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Sunday, December 28, 2008

December 28: Still no show!

Still no show? What gives? Well, we here at What's So Funny? (TM) like to end the year on a whimper rather than a bang. And if you tune in, you won't even get an encore presentation. Instead you'll be greeted with the Korean-language show and Korean pop music. Sorry about that. It's just the way things are. Accept, grasshopper.

But we'll be back with a vengeance next Sunday. We've got an international comic on. An Aussie. I hope I understand him. I sure hope our regular listener in Tasmania is listening. (Yes, we have international listeners, too, thanks to live-streaming.)

Anyone get any good comedy-related Christmas presents? Feel free to share in the comments section. (Is it totally transparent I'm just fishing for comments? It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact I never get any and have no way of knowing if anyone views this blog. Honestly. Really.)

Hey, we went a whole year without getting a podcast up. So when they start trickling in (soon, I hope), you'll have lots to listen to. A whole year's worth – if I can find them. I'm sure there were some good ones. Did you know you can find us on iTunes? And it's free? Why don't you go download one and listen to it between 11 and midnight tonight and pretend we're on the air.

Happy New Year if I don't talk to you before then. Okay, happy New Year even if I do talk to you before then. Because that's the kind of guy I am.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

December 21: No show tonight

Looks like we're done for the year, folks. Man, it's like we live in Canada or something. I love the snow and all, but my car doesn't. Just as well since I'm still hacking and sneezing from whatever monster bug is out there. Man, if there's ever a case for homeschooling, it's that. Kids bring home the darnedest things, don't they?

So I've broken the news to Simon King, who was scheduled to be on tonight. He took it like the man that he is. Simon just got back from the Las Vegas comedy festival, I do believe. The only Vancouver comic in attendance. I'm sure he had some good stories to tell. Thankfully he was gracious enough to rebook and he'll be back on Jan. 25 (aka 11 shopping months until Christmas '09).

If you want to tune in tonight anyway, there will be a repeat... er, I mean an encore presentation. The station is going to run the Nov. 16 classic with guest Byron Bertram. It's a must-listen. And if you've already heard it, you catch so much more the second time.

Next week we were taking off anyway. The Korean language show that usually follows us will be starting an hour early in our place. That's for you, Paul Bae.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a see ya later.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

December 14: Richard Kiss

Welcome to winter. I don't know about where you are, but over here on the north shore of Vancouver, it's a freakin' winter wonderland. Given the hills here, I have no idea if I'll be able to get to the show tonight. We'll see. I sure hope so. Our guest tonight, Richard Kiss, is leaving town on the morrow, going back to his home in sunny California, where he's been living for the last 17 years.

I first saw Richard in a stand-up comedy competition at Yuk Yuk's last year. Come to think of it, I last saw him at that competition, too. I liked what I saw. He's a math/computer nerd who was also a member of the UCLA Comedy Club (I have no idea what that is, but it sounds impressive, I guess just because it's at UCLA).

Hey, speaking of Yuks, I saw a great show there last night. Jon Dore was in town. If you've never seen The Jon Dore Television Show, watch it. It's pretty damn funny, and original, to boot. I know, it's on the Comedy Network, but not everything they do sucks; just most of what they do. This one's good, though. Trust me. He's also a really funny stand-up. The show was hosted by Sean Proudlove, who was on fire. It was fun watching him work. He came out to a really chatty crowd. Proudlove doesn't have the voice that really commands an audience to sit up and listen. So he started in while everyone was yakking away. But, pro that he is, he immediately related to them by addressing the Christmas parties in attendance and calling out the bosses. That got everyone listening and once they realized he had the goods, were in the palm of his hand the rest of the way. Former Vancouver Dave Tsonis middled and the crowd loved him, too. I like his new single guy material. Even if he gets a new gal in his life, he should keep it. It suits his persona. A good night of comedy on the town.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Robin Williams concert

I saw Robin Williams' Weapons of Self Destruction tour at the Queen E. on Monday night (see my review in the Georgia Straight here). I had seen Williams a couple other times at the late lamented Urban Well in Kitsilano over the years. Now, I'm the first to admit that I'm not a big laugher so I don't know that it's a huge knock on the guy to say I never laughed once any time I've seen him. I sit in awe at his energy but I don't laugh. Don't get me wrong, I don't sit there hating him, either. It's more of a neutral-bordering-on-negative opinion I have, as opposed to an active dislike.

There's only so much one can write in a 400-word review, so let me expand a bit. I've long been on the record that there is no such thing as a hack premise; only hack jokes. If you can offer a new twist on an already tired subject, I'm all for it. I came to this conclusion after years of watching Irwin Barker, who does hilarious bits on Costco and airline travel. The bottom line is funny.

The problems I have with Williams' bits are that the premises are, for the most part, the jokes. We're supposed to laugh at his take, but we've heard the take countless times before. (I should point out here that the sold-out crowd absolutely loved the guy, so what do I know?) Sometimes I could place who said the same thing before him, other times I couldn't. Maybe some of you will be able to tell me.

* Canada is like a loft apartment over a biker bar. This may very well be original, but the format isn't. Canada is like a [something benign or good] over a [something crazy] I've heard lots of times. I think the joke is in the form rather than the specifics. Is it legit to just replace the words? It doesn't seem so to me but maybe some of you have differing opinions you'd like to share with the class.

* Snow would be nice. This refers to Vancouver getting the Winter Olympics. Irwin Barker did this joke (only much better) back when we first got the bid. Others have done it since. Irwin actually had jokes (and lots of 'em) to go with this premise. Williams made the premise the joke: "Snow would be nice."

* "Muthafucka, yeah!" This is how he would love to see president-elect Barack Obama at his inauguration. Again, the idea of the "real" Obama coming out of the closet once elected in the form of a ghetto rapper has been done to death.

* "...left turn and then another left turn..." Here he recontextualized an old joke about the simplicity of Nascar, but the point is it's not his joke. And I guess that's fine, to a point. But the joke hits like it's supposed to be something we hadn't thought of before. Now, maybe lots of people there hadn't heard it before, but there's something not right about the whole thing.

* "We still haven't found Osama... a 6-foot-7 Arab on dialysis." Again, who hasn't heard this dozens of times already? One defence of joke theft is parallel thought. It's a legitimate defence, too. But when something is out there all over the place, that defence gets thrown out. Yes, bin Laden is a distinctive looking fellow and the U.S. hasn't found him. He might very well have put those two facts together on his own, but once the joke becomes so prevalent, you gotta just let it go.

* Who will build the wall? This joke (about Schwarzeneggar wanting to build a wall to keep out the Mexicans) has been the subject of other theft charges. Joe Rogan went after Carlos Mencia, claiming his buddy Ari Shaffir did the original line. But the joke was out there even before that and just about everyone's done it. I saw Alonzo Bodden do the joke at Yuk Yuk's not too long ago. So I guess if everyone else is doing it, Williams should be allowed. And maybe he should. But he should know better. That's the thing.

* Starbucks next to a Starbucks. Funny thing about this one, we've heard it hundreds of times about Vancouver. But Williams, despite knowing the city well, was talking about Seattle. Again, it's premise as joke. We've all observed, here and in Seattle, the unique phenomenon of two Starbucks franchises close to each other. So what else do you got for us? Is that it?

* Sped-up Babe Ruth. This was an odd one because his old buddy Billy Crystal did this bit for years. Granted, the ideas were different. Crystal used it to show how funny it looked watching the old baseball players on newsreels. Williams used it to show that Ruth was actually buzzed on Coke (big and little c). But still, it's the pantomime that gets the laugh and Crystal is the guy who picked up on that. Williams shouldn't get a free ride.

* "Sex with an alcoholic is like playing pool with a rope." Nuff said.

* Nazi pope with a gay wardrobe who opposes gay marriage. It's so easy and not the least bit original. But if he had some killer jokes in that now-old premise, I'd say go for it. He didn't.

* On their first design, pubes were straight but females kept going, "My eyes!" Again, nuff said.

* Why aren't there more funny Germans? Because they killed them all. Now, this one just sounds familiar. For all I know, I heard him say it. Can anyone help me out here? I want to be fair.

* Chinese script on a tattoo that turns out to mean nothing more than 'ass monkey'. Everyone's doing this joke now and I can see how everyone came to it. Whitey gets a foreign language tattoo. Easy-peasy. But you gotta be aware of what's out there. We've heard it. Stop it.

* The human male has a penis and a brain and only enough blood to run one at a time. This one was even emblazoned on a shirt at the merch table. Surely Williams didn't write this, did he? It seems unlikely.

And then there were the mouldy-oldie topics: Chretien, Olympic Stadium falling apart, Margaret Trudeau, Michael Jackson, Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky, Camilla Parker as a horse, cats/dogs, anal leakage, Viagra, porn acting...

I know I'm repeating myself, but I just want to drive the point home. While I have no idea if he steals jokes, it's lazy comedy. Surprising coming from a guy who works so hard. The thing is, he famously talks fast. He does have some good lines and maybe if he just slowed down and eliminated the borrowed jokes, he could accentuate the good, original material.

And while, like I said, I didn't laugh once, there were still a few lines and bits I thought were okay:

On Harper: "How did you find a guy to make Bush look good? He is so bland!" On reflection, not a joke at all. Maybe I just liked it because I agreed with it and it showed he's on top of Canadian politics, at least on the surface.

On Bush: "The reign of error has ended." Is that his? See, when you do so many jokes that aren't original, I can't totally get behind you when you say something halfway decent.

On Bush: "He comes from a family where the smart brother is named Jeb."

On Bush at summit meetings when no other world leader but Blair would stand by him: "It was like the U.N. version of Rainman." Then he launched into Bush as played by Dustin Hoffman. Not an original impression but seemed fitting.

On Palin: "Did Ronald Reagan and Vanna White have a kid?" He followed it up by talking about how they handed "the baby around like a joint". Nice image.

On his bad film choices: When his GPS tells him to take a right on the Golden Gate Bridge, he tells it, "I'm not that depressed." It responds, "Really, Robin? I saw Bicentennial Man."

On his alcoholism: "A functioning alcoholic is like a paraplegic lap dancer. You can do it, just not as well as the others."

He also did an inspired long bit about designing humans by committee. I thought for sure it would be his closer, but it wasn't. And maybe my favourite bit was in the encore when he trotted out some ancient impressions but had them doing porn: John Wayne, Gregory Peck and Jimmy Stewart. Of course he had to ruin it by finishing with Christopher Walken, but whatcha gonna do?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

December 7: Darcy Michael & Jane Stanton

It's been a while since we've had two guests on at a time. In the early years, it was much more common. Don't know why I switched other than it burns up more guests this way. Either way is fun, though. Tonight Darcy Michael makes his annual visit. This is his third trip to our little show and it's always lots of fun. He is one fun homosexual. But I guess that's redundant. Jane Stanton, on the other hand, will be making her first appearance. She and Darcy are good pals so it's a perfect match. Darcy has a new CD to promote and just finished taping an episode of The Debaters on CBC radio, and Jane has a Teen Angst show she'd like to talk about. Among other things. So tune in tonight and listen, won't you? Please?

All right, it's nap time! My favourite time of day!

PS The Cheech & Chong show was surprisingly good. I really enjoyed it. Read my review here.

THIS JUST IN: Darcy Michael's car broke down so he won't be joining us tonight. He said he'll call in, though. See, this is why I have two guests booked! I knew there was a reason.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Marin & Tommy

Ever wonder if Cheech & Chong would have made it as big if their names weren't alliterative? I mean, what are the odds two guys with 'ch' names meet and take the comedy stoner world by storm? The mind boggles.

In last week's Georgia Straight, I wrote the cover story on the comedic duo, who met right here in Vancouver. It's the definitive biography, if I do say so myself. Treat yourself to that fine bit of writing. Go ahead. You deserve it.

It was fun putting the story together, if a bit rushed. One thing I was really hoping for was to talk to former RCMP narc, Det. Abe Snidanko, who C&C immortalized as the Clouseau-like cop on their trail in the movies, Sgt. Stidenko, as played by Stacey Keach. I actually did talk to Snidanko, who's now retired, but he wouldn't talk. “I don’t give interviews. Thanks anyhow,” is all he would offer. I would have loved to have heard his opinion on the stoners, and to find out if it's true he was shipped off to Turkey for 17 years after he became well known.

Here are some other morsels that didn't make the story.

I spoke to the pair on Cheech's cellphone as they were driving (or being driven) from Portland to Eugene, Oregon. So it appears they genuinely do like each other. Remember, for years and years they didn't have a lot of nice things to say about each other. Cheech went on and on about how easy it's been getting back on stage with his old buddy. There were virtually no awkwardness on stage. And they did next to no rehearsing beforehand. "It took us like 30 seconds," he said about how long it took to get their rhythm back. "I'm not kidding you. It was scary. Like when you have a tattoo and you go get it off you have a scar that looks like the tattoo. It was beyond easy. It's part of our DNA."

Cheech never said one way or the other how important the comedy was back in the heyday, but he did mention something that suggested he knew the gimmick was equally important in their quest for fame: "Wherever we went, we attracted an audience. And most important, we attracted a reaction from everybody. In L.A., we played black clubs in the black sections of L.A. because they paid money. The white clubs would convince you to do hootenanny night. So we started honing our act in black clubs. And we kept ourselves alive that way."

Chong, the prime mover of the duo, hinted that their stoner image was, at least in Cheech's case, just an image: "We became stoners more than starting out stoners. Actually, Cheech was almost celibate. He was like a priest. He never did anything. Then he started smoking a little bit. We became stoners. Our audiences made us become them. Because your audience really dictates your material. And when we found out stoner material and rock'n'roll really go good together, we hit upon the golden secret, the golden key. Stoner material and jazz and rock'n'roll and music... Stoner material and music really go hand in hand."

I personally was interested in Chong's musical background and his reminiscences of the early Vancouver music scene. I guess I'm just amazed any time someone has more than one marketable talent when there are some of us who don't have any. As is well known, Chong was in a group that was signed to Motown and he owned a club here in the city, taking credit for the burgeoning blues scene at the time.

"Tommy Milton and I had a club called the Blues Palace and we brought up Ike and Tina Turner to open it. They came up and more or less set the blues standard in Vancouver."

As a kid in the '70s, I never got into Cheech & Chong. I may have heard some of their albums but wasn't interested. I'm not sure why because I certainly was interested in any and all comedy I could get my hands on. But not them. I'll get a full immersion on Friday when I attend their reunion tour and report back on what I thought. Not sure how I'll refrain from inhaling the whole show, but I'll try my damndest.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

November 30: Seth Perry... not

In the long and storied history of the Seattle International Comedy Competition, only one Canadian has come away the winner. That Canadian was Vancouverite Damonde Tschritter. But, damn, Seth Perry did well this year. We may know who won it by the time we hit the air tomorrow night with Seth, but as of this writing all I can say with certainty that it isn't Seth. He will, though, I'm sure, tell us lots of good stories about his experiences all across the so-so state of Washington. We'll also ask him why he doesn't have more clips on YouTube so we don't have to resort to using high school wrestlers with the same name.

I'm just hoping to have a voice by airtime. I've been fighting some damn bug all week. It was so bad I had to cancel a scheduled interview with the hilarious Ian Bagg. But we'll get him on the next time he's in town, I promise.

That's it. What have you been up to?

UPDATE: Seth Perry has had to reschedule. Which is just as well because I'm still hacking and can't talk. But Kevin and I will go in, troupers that we are, and fill the hour with some hilarious comedy clips.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

November 23: Patrick Maliha

I remember when Patrick Maliha was just a standup comic. Today, he's still a standup comic, but he's also got his hand in everything else. Not only does he run almost every comedy room in the lower mainland, giving Mark Breslin a run for his money, but he does movie reviews on TV's Urban Rush and an afternoon talk show on CFUN radio. I, for one, hope Patrick does his movie reviews for ever. Because whenever somebody questions how I can review comedy without ever having done it myself, I always point to Maliha and his movie reviews.

Tonight – it's tonight already?! – Patrick joins us for what is sure to be a spirited hour of conversation. Always opinionated, Maliha is also the only guest in our four-year history who uttered the 'c' word live on air. Ah, that's co-op radio for you! I betcha he's never done that on his CFUN show, the pussy.


I didn't see any live comedy this week, but I did interview Cheech & Chong for a story coming out later this week in the Georgia Straight. Yeah, that's right. They got a guy who's never smoked weed to interview the most famous stoners in the world. Hey, if Patrick Maliha can review movies without ever having made a film, why not?

They're playing the Queen E. on Dec. 5.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

November 16: Byron Bertram

I'm spent. What a comedy weekend it was here in Vancouver. Friday night started with the Just For Laughs comedy tour at the Centre. A solid, if unspectacular, start to the weekend. There was no one I hated, but no one blew me away, either. Five comics performed and I present them to you in order of preference: Pete Zedlacher (Canada), David O'Doherty (Ireland), Hal Crittenden (Britain), Finesse Mitchell (USA) and Danny Bhoy (Scotland). As soon as that show ended, I raced up to the Vogue where Louis CK was 15 minutes into his act. Man, what a forceful and funny comic he is. Seeing him immediately after the JFL acts made you realize what was missing in the earlier show. The five comics there all knew how to make a crowd laugh (and some were laughing uncontrollably), but it didn't have the same impact as CK. His comedy is more... real, I guess. Or at least he presents it that way. It was a great show.

Saturday night was my most anticipated show of the season in Dame Edna at River Rock. She was supposed to be here last April but had to cancel. I know some people think she's just a drag act, and old-school at that, but she's so much more, and if you've never seen her live, you owe it to yourself to check her out next time she's in town. That being said, it seemed like she had an off-night. Still plenty of laughs, but too many lulls, too.

And how do I top it off? Well, how about standup comic and street performer Byron Bertram? Boo-ya! He'll be making a return visit to What's So Funny?, but it'll be my first time interviewing him. I can't remember what happened last time. I think I was sick, so trusty manservant Kevin took over the hosting duties. So let's just say this is his first real visit to the show. I'm hoping he does the whole thing in various accents. The guy is amazing.

Hey, you know what else is kinda amazing? His father, Gordie Bertram, it turns out, was (or is... I guess we'll find out) a jazz musician who played with my jazz musician father. Not only that, but Kelly Dixon's jazz musician uncle (Frank Mansell) also played with my dad. That's neither here nor there, but whatever. It's not all about you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Louis CK & Finesse Mitchell (and not Dame Edna)

I spoke with Louis CK and Finesse Mitchell recently. Both are playing in town on Friday. CK is headlining at the Vogue while Mitchell is hosting the annual Just For Laughs comedy tour over at the Centre.

CK is probably the most respected comedian working these days. He’s uncompromising, challenging, and he is always writing. Each year he writes a completely new one-hour set. He not only will talk about just about anything on stage, but he’s also a great interview who gives generous answers.

I did a feature on Louis CK for the Georgia Straight, which you can read on Thursday. But there was so much left on the cutting room floor, so to speak, so I thought I’d give you some bonus coverage. The fully transcribed interview will eventually go up on Comedy Couch but I can’t tell you when that’ll be.

I was interested in his take on the internet since he has so many clips on-line and since so many artists are so protective of their art.

Here’s his take on sharing:

I used to put stuff on as I developed it. I used to just do sets and tape them and then throw it on. ... And then I stopped doing that (laughs) because once my focus became doing these hours, I don't put undeveloped bad versions of that material out until I've put it out as a special in its best form. And then I don't care who chops it up and puts it out. The new special I have, there's like ten different people who have posted it on YouTube in different pieces. That's fine, that's great, I don't care. And sometimes people, when I was developing that set, they'd come to one of my shows with a camera phone, videotape it, and put it on YouTube. When that's happened, I've written the person and said... I don't tell them they have to take it down; I believe in sharing on the internet. But I just tell them, "I personally rather you wait until after it's come out in the special." And a hundred percent of the time they've taken it down.

GM: I know a lot of artists are more controlling about what goes up.
LCK: I dunno. I mean, I make my money on ticket sales. I'm not a person that makes money on royalties. If I did, I might feel differently. I don't know. The last album that Radiohead put out, they put the whole album on the internet for free. A free download for a finite amount of time. And then they took it down and put it on sale and it fucking killed, made a shitload of money. It's like radio. The internet is the radio. People don't know their history. It's ridiculous. This goes all the way back to rag music. You know why they call it a rag?

GM: No, I don't.
LCK: It refers to the sheet of music it's written on. It used to be, the only way you could ever hear music was to go see somebody play it. Around the late 1800s, if you wanted to hear a Scott Joplin song, or whoever the fuck, you had to go watch him play. And before there were records or anything, there were rags, which were the sheet music and lyrics of a song. And some musicians got the idea to publish their songs as a thing you could go buy at a dimestore and take it home and play it on your home piano. A lot of musicians said, "What are you, crazy? Because who's going to come watch you play it if they know how to play it themselves?" But obviously it made songs a huge hit and the person who wrote the rag would play it live and packed every theatre. And when they came out with the phonograph, everybody was like, "Shit! Of course, if they hear it at home on their radio, they'll never come out." Of course record sales promote live... And vice versa. Hey, guess what? You're getting paid for the record and the people made a shitload of money on those rags, too. I mean, it's just stupid. And the radio is free. Nobody gets paid at all for radio.

GM: Somebody does, don't they?
LCK: I don't think... I don't know. Do radio stations pay like a small fee to [the artists]? I don't think they make a shitload of money. But everybody goes and buys their records. It's proved over and over again that the more exposure the artist gets, the more people are going to seek it out.

GM: What about with your CD's? Are you okay, then, with people copying it or lending it?
LCK: I guess I am. I guess I don't care. Also, personally, I'm a pretty savvy person, computer-wise. I know how to use computers really well and I don't know how to get a bit torrent. I don't get any of that. I don't have time to teach myself how to download a torrent, you know what I mean? My new special is available that way, copiously. And after all these years of that stuff being available, I don't know how to do it. I don't have a real P-to-P thing, since Napster went down all those years ago. And I don't want to pay some subscription version of Napster when I can just buy it on iTunes for 99 cents. I have to believe that most people are like me or even more not going to go through this shit. But the people that do are fanatics. They love the material and they don't have the money to pay for it or they don't want to pay for it for whatever reason. But the people like that are good advertisers, good word of mouth. (laughs) I mean, you gotta understand. It's not like my comedy's my own private business. Like, I got into this shit to have people hear these ideas. And if people are poor and they wanna steal, I dunno. Like, I know it's not right to think this way but I kind of give them a pass (laughs).

GM: And they'll probably be the first to line up to come see you.
LCK: That's a fact. People come up to me after shows a lot and they say, "Hey, man, I downloaded your stuff for free. I stole it. I'm sorry." And I'm like, "Hey, you're here. You paid 30 dollars to see me so I don't care."

And there's lots more where that came from. I'll let you know when the full interview goes up.

Finesse Mitchell says he hates interviews, although he was very charming with me over the phone. “Sometimes I'm funny and sometimes I'm just informational,” he told me. I wrote a piece on him for the Province newspaper, which will be out in a couple days. There wasn’t as much left over, but I’ll throw you a few bones anyway.

The former SNL’er wrote a relationship book called “Your Girlfriends Only Know So Much”. He said he’s now considered a relationship guru. Interesting response when I asked if he was like standup Greg Behrendt, who wrote the best-selling “He’s Just Not That Into You”. He said, “Except I'm funny. He's not funny... I stopped liking him when he started wearing glasses.” And I have no idea if he was joking. I honestly couldn’t tell.

The former strong safety and cornerback for the University of Miami said that his college days were the time of his life. “I'm a frat guy so we were always throwing parties,” he said. “My college experience was probably the best time of my life. And SNL was second.” Mitchell was teammates in his freshman year with Dwayne Johnson, who went on to become a fake wrestler named The Rock, and then a fake actor. Mitchell recalls, “The guy I see on TV was not the guy I knew our freshman year. He was a little quiet.”

That’s it, folks. That damn Dame Edna wouldn’t speak to me because her shows are sold out. I’m sure she would have, but I couldn’t convince her people to allow it. But if there’s one person I’d love to interview, it’s Dame Edna. I’ve seen her live twice and loved both shows. I’ll see her again on Saturday at the River Rock. Looking forward to it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

November 9: Brett Martin

Tonight What's So Funny? welcomes Winnipeg's own Brett Martin. Or is he Calgary's own? Whatever he is, he's Vancouver's own Brett Martin now. What else do I know about the man? Not much, other than he has a dormant blog that looks exactly like our blog, complete with the Converse star in the corner. His blog, though, is really good. I wish he'd update it, but reading past entries is entertaining enough. I'll link you to it but don't get all confused when you see the almost identical layout. His came first. And while our blog might not be as good, it certainly is more current.

Seriously, that's about all I know about Brett. I've seen his standup act once and was impressed. But I'll do my due research before airtime and we'll have lots to talk about, don't you worry. It'll be a riveting hour, believe you me. So tune in. I know I will.

The hour will cap an interesting weekend of comedy. It started with Joe Rogan and Ari Shaffir at the Red Robinson theatre in Coquitlam. Some very funny stuff, too many dick jokes for my liking, and way too many yahoos screaming shit out. Then Saturday night I caught Bob Newhart at the River Rock. His opener was the Jack Stafford Big Band. I love jazz and big band music, and they were great, but I just find it an odd pairing. It's like my worlds colliding.

It was my third time seeing Bob. I feel I can call him Bob because I've interviewed him three times and he's just so nice and accomodating. His show isn't hilarious. I know many people who've gone to his show all excited and came away disappointed, but he is what he is. Warm and gentle and humorous. He stammers out street jokes, but makes them his own, and throws in one classic bit for old time's sake (this time it was Sir Walter Raleigh Introduces Tobacco to Civilization). Not hilarious or groundbreaking, but like that funny, but low-key, uncle you have.

Great comedy coming up this week, too. On Friday it's Louis CK at the Vogue, the Just For Laughs comedy tour at the Centre and Dame Edna at River Rock. She's also there on Saturday. And the weekend ends when we welcome Byron Bertram back to the studio.

I'll try to have something on Louis CK for you in a day or two, so check back when you get a chance.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Wright Stuff

I saw Steven Wright at the River Rock Show Theatre on Saturday night. It was my second time seeing him. Human experience is a funny thing. I believe our moods shape our experience more than we ever admit. You could be sleepy or grumpy or, really, any of the other dwarves, and that will make your experience less pleasurable, no matter what's happening on stage (or on screen or whatever the art form you're taking in). The first time I saw Wright was at the Orpheum a few years ago. My take was that he was great for about 20 minutes, then his slow dulcet tones kind of put you to sleep. Now I think I just might have been sleepy anyway. It's no reflection on him.

On Saturday he went from 8:15 to 10:00 o'clock. That's a long damn show – and even longer, I'm thinking, for someone who essentially does one-liners. How does he store all those jokes? Yes, he'll do some drawn-out narrative pieces, but they're essentially one-liners stitched together. Same when he picks up his guitar and recontextualizes his jokes in song. But I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Wright doesn't have a single genuine word in his act – no references to Vancouver, no reactions to the reactions he was getting. Nothing. But it works. I guess so. The guy has been doing this for about 30 years.

Here's an example of how rote his act is:

Do you think in Europe Miles Davis is known as Kilometre Davis?

Funny enough line and it got a lukewarm response. I'm thinking that if he just acknowledged the fact that he was in a country that uses the metric system, the joke would have got a much bigger laugh. He could have asked us if that's what Davis is called here. I'm not sure how; that's his job. I just think that as soon as he said it, with Europe as the reference point, the natural inclination to laugh was hindered with the thought, "Hey, we use the metric system."

I know some of you won't agree. I've been told I'm too analytical, but I'm convinced I'm right on this. Let me go off on a tangent to prove my point. About five or six years ago I was at the Just For Laughs festival in Montréal. At one of the clubs I saw Christopher Titus do a joke that ended with the punchline "Cirque du Soleil". Only he, being an American with no knowledge of French, pronounced it "Cirque dee Soleil". It got a moderate laugh just because, I thought, people started thinking as soon as the laughs kicked in, "Ooh, he just butchered the pronunciation." Cut to a few days later. I'm hanging out backstage at the gala. Titus is there with his fiancée. Everyone had to get there hours before so there was a lot of sitting around. I had played basketball with him the day before so I got to know him a little bit. We're sitting around and I tell him the correct pronunciation of Cirque du Soleil. Just the "du" part. I say it seems insignificant, but I betcha it makes a difference. So he goes out there, says the joke with "du" instead of "dee" and it gets a huge reaction. Applause break, even. He and his fiancée made a point of coming up to me after and saying how right I was. (Yes, it could have been that it was the gala and the audience would have lapped it up anyway, but I'm sticking with my story.) So I think if Wright had made a simple change to his joke, it could have got a much better reaction.

Not that it matters, I guess, when he's got so many more coming down the pipe. Everyone in the world, practically, has their favourite Wright joke. How he keeps churning them out is beyond me. I think acid probably has a lot to do with it. He can get pretty bizarrely surreal. Here are some choice jokes of his I managed to scribble down:

The New Testement is pretty old. I think they should call it the Old Testament and the Most Recent Testement.

What did Jesus ever do for Santa Claus's birthday?

Next week I'm gonna have an MRI to find out whether or not I have claustrophobia.

When I was a kid I was told practice makes perfect. Then I was told nobody's perfect. So I quit practicing.

A friend of mine has Reverse Tourette's Syndrome. Random people just swear at him.

I'm addicted to placebos. I could quit but it wouldn't matter.

I think it's wrong that only one company makes Monopoly.

A friend of mine has a trophy wife. But apparently it wasn't first place.

I asked my girlfriend if she ever had sex with a woman. She said no. I said, "You should try it; it's fun."... So she did... Now she's gone.

I finally figured out what I want on my tombstone: "You're next"

Whenever I think about the past it just brings back so many memories.

When I was a little boy we had a dog that was born with two vaginas. And we named it Snatches.

Why are ballerinas always on their tiptoes? Why don't they just get taller women?

A friend of mine does voodoo acupuncture. You don't have to go. You're just walking down the street and you go, "Woah, that's much better!"

The beauty of his work is that it translates so well to the page. But at the same time, the page (or computer screen) doesn't do him service. He adds so much more through his pauses and tone of voice. I was going to say 'persona', but I'm convinced what you see on stage is pretty much what you get in real life. I interviewed the man once six years ago. It was the most awkward interview I've ever done – and I've done a lot. Again, through no fault of his own. That's just the way he is. I'd ask a question and he'd think, then think some more, before finally offering a brief answer. If you know someone well, not a problem. But if you're talking over the phone to a stranger who you figure probably doesn't want to be talking to you, those pauses can be painful. In each one I'm thinking, "Is he mad at me? Was that a stupid question? Is he ignoring me now? Should I move on to my next question?" Often, he'd give a short sentence then stop. I'd wait, then wait some more, and just when I think I should move on to the next subject, we'd start talking at the same time. So I figured that's just the way he is. S-l-o-w. Or maybe just t-h-o-u-g-h-t-f-u-l.

I got to meet him after the show this time. Well, "meet" may be the wrong word. The River Rock and the Red Robinson theatres both do these horribly awkward meet-and-greet sessions with about a dozen lucky fans after the show. And I'm always invited and usually go. I'm not sure why I go. Maybe because they take your picture with the artist and you can show it to your grandkids and they can think you hung out with them or something. But nothing could be further from the truth. What happens is the dozen or so of you are herded down the elevator and led into a room where we stand around trying to look like we belong. Then the star of the show is ushered in and led to the front of the room. One by one we're introduced to said artist, who shakes our hand, and we turn to the camera and smile. Occasionally the comic makes it worthwhile. Dana Carvey, for example, is always on and seems like a helluva nice guy. Lisa Lampanelli was full of life and had everyone in stitches while calling everyone a "cunt". Don Rickles, though, was the best. He shuffles in wearing a tuxedo top under his robe (no pants). He's in full Rickles mode. As soon as the photo is snapped he says, "Now get the hell outta here!"

Steven Wright walked in and looked much older than he does on stage or TV. I mean, the guy is in his early 50s, so maybe he looks his age. It was just surprising. He also didn't look like the healthiest person alive. And it appears he's got the Howie Mandel germ phobia thing going. He wouldn't shake hands. We each got a fist bump. And when he put his arms around people for the pose, I noticed his hands were kept back so as not to touch their outer garments even. It was just the illusion that he was hugging them.

After the show, my friend and I were sitting out in the bar and Steven came wandering through looking like he was really looking for someone. He went back and forth for probably 15 minutes. Nobody looked twice at him. Odd, that. I figured he'd be quite recognizable.

Another thought on the evening: I'm always loathe to assume anything a comedian says has any basis in fact in their lives. And I probably wouldn't with Wright, either, if it weren't for the fact that I've been reading a lot lately on the suicide death of my favourite writer, David Foster Wallace. I'd read him for years and never had an inkling he was depressed or suicidal for decades. He'd make references on occasion, but it seemed like an abstraction. While waiting for my friend outside the show, I, in fact, was reading a Rolling Stone article on Wallace, so it was fresh in my mind. With Wallace, I thought how, I guess, you can never really know what's going on in someone's head unless you're really close to them. And not even then sometimes. So, anyway, when Wright made his first suicide reference, my alarm bells went off.

I got a papercut from writing my suicide note. That's a start.

A funny line and I'm sure it's just an example of great joke writing.

I'm insane. You think it's a show.

Hmm... that could very well be true. Then he sang a song about suicide:

I wanna put a closure on my mirth.

I realize he could completely be playing to his deadpan persona. It wouldn't fare that well if he talked of puppy dogs and lollipops and had a rosy outlook. It wouldn't match. So let's just hope he's much happier in real life than he lets on under the spotlight.

