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Sunday, January 18, 2009

January 18: Reza Peyk (and some notes on Norm Macdonald)

Hey there. It's me again. I'm just lying here on the couch watching Frontline and eating Mini Ritz Sandwiches. What are you doing?

Oh, yeah. This isn't a conversation. It's a blog. So I best be blogging. But damn these Ritz things are addictive. See, this is why I don't do drugs. I fear I have an addictive personality and if I started in on the reefers and doobies, I'd never stop. I've never actually been addicted to anything, but still, you never know. Hope these Ritz crackers aren't a gateway snackfood.

But enough about me and my orange fingers, let's talk comedy. First off, our flagship show, What's So Funny?, welcomes the Iranian sensation Reza Peyk tonight. Reza will be opening up for the even bigger Iranian sensation Maz Jobrani next Saturday (Jan. 24) at the Commodore Ballroom. Take a look at the young feller over there in the right panel. [UPDATE: That photo changes weekly and isn't there anymore.] Check out those tatts. I gotta admit, I'm a little intimidated. He'll be by far the hippest guest we've ever had on our show (with apologies to Jeffery Yu).

I've never met Reza before, but have spoken to him on the phone the last time he opened for Jobrani at the River Rock. The kid is enthusiastic and fun so I should be okay. It'll make for a lively hour of radio, I'm sure. Of course, I've been wrong before. But I've got a good feeling about this one.

Hey, I just got back from an evening with Norm Macdonald at the River Rock. I can totally see why some people wouldn't like (or "get" might be the better word) Norm but I love him. There are relatively few comics who just make me laugh without even being funny, and he's one of them. Wait a second, that doesn't sound right. He is, in fact, really funny. But he doesn't have to be. I just start giggling as soon as he opens his mouth.

I interviewed the guy two years ago and to date he holds the record for longest phone interview I've done. By a long shot. Most comics of his stature will give you anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. That day, Norm was just in a really chatty mood. It wasn't like a standard interview; more like a two-way conversation. We talked for 90 minutes. I had put a video on for my then 2-year-old son to keep him happy while I was on the phone, but at about the hour mark I had to, you know, feed him and that kind of parental stuff. The interview was essentially over anyway. I had asked all I needed to ask. So I just put my son in his high chair and made him his lunch, then fed it to him, all the while talking to Norm Macdonald. By this point, it was more like he was interviewing me, asking me questions and chatting. Some might describe it as surreal, but I kinda just go with the flow. Nothing much phases me. I transcribe almost all of my celebrity comic interviews and post them on the Comedy Couch with very little editing, but not that one. The last half hour, as fun as it was, was just unusable. I can't even remember why now. Just trust me.

One thing Norm told me then was this: "... sometimes I do an absolutely clean show just for fun. And then sometimes I don't." He was talking about how raunchy his shows can be and how he doesn't want kids there. Tonight I was thinking was one of those nights that he just inexplicably did a clean show. Yes, he threw in the odd swear word, but his set was kind of safe. At least, it started out that way. About half an hour in he started talking about how he believes in God and did some jokes that basically echoed Pascal's Wager, only a helluva lot funnier. Then he mentioned that he recently became a Christian. I have no idea if he really was, but it rang true. Yes, he was still making jokes and swearing, but he sold us (me, anyway) on the idea that he was searching for answers and found it in our lord and saviour Jesus Christ. Sure, he said the first thing he was going to do in heaven was "kick the shit out of Eve", but that's Norm. It was, I gotta admit, a little disappointing to think that he had taken the route of eternal salvation. I expect comedians to mock things like organized religion, not embrace them. But then as he kept going, I came to the conclusion that he's probably not a born-again. He still might be, though. If I ever get a chance to talk to him again, that question is definitely on the list.

It was at this point that he started taking us on a dark journey. A hilariously dark journey. From religion he went on to killing. I can't remember a comic doing such an extended bit on serial killing before. Dangerous, because he wasn't so explicitly condemning brutality. He talked about what he'd do if he were a serial killer (90 percent of the time, he said, would be in digging a really, really deep grave). He clearly wasn't supporting murder, but by taking on the persona of a murderer, I'm sure there were people there who thought he stepped over the line.

Then he started talking about one of his favourite topics: natural death from heart attacks and cancer and how he doesn't ever want to die. He has it in his living will that the plug shall never be pulled. And if it's too much of a burden on his family to leave their bridge game once every two weeks to go touch his hand, tough.

He also had little patience for diseases like alcoholism (it's the only disease where you get to drink all day) and bulimia (doctor to patient: You say you shove your fist down your throat and throw up? Yeah, don't do that. Now I'm going to go deal with this guy with bowel cancer over there). *Note: I'm not using quotation marks because I'm going from memory here so the wording might not be precise. But it's probably different every time he tells it, too.

Norm ended the evening talking about repressed memories and how horrible they must be. If he were raped, he said, that's probably all he'd remember and he wouldn't know anything about, say, the War of 1812. But hopefully those memories would come out some day. Then he imagined people talking to him about things, and he'd just answer something like, 'I don't know anything about that. But I do remember my uncle's cock.' And he took us through several scenarios where his uncle's giant cock featured prominently.

He did almost 90 minutes. Hmm, I'm sensing a trend with Norm. Maybe he just does everything in 90-minute increments. But it was a great show made all the better by his nasally fumbling delivery.

It was also fun seeing the Farley Brothers open up the show. But a different kind of fun. A plane-crashing-into-a-river kind of fun. