
BR: I’ve had two experiences that come to mind. I get laryngitis sometimes and I had to do a two-show thing in one day where I could barely speak. It didn’t hurt that much doing it. I was okay; I just couldn’t talk that well. And the poor audience was like, “I think we’re here to understand and hear comedy clearly.” So it wasn’t the best show I can put out there, the best two shows. So that wasn’t fun. 

But then there was another that I did, I forget where it was. I normally don’t get headaches but I had this incredibly bad headache, the kind that ebbs and flows. And I had to muscle through the show. Oh man, it was horrible. Sometimes it would come right on punchlines but I had to have this happy exterior. I can’t let on to the audience that I’m in agony up here (laughs). I’m trying to give this illusion that, hey, man, isn’t this all fun? Aren’t we all having a good time? Maybe they were having a good time but it was horrible for me.

GM: Where was that?
BR: I forget. Norfolk, Virginia, comes to mind. It was in that part of the country. I can’t remember if it was there or not but it was in that area.

GM: The show must go on.
BR: Yeah. I don’t get that. (laughs) Where did this old adage come from and why do we have to subscribe to it? Why can’t I just say, “I’m not going out there; I have a headache”?

GM: I suppose you could… I’ve interviewed you twice before. The challenge for me this time is I’m not going to mention that you’re a clean comic because you must be sick of that. And I’m sick of writing about it.
BR: (laughs) Hey, you know what? I re-read the article that you wrote last time and I really liked the way you wrote about it. And I appreciate it.

GM: Oh, thanks. I’ll have to go back and look. I don’t remember.
BR: You touched on it but you mentioned it was something that I do but that I don’t tout necessarily. I think you captured it very clearly.

GM: Oh, good. I appreciate that. I’m a bit of a comedy enthusiast and I like all styles. I don’t get when somebody will like a comic just for the fact that they’re clean or just for the fact that they’re edgy. There’s gotta be something more to it.
BR: Yeah. I agree. I feel the same way. To me it’s like shock jock radio. I don’t mind somebody being a shock jock but are you funny? The shock in itself isn’t really hard to pull off, is it? And clean itself is not hard to pull off. I could sit down with somebody in ten minutes and tell them how to do a clean show but they might not get any laughs: “Just get out there and talk. Just go out there and say whatever comes into your mind. Just don’t hit that f-word!”

GM: That’s right! It’s a little harder to teach the “Be funny” part.
BR: Yeah, exactly.

GM: So we better stop talking about this otherwise you’re going to give me a great quote that I’m going to have to use… I interview lots of comedians and you always hear the names – and I don’t know if it’s true or they’re just parroting each other – Carlin and Pryor as big influences. I don’t know that I know yours.
BR: I never heard of either of those two comedians.

GM: (laughs)
BR:  Um… well, it’s interesting. When I wanted to do comedy, when I realized that’s what I wanted to do, I was going to Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio. Before computers. It was hard to get satellite TV in there. This is before the wheel. Before fire. And so there was nothing to be influenced by. At least my beginning thoughts of being a comedian. I mean, of course it wasn’t like I lived in a cave and didn’t see TV when I was home on spring break and stuff like that. But I think I was kind of fortunate in that I had to come up with some quirky thoughts on my own. There were comedians that I liked. When I was in high school, Steve Martin… I remember laughing in a different way at him than other comedians. I just found him absurdly off the tracks. But if you really analyze it, there was a smartness to it, you know? Sometimes I think you gotta be smart to be that stupid. The character, I mean. I remember laughing at him in a way that was, like, really interesting and fun, going, ‘Wow, this guy thinks in a very bizarre fashion.’ So he may have been one of the people who opened my eyes to the fact that you can be way off the beaten path and still make people laugh.

GM: It’s kind of like the rodeo clown. You have to be really good and accomplished before you can act stupid out there.
BR: Yes. One of my favourite scenes is in The Honeymooners when Ralph Kramden is on the roller skates and the character doesn’t know how to roller skate. When you’re watching it you go, ‘This guy clearly knows how to roller skate because he wouldn’t be able to look this bad unless he were really good.’ It was just a brilliant scene.

GM: You’re an influential comic now. I don’t know if you go out and watch comedy on a regular basis anymore, but there are guys coming up who sound like, you know, Mitch Hedberg or you or Bill Hicks or somebody like that. It’s like there are these templates and now you’re one of them. Do you ever see it or notice it?
BR: I do, a little bit. I don’t really do the comedy clubs anymore but it was interesting sometimes going to a comedy club and there’d be like a couple of younger comedians that I’m following and I’m thinking, ‘I think I’m following myself tonight!’ But it was very flattering. There’s a difference between being influenced and stealing, so I have no problem with somebody kind of adopting a little bit of this or a little bit of that. That’s how we all learn. But it’s when you’re blatantly glomming onto stuff, that’s a whole different animal. But yeah, it’s interesting to know that, or flattering to know that somebody might like my comedy enough to want to tap into it a touch.

GM: You haven’t been the victim of any glomming onto, have you?
BR: (laughs) I think my comedy is glom-proof because people tell me that they tried to tell my joke at a party or somewhere and everybody just stared at them. (laughs) I don’t know whether to take that as a compliment or not. I’m like, alright, well, maybe you need the whole thing. Maybe it’s gotta be me saying it or else it just kind of falls flat. So that makes it glom-resistant. (laughs)

GM: It seems like the so-called alternative scene has really moved into the mainstream, with the Louis CK, David Cross types. What do you think of that scene? They have a very personal style. With you, we don’t learn as much raw information about you as we do with these guys.
BR: That’s correct. And I think about that from time to time. Sometimes I wonder, ‘Is my comedy less valid because it’s not autobiographical?’ But then I get off that real quickly because I look at a Mitch Hedberg. There was no autobiography in his stuff; it was all conceptual. It was a fun way to look at things sideways. I’m not trying to say I do his type of comedy but I just use that as an example of it’s okay to just make somebody look at things at a weird angle and it doesn’t necessarily have to be about something from an autobiographical place; it can just be something about the world. So I like to think that my comedy is just as valid as anybody else’s; it’s just different, you know?

GM: I totally agree. For anyone who says comedy has to be truthful or autobiographical, there are a ton of exceptions. You could point to Mitch Hedberg or Zach Galifianakis or Demetri Martin that don’t do it that way. So anything is valid.
BR: Yeah, I agree. I don’t have anything profound to follow that with so I’m going to submit the ‘I agree’ and leave it at that.

GM: Okay. It’s tabled. I always feel we do learn about you and comics like Hedberg and the others of that ilk because we’re learning about the way you think, the way you see the world. It’s just not personal information.
BR: Yeah, it’s interesting. I felt that way doubling back to Steve Martin. There’s two ways of looking at it: His character, if you will, was just incredibly naïve and dumb but the way the comedy was put together meant that the comedian was incredibly brilliant. So you’re getting a double-barrel effect. So as an audience member I’m laughing at both simultaneously. I’m laughing at the dumb character but I’m laughing at the brilliant guy who created it and I’m enjoying the whole experience. So I’d like to think, if I’m on stage and people are laughing, that they don’t just see the dumb guy that I do sometimes and be like, ‘Wow, that’s just a goofy dumb character that he does.’ I’d like to think if they’re listening to it, don’t they realize that there has to be some kind of craftiness to it? But then you can risk over-analyzing it and worrying about stuff. I guess what’s frustrating is when you do a whole show, you make people laugh, you like to think through some concepts, and people after the show go, “I love it when you cross your eyes and hunch over!” You go, “Wow.” (laughs) I could have done that for an hour! I guess I didn’t need to say anything.

GM: Do you consciously avoid talking about yourself or revealing stuff about yourself, or do you just think you can’t make that as funny as the other things?
BR: Well, you know, I always tried to tinker with the formula, the ratio of what is autobiographical and what is not. In my last CD that came out, I have a couple of bits about my kids in there. I try to think of them as examples of just anybody that has kids themselves or just hangs out with kids. Just using mine as an example. But it always felt a little weird for me going, ‘This is me talking about my life.’ And my daughter, my sweet little girl, in the most beautiful way said that she loved my jokes but she felt a tad uncomfortable about the ones about her. And I haven’t told one about either of my kids since.

GM: How old are they?
BR: My boy is twelve, my girl is eight.

GM: So you won’t talk about your kids. Are there other topics you won’t discuss? You don’t really get into pop cultural stuff too much. I know you don’t get political. Are there topics where you just go, ‘Nah. Not for me’?
BR: At this point in time, yes. But I don’t like to make absolute rules because I think comedy is like a growing organism. You keep changing. Look at George Carlin. He did the hippy-dippy weatherman and then he came into somebody that was much more socially conscious. I don’t know what I’ll do in the future so I don’t like to say I would never talk about religion or I’d never talk about politics because I’m finding more and more that that kind of stuff interests me in my regular life and maybe that will creep its way in. I like to keep the doors open.

"The closer people are to you who like what you do, the more meaningful the compliment. When other comedians like what you do, that’s the ultimate compliment. The second level is making a comedy club waitress laugh because they have heard it all. I remember being on stage one time and seeing a comedy club waitress down in the front trying to hand drinks off looking up at me and she was laughing so hard that she almost couldn’t put the drinks down. I felt like saying, 'Folks, I don’t know if you guys realize what has happened here but I feel like I’ve just been knighted.'" – Brian Regan

GM: When I spoke to you when you first came here a couple years ago, that was I think your first time in Vancouver. Now you’re coming back more regularly. I see you’ve been to Victoria. Has the internet helped open the doors to other markets?
BR: For Canada, yes, because the television exposure… It used to be you had to have more television exposure than not to be able to seen. A lot of the shows that I was on in the United States I don’t think were necessarily up in Canada. The Letterman show, maybe some Comedy Central things. So I just thought that Canadian audiences weren’t as aware of me as United States audiences. But I think the internet, as you say, has changed that world somewhat. More and more even people in the U.S. say that they first got interested in me from YouTube. It’s flipped to that degree where people more often than not tell me that they first saw me on the computer than on television.

GM: And you’re okay with that because they’re coming out to see you.
BR: Yeah, yeah. I mean, yeah, absolutely. I’ve only seen a positive effect from it. The numbers are still good when I go to places. They keep increasing here and there so it’s like I don’t want to mess with it, you know?

GM: Yeah. As long as keep hunching over and making funny faces.
BR: (laughs) Yeah, exactly. That’s right, another reason to do that. That’s the way they used to do the I Love Lucy shows. They would come up with the silly thing first and then go, ‘Make it happen. We gotta get Lucy on stilts!’ They’d write some reason why she’s on stilts. So maybe I learned something in this phone call. (laughs) Maybe I should just go, 'There’s got to be some other ways when I can cross my eyes and hunch over!'

GM: (laughs) You released your CD on your website. Did you do this before Louis CK did?
BR: I’m not even going to come close to trying to claim anything like that. I mean, downloads were around before I did my download. I just came out with mine about a year ago or something like that. The one thing that Louis CK was able to do that I wasn’t able to do was pull in a million dollars in a day! (laughs) He broke the ground on that!

GM: It’s funny since that made the news all these young comedians are thinking, ‘That’s what I gotta do! I just have to release my CD on my own website.’
BR: Right. Like his talent and his abilities and his following didn’t have something to do with it.

GM: You are revered by lots of comics of all different styles, even if they’re filthy or edgy or whatever. They tend to look down at a lot of comics outside their clique, but you’re still the guy. That must feel good.
BR: Absolutely. I mean, the closer people are to you who like what you do, the more meaningful the compliment. When other comedians like what you do, that’s the ultimate compliment. The second level is making a comedy club waitress laugh because they have heard it all. I remember being on stage one time and seeing a comedy club waitress down in the front trying to hand drinks off looking up at me and she was laughing so hard that she almost couldn’t put the drinks down. I felt like saying, “Folks, I don’t know if you guys realize what has happened here but I feel like I’ve just been knighted.” How could I possibly get through to a comedy club waitress, you know? Anyway, I kind of got off track there, but people that are in the comedy world, that know the nuts and bolts of it, they’re going to see through façades, so if they like what you do, it means something. It makes you feel like maybe I’m on the right track here.

GM: I heard you on Comedy and Everything Else. Have you done other podcasts?
BR: I’ve only done a handful. I’ve done Greg Fitzsimmons, Tom Rhodes… I’m trying to think if I’ve done another one… Oh, Come to Papa. That’s actually not a podcast. He’s got an hour show on XM-Sirius. But those longer, hour-long forms of interviews, I haven’t done a lot of them but it seems to be the way things are headed so I’ll probably do a handful more.

GM: The only one that I listen to religiously is WTF with Marc Maron.
BR: Yup, yup.

GM: I don’t know if you’ve heard any of those shows or heard about them.
BR: I’ve heard a lot about them. I’m not a real podcast listener. I just don’t really do that, you know? But I know Marc Maron and I had an opportunity to do it but I haven’t been able to get the planets lined up to do it with him but I would be honoured to do his podcast, especially with all the good he has. I always like when somebody finds the vehicle that utilizes their talents. Marc Maron has been around for a long time and has always been a comedian that other comedians liked. He might not have had the following that he deserved but it’s nice for him to fall into this way of presenting his comedy, which is more conversational. It’s cool when people hit a vehicle that just takes them to the top.

GM: Is your brother still doing stand-up?
BR: Yes. He was writing for The King of Queens TV show, when it was on, obviously. Since then he’s back into the stand-up world exclusively. I think he would love to get on another TV show because he’s a very good writer and that sort of thing. He and I used to work together once a month but now he’s just kind of doing his own thing and loving it.

GM: Who was funnier as a kid?
BR: (laughs) Well, we have another brother who doesn’t do stand-up who was funnier than both of us put together.

GM: Older or younger?
BR: Our oldest brother Mike. I used to say to people you could ask my brother Mike a yes or no question and it wouldn’t matter whether he said yes or no, you would laugh. So in some cases it comes from attitude, you know? Yeah, he’s very funny. Everybody in my family is funny.

GM: I remember hearing Mike Myers saying that he was the least funny person in his family.
BR: (laughs) That’s funny.

GM: I know you haven’t had any regular TV exposure. Do you ever sit around and get jealous and go, “Why not me?” Or are you just happy with the career you’ve had?
BR: I used to get more envious. I don’t know if ‘envy’ is the right word because I never begrudged anybody hitting big if I felt they deserved it. And most people that would get a TV show, like Seinfeld or Ray Romano, I’m just completely happy for them. Kevin James, you know what I mean? These guys are strong, they’re good, and they deserve this. So I never was envious like, “Why did they get that?” But I used to feel that that is what represented whether or not you were a good comedian. So it used to bother me that I didn’t get that because I felt it was a quarterback who never won the Super Bowl. It’s like, “Well, I guess you’re a pretty good comedian but you never did get a sitcom so you can’t be one of the best.” So I used to want that feather in my cap just so it could represent that I had reached a certain level. But I don’t feel that way anymore. I have enough of a following and I think I’m respected pretty well, so I’m cool with just being a stand-up at this point.

GM: It’s more of a perception thing. People will go, “How good can he be if he’s never had a sitcom?”
BR: Yes, yes.

GM: How many weeks a year do you work?
BR: Roughly half the year. What I do is I’ll do four nights in a row on a weekend: Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And then I take the next week and a half off. So it’s 26 out of 52. It doesn’t exactly work out that way because I work a little less in the summer than in the other three seasons. So it tends to be three out of five weeks in those other seasons and maybe one out of five weeks in the summer. But for the most part it’s every other weekend.

GM: That’s a lot of press hours.
BR: Yeah. I recently have shied away from doing radio. I just kind of backed off that and I’m just doing print. I never felt like I was one of those guys that just really sparked on the radio so I started to lay low on that.

GM: Yes, the press is a cut above! But you must get some really stupid questions.
BR: (in an exaggerated radio voice) “For people who aren’t familiar with your comedy, what can people expect if they come out to your show?” I feel just like hanging up the phone: “Okay, the interview has to be over. Because clearly you don’t know anything about me.” And for me it’s an impossible question to answer to the point where you’re going to satisfy anybody. You can’t really do a bit after that question: “Well, here’s one of my jokes!...” It’s just going to fall flat. And the other way to answer it is to give a scientific answer. So I told my manager I’m tired of that question and similar questions so can we just lay low on the radio?

GM: But print guys can be just as bad.
BR: No, no, no. Print is clearly different, and I’m not just saying it because this is a print interview. Print is a half-hour interview and the people have to do a little bit of research whereas radio – and I’m not saying all radio hosts, but some radio people just wing it. Like, they’ll throw the press sheet in front of them two minutes before the interview starts and they’re just going in and not necessarily asking anything interesting, you know?