Check out some Steven Wright video over there in the right-hand panel ––>

Wow, that was long. No wonder editors hate my guts.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Nov. 2: Erica Sigurdson

Contrary to popular belief, booking a show on Sundays at 11 p.m. isn't always the easiest thing to do. Most out-of-town comics leave the 'Couve on Sunday afternoons. And, as we found out this week when Kevin Foxx had to cancel due to a corporate gig, even the locals aren't always readily available. But we've been at this for four years and thankfully we usually get ourselves a top-notch guest some way or another. This week is no exception. It's last-minute, but we couldn't be happier. Erica Sigurdson will be making a return appearance to What's So Funny? on Sunday. It's her first solo affair, though. Back in February of '05, Erica guested along with Jen Grant. We've got lots of catching up to do. She is one of the top comics in the whole country and never fails to impress me with her writing. It seems every time I see her she's got new material. And she's a Gemini award winner. Or Leo award. Or both. I don't know. But it's impressive. Or so she tells me. So tune in, woncha?

Hey, I spoke to Louis CK the other day. He's playing the Vogue Theatre on Nov. 14. I'll try to jot something down for you here n the next couple of days about what we talked about. Check out his copious videos on YouTube or his own site if you're not familiar with him. He's one of the top comics working anywhere. But you knew that.

THIS JUST IN: A regular reader informs me that Ms. Sigurdson launched a new website yesterday. Have a look:

Friday, October 24, 2008

October 26: Darren Frost

I don't know how many of you caught last week's two-hour Lenny Bruce extravaganza, but I personally learned something. I learned that I like Lenny Bruce. Not the reputation or the legend or the "importance" of Lenny Bruce, but Lenny Bruce the comedian. Who knew? While not all of his stuff translates to modern ears, much of it does. Thanks to Steve Bowell for putting together a great show.

I saw three former What's So Funny? guests at Yuk Yuk's tonight. Dan Quinn hosted, Darcy Michael featured, and Darren Frost headlined. It was a strong show throughout, I thought. I heard new - and funny - material from all three comics, which is always a plus for someone who sees as much comedy as I do.

The Toronto-based Frost always makes the time to do our little show each time he passes through Vancouver. This week is no exception. And what a fitting follow-up to last week's program because Frost certainly inhabits the spirit of Lenny Bruce. Their styles are nowhere near similar, but Frost, like Bruce, likes to take the audience to places that they maybe don't want to visit. He has progressive views that certainly no one would get offended by, yet he approaches the topics (from Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears to gay bashing and the Greyhound bus beheader) sideways, which occassionally lands him in hot water. Okay, more than occassionally. I think he likes that, though. It gives him one more thing to vent about. We'll ask him all about it on Sunday.

Next week, one of my all-time favourite Vancouver comics, Kevin Foxx. Looking forward to that one.

THIS JUST IN: The Christmas corporate season just stole one of our guests. Kevin Foxx is no longer available next week so we'll reschedule him. Stay posted to this space for further developments.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Oct. 19: Lenny Bruce

What do I know about Lenny Bruce? I've got to admit, not much. Although I like the fact that at my advanced age I'm able to use the "he was before my time" line (not that that's any excuse; Socrates was before my time, too, and I love reading about him).

But we're doing a big two-hour special on Lenny Bruce on October 19 beginning at 10 pm. "We" is Steve Bowell and I. It was all Steve's idea. Steve hosts the popular Ragbag show immediately preceding What's So Funny? every Sunday night and he recently got hold of hours and hours of Lenny Bruce. Since he says he has enough for an afternoon's worth of programming, he thought it would be a good idea to do a special to launch the Fall Membership Drive on CFRO. And since it sounded like very little work from my end, I agreed. And I figured I might learn something.

As a youth in the 1980s, I bought a couple Lenny Bruce biographies, which I still own and haven't read, as well as a couple albums, which I listened to quickly and dismissed just as quickly. His humour, to my immature ears, didn't seem to transcend generations. I'm looking forward to being able to prove myself wrong.

Speaking of the Membership Drive, if you're a regular listener to our program, why don't you become a member of the station? It's not like we'll put you to work. The station, being community run and all, could sure use the dough. Where else are you going to hear your favourite comedians talk at length about their craft? Tell you what we'll do. You join up and we'll throw in this blog for nothing! You can sign up right here.

Next week we're back to our regularly scheduled live in-studio guests. And we've got a good one. The always controversial Toronto comic Darren Frost makes a return visit. Don't worry. He's really a pussycat.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Erection Fever!

Sorry, I lived in Japan for a year. Old habits die hard. That should read "Election Fever!" I've got it. Today's the day we all vote. Or some of us vote. Who wouldn't vote? That's what I can't figure out. It's like playing the sulkies (not that I've ever played a sulky). Bet on your favourite horse.

So is it going to be a Conservative majority or minority? I betcha if I did a survey and received thousands of responses, the Conservatives would lose badly. That's why you non-voting mo-fos should vote! Every single Conservative in the land is going to vote – and the best they'll probably do is get a minority. Imagine if all the non-voters voted. Not that I'm advocating for any party, understand.

Okay, that's it. I've decided. I'm doing a survey. You guys astounded me with your passion last week. I predicted six responses and got 10. At this rate, we'll own the internet in a couple of millennia.

What's this got to do with comedy, let alone the radio show, you ask? Shut up.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Oct. 12: Chris Molineux

Vancouver's a relatively small comedy community. So it's no surprise that I know many of the guests we have on, to varying degrees. Not all, though. Some of my favourite shows are when I literally meet the guest the moment they walk in the studio. I usually find these shows... invigorating?... challenging? I can't think of the word, but I enjoy them. I have to be a little bit sharper, maybe, because I've never met the person before and we don't have a chemistry (whatever it may be) to fall back on. They don't know what to expect and neither do I.

This week we've got Chris Molineux on for his first appearance with us. Prior to a few weeks ago, I had never met the man. I had seen him perform over the years, but never spoken to him. Then, midway through September, a familiar-looking face showed up in my driveway for a garage sale. It took me a second to place him (I'm horrible with out-of-context faces), but I eventually said, "Chris Molineux?" He had no idea who I was, of course. But we talked and agreed that he should come on the show. So this will be the second time we've ever spoken. I'll learn along with you about him. (Listening information is located in the right margin.)