GM: I appreciate you talking. It was great.
BR: The next question on your hit list wasn’t, “For those people not familiar with your comedy…”, was it? That was going to be his closing question and I just riddled it to pieces!

GM: “Where do you get your material?”
BR: (laughs) Yeah, that’s right. There’s a place in K-Mart, a lot of people don’t realize that there’s an aisle in the back and you just go there and you just pick up what you need.

GM: (laughs) And then hunch over.
BR: (laughs) Yeah. Alright, Guy.

GM: Great, thanks a lot, Brian.
BR: I thought you were done. I would not cut you off.

GM: No, no. Yes, I was. I mean I am. But thank you.
BR: (laughs) Well, if you were, then how come we’re still talking?

GM: I don’t know. Well, let’s say goodbye then.
BR: Alright, man. Well, I appreciate it very much. I liked the last one you wrote. It felt like you were on it in terms of at least the way I look at things so I appreciate it.

GM: Oh, great. Thank you very much.
BR: Alright, Guy. Bye.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

This week in press releases – Sitcom Pitch Competition

Everyone's got a sitcom idea, right? Here's your chance to do something with it. Maybe.

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“From Set to Screen” Initiative Targeting Comedy Performers

Five Finalists to Pitch Live during Just for Laughs Comedy Conference; One Winner will be Invited as Official Artist to the 8th Annual New York Television Festival

[NEW YORK, NY, March 12, 2012] – Just for Laughs and the NYTVF today announced a unique partnered initiative seeking original sitcom pitches from comedy performers. The competition is specifically seeking series that are based on or inspired by stories, sketches or characters that have been developed and honed by live performance. Five finalists will be invited to pitch their sitcom concepts live during an event at the Just for Laughs Comedy Conference ( in Montreal, July 26 - 28, 2012, during the 30th Anniversary of the Just For Laughs Montreal Comedy Festival. One winner and their sitcom will be selected for exclusive showcase opportunities and participation at the 8th Annual New York Television Festival, scheduled for October 22 – 27, 2012, in Lower Manhattan.

“We’re thrilled to be joining forces with the NYTVF,” said JFL Comedy Conference Director Paul Ronca. “The NYTVF is the leader and innovator in building bridges between talent and television executives. This partnership will be great for both of us, but will also be extremely valuable in creating new relationships between the wealth of emerging talent that comes to Just For Laughs and network executives.”

“Just for Laughs Montreal is the comedy festival for up-and-coming comedic talent and we're honored to join forces with them to provide great new voices with tangible television development opportunities,” said NYTVF Founder Terence Gray. “From The Cosby Show and Seinfeld to Everybody Loves Raymond, Ellen and Louie – a huge swath of television history has been paved by comedians, and we believe that this partnership could be an ideal platform to discover the next big thing.”

The pitch competition is open to worldwide applicants age 18 and over. Sitcom concepts not currently under development at a network, studio or major production company and meeting all other criteria in the Official Rules are eligible for the competition. For consideration, creators will be asked to submit a series treatment and outline along with supporting video and will retain all rights to their concepts throughout the process. Official contest rules and dates can be accessed through the contest Web site located at

A screening committee of Just for Laughs and NYTVF officials will narrow the pool of entrants down to five finalists. These finalists will be invited to pitch their concepts live before a panel of comedy experts during the Just for Laughs Comedy Conference in Montreal, July 26 – 28, 2012. One winner will be selected and will enjoy exclusive showcase opportunities and participation as an Official Artist at the 2012 New York Television Festival in October. As an Official Artist, the winner's series pitch will be shared with the NYTVF's Industry Partners prior to the Festival and he or she will enjoy exclusive opportunities to participate in the artist-only track at the Festival, including NYTVF Pitch as well Executive Access and Artist Development Chats.

The Just For Laughs Comedy Conference is also happy to announce the return of the Fonds de solidarité FTQ as a presenting sponsor of all its Pitch Programs and Networking Lunches.

This is the second comedy initiative launched in the past week by the NYTVF, which announced the fifth installment of the FOX Comedy Script Contest on Tuesday. Previously, the NYTVF announced 2012 development partnerships with IFC and MTV, who will each be awarding a development deal to comedy pilots through the NYTVF’s annual Independent Pilot Competition.  Also in the comedy genre, Comedy Central is offering a guaranteed deal through the Comedy Central Short Pilot Competition, whose finalists were also announced this week.

These join the NYTVF’s other previously-announced development initiatives with Syfy and VH1 (also through the Independent Pilot Competition), the second annual A&E Unscripted Development Pipeline, as well as NYTVF Pitch Partners BIO Channel, Hasbro Studios, Logo, SevenOne International, Sundance Channel, and the UK's Channel 4. Additionally, NYTVF London, the organization's first international event, was hosted last November in partnership with BBC America, BAFTA and PACT. During the event, Fox Television Studios (in conjunction with Apostle) and Warner Bros. International Television Production announced the first-ever NYTVF development opportunities exclusively for U.K. Producers.


About Just For Laughs
Founded in 1983 with the presentation of its first comedy festival in Montreal, the Just For Laughs Group is a world leader in comedy (want proof? Come to the Conference). It has four major business units: Festivals (in Montreal, Toronto, Chicago and Sydney, AUS); television production (most notably Gags seen in 135 countries and on 95 airlines); live shows (Canadian tour dates for Jerry Seinfeld, Louis C.K., Kevin Hart, the Capital One Just For Laughs Comedy Tour, North American dates for Family Guy Live!); production of hand-crafted awards; and talent management. Its inaugural Festival is now the world's largest and most prestigious comedy event welcoming close to 2 million people each summer. The Group has offices in Montreal, Paris, Los Angeles, Toronto and London.

About the NYTVF
Established in 2005, the NYTVF is a pioneer of the independent television movement, constructing new and innovative paths of development and talent identification, while simultaneously complementing the traditional television development model. Its annual New York Television Festival – held each fall in New York City – is recognized as the industry’s first independent television festival, which provides a platform to elevate the work of artists creating for the small screen. Through the Festival and other year-round activities – including NYTVF London, which launched in 2011 – the NYTVF’s mission is to connect its community of over 10,000 independent creative artists with leading networks, studios and brands by cultivating relationships that lead to new opportunities. For more information on the NYTVF, the annual Festival and these initiatives, visit

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Podcast episode 269ish: Paul Hooper

Here's a podcast episode you can enjoy whether you tuned in to the original radio airing or not. Why? Because the gremilins at Co-op radio cut off the final minute and a half. How did it end? You'll only know by downloading the whole thing right here or at iTunes. It was a good one. Paul Hooper was making his first visit to Canada after years of trying. You'll learn why he never got up here sooner. You'll also hear some harrowing tales about his first eight years in comedy and how his OCD affects his day-to-day life. Fascinating stuff.

I hear Hooper will be back in town playing Lafflines in May. Check him out.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mar. 11: How about some comedy?

No guest tonight. So we'll play comedy clips. Not sure what yet but definitely some new Brian Regan and a Tig Notaro clip I haven't played yet. You'll just have to tune in to find out. 11 pm PST, as usual. You know the deal.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Talk show hosts – Steve Bays

When Hot Hot Heat's Steve Bays made his first visit to What's So Funny? last year, I got him to rank the late night American talk shows in order of fun, since he's done all the biggies. He gave us a little rundown of how the hosts operate. Here's that snippet for you set to photos. If you enjoy this taste of What's So Funny?, you might like the whole show. The catalogue is available over at iTunes and at

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Podcast episode 268ish: Mike Storck

Baltimorean... Baltimorite?... Baltimorman?... Baltimore comic Mike Storck makes a yearly visit to Vancouver and always makes a point to drop by the What's So Funny? studios. It's now a two-year tradition. On this day, we talked about actors taking stage time away from stand-up comics, discussed the definition of alternative comedy, and tried to figure out where comedy is heading. I don't think we came up with any answers, but the joy is in the journey, grasshopper, not the destination.

Have a listen right here or head over to iTunes and download yourself a copy. And for the love of Pete, leave us a rating and comment. It's lonely over there.

A taste of Hooper

The Paul Hooper episode will drop in podcast format later this week. In the meantime, here's a taste of what's to come, in case you missed it on radio. In this snippet he talks about his obsessive behaviour and how it manifests itself. A footnote to this description of his hotel check-out ritual: His OCD paid off for me. While doing his thorough search, Paul found a cord I left there during the interview.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Podcast episode 267ish: Rob Mailloux

Torontonian Rob Mailloux was in town a couple weeks ago. He's been here before, opening for Doug Stanhope and Jim Jefferies, but this was the first time we've sat down with him and had a long talk. Found out lots of things, too: Like the fact he was once a 260-pound anorexic, he had an early unfortunate stage name, he visited Little Mosque on the Prairie with Stanhope, he went up against the giant Just For Laughs machine, and how he learned to make dinner in a motel coffee machine. Stuff like that.