Meanwhile, hey, how well do I know my audience?! Huh? I predicted a whopping six people would partake in the latest survey, Funny/Not Funny. And that's exactly where we are. Now, I realize there are, as of this writing, still two days left of voting, but I have confidence you won't ruin my Nostradamus-like predictions.

In other news, we booked another guest the other day. Darcy Michael will be making his third appearance with us on December 7. Our dance card is filling up... Yes, you heard me: dance card. I'm 96 years old, alright? Now run along, you scallywags. This butter sure ain't gonna churn itself.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Survey Says...

Okay, I'm hooked on this blog thing. I fought it and fought it for years when people were telling me to get a blog. And now look at me. I can't be stopped. See, this is why I don't join the cult of FaceBook. I have just enough self-discipline to not join. If I ever succumbed, I fear I'd never leave the house.

So anyway, there's a new survey. The old one expired today with a grand total of four responses. But I see this thing blowing up sometime soon. I predict at least six replies this week.

When we started the radio show lo these four years ago, we started what was to be a regular segment called Funny/Not Funny. The idea was to rattle off a list of comedians and get the guest to give an opinion on each one. I think we've probably done the segment fewer than ten times total. But I always enjoy it. The answers usually break off into a deeper discussion of comedy. So here's my attempt to renew the format, only in the form of a survey. The only way I could figure out how to do it is to allow you to click on as many of the ones listed as you think are funny. The fewer the votes for a particular comic, the less you think he's funny. Or something like that.

The list is culled from upcoming acts to Vancouver. Steven Wright is playing the River Rock Show Theatre on November 1, Louis CK is at the Vogue on November 14, Dame Edna at the River Rock on November 14 & 15, Cheech & Chong at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on December 5, and Kathy Griffin at the River Rock on January 10. I didn't include the Just For Laughs tour at the Orpheum on November 14 because chances are you've never heard of anyone performing that night. 'You' in the general sense, of course. I know you, the individual, are hip to everyone.

So vote to your heart's content. It's election season, afterall. This will give you practice.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The people have spoken

You know, when we put this little blog together, we had no idea people would actually read it religiously. In the ocean of blogs on the internet, why should our humble offering stand out? I don't know, but apparently it's hit a bit of a chord with the masses if our survey is any indication. We asked how you, the reader, stumbled across this blog and you answered in spades. A whopping 66 percent of you admitted you followed a link to arrive on our page. Not only that, but 33 percent of you found us after we directed you here. What can we say? We are humbled. To know that 99 percent of you are not only regular readers but took the time to answer our survey, well, I'm tearing up. Look for more surveys in this space (or the space to the right, anyway). You have spoken. It's an awesome responsibility we face knowing so many of you are reading.

The show booked three more comics today. Kevin Foxx will be joining us the first Sunday in November, and Brett Martin on the 9th of November. And Patrick Maliha will be taking a break from CFUN to slum it with us on the 23rd. We had a great conversation with Paul Myrehaug last night. I'll let you know when the podcast gets uploaded in case you missed it. Next week is my Victoria homeboy, and current neighbour, Chris Molineux. Check out some of his videos in our margin and tune in on Sunday.

Hey, who wants to be the first to leave a comment? Don't be shy. It'll be historical. It's up to you whether it's hysterical.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Myrehaug: Oct. 5, 2008

I went to Yuk Yuk's this weekend and caught headliner Paul Myrehaug, who happens to be our guest on the radio show tonight. It wasn't until I checked out Paul's website earlier this week that I knew he had relocated to Vancouver from Toronto. Lucky for us. I should know those things, I suppose. Well, I do now. Paul won the Great Canadian Laugh-Off in 2007. With Graham Clark winning in 2008, doesn't that make Vancouver the comedy capital of Canada? I would think so. Myrehaug also finished second (to Vancouver's Damonde Tschritter) in the Seattle International Comedy Competition. Man, there's a lot of talent in this town.

So tune in tonight. All the info to find us is over there in the margin. I'll ask him what prompted his move from the centre of the universe. No doubt a woman was involved. That's usually how it works. We'll also play some clips from his CD. Meanwhile, check out some of his video clips over there in the right-hand margin.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


It's taken us four years, but we've finally gotten ourselves one of these fancy blogs that all the kids are talking about, thanks to my trusted manservant Kevin Smith, who also doubles as the show's announcer/board guy/laugh track extraordinaire. Well, ordinaire might be more accurate.

If you've never heard our program, give us a listen, either live on radio, streaming, or podcast. We're not a comedy show – we're a show about comedy. It's a one-hour conversation with a different comedian or two each week. It might be funny, it might be informative. Sometimes it's both. Occasionally it's neither, but them's the breaks.

Over the course of our four years on the air, we've interviewed a Who's Who of comedy in Canada, including Brent Butt, Irwin Barker, Glen Foster, Kenny Robinson, Peter Kelamis, Mike Wilmot, The Wet Spots, Roman Danylo, Kevin Foxx, Richard Lett and Double Exposure's Bob Robertson and Linda Cullen. Some of our American guests have been Janeane Garofalo, Marc Maron, Sarah Silverman, Dana Carvey, Todd Glass, Eddie Brill, Kyle Cease, Darryl Lenox, Daniel Packard and Yakov Smirnoff. Yes, Yakov Smirnoff. Suck on that! Click on one of the links on the side to get you started. I can't hold your hand all the way through. You're going to have to figure out some things for yourself.

If you've got a question or comment or nasty remark, or want to be added to our weekly (most of the time) e-mail reminder list, feel free to drop us a line at the address over there ---> somewhere. Or leave a comment here on this site.

That's about it for now. Do check back. We'll try to update this at least once a week.