Here's the magic button that will start the episode playing for you right now. If you'd like it for take-out, head over to iTunes and tell them I sent you. They'll wrap it up for you in your iPod and you can listen on the go.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mar. 4: Paul Hooper

Paul Hooper
We've got a good – and damn compelling – show for you tonight on What's So Funny? North Carolinian comic Paul Hooper was here recently for the comedy festival and I had the chance to sit and talk to him the morning before he left. And oh the stories he told! You know The Hangover? Well, he wasn't in it but he lived it. Hooper was a blackout drunk for about eight years before a drunken prank involving several police cars turned his life around. While he was able to get a hold of his alcohol intake problem, his OCD still surfaces in some pretty amusing ways – well, amusing to hear; maybe not so amusing to live through. We had a good talk. If you missed his shows at the festival, I understand he'll be coming back to town in May to headline Laff Lines.

So that gets going at 11 pm PST tonight on CFRO, 102.7 in Vancouver, or you can livestream it at


Bingo! Nailed it. Last night I rooted around the internet trying to figure out who might be opening the new YukYuks Comedy Club on Cambie and when that opening might be. I knew it had to be before the end of March but couldn't pin an exact date down. I did guess, though, that the first headliner to appear would be the inimitable Emo Philips.

Sure enough, today the club announced Emo Philips would be the opening night draw and the date is Thursday, March 22. That's two and a half weeks away. It'll be great to have another professional comedy presence in the city. With three clubs in the lower mainland now, it means not only more work for local comics, it means the comedy consumer has a greater choice in who they go see. And if all three are bringing in comics you'd like to catch on a particular weekend, no problem. Go to, say, YukYuks on a Thursday, the Comedy MIX on a Friday, and Laff Lines on a Saturday – or any such order you choose. Now the bigger question: Can the area support three clubs? We'll find out. I happen to think it can, but I'm a glass half full type.

Is it finally YukYuks time?

We take you back now almost two years when YukYuks Comedy Club head office in Toronto breathlessly announced, "YukYuks to open four new venues in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland... beginning summer 2010." Well, here we are in March 2012 and it looks like one of those four new venues is set to open.

I peeked into the "downtown" Vancouver room a few days ago (it's actually at 2837 Cambie near 12th) and it's looking like a real comedy club in there! Photos are on the wall, the stage and backdrop are set up... As Freddie Prinz might say, if he were still alive and desperately clinging to his catch phrase, "Lookin' gooood."

They're still mum on when the official opening is and who they've hired to to kick things off, but I did some sleuthing and have bits and pieces of information. It looks like they will be open some time in April, since former Vancouverite Darryl Lenox's website says he'll be playing the club April 26-28. Another name I was able to find was Aaron Berg, whose website says he'll be here May 3-5.

So far so good, but who is opening and when. I took a shot in the dark and came up with a probably name: Emo Philips. I was trying to think of recognizable names that had played the old YukYuks and who hadn't been to town in a while so I checked his website. Presto! It says, "Please witness my act in Joshua Tree, California (March 17), Ventura, California (April 27 & 28), Vancouver, Canada (exact date coming very soon)" (bold and italics mine)

Now, it's possible he's playing the MIX but I've seen their schedule for the next while and he's not on it. Maybe he's playing Lafflines, but if so it'll be a first. So my bet is YukYuks. I'm good with that choice. Emo is one of the greatest joke writers in all of comedy.

It's fun playing investigative journalist. If I track down any more names or a firm opening date I'll post it here. I see the website for the Vancouver venue has a contest. Guess the opening date and win four tickets to opening night: "Pick a date between January 1st and March 31st and you can win!" That implies they'll be open by the end of this month. Looks like your odds are increasing daily.

Hopefully I won't have to come back on here with hat in hand and retract my bold predictions. (Full disclosure: I know the YukYuks franchisee, Garry Yuill, from life outside comedy but he won't tell me a thing. I did this all on my own, thank you very much!)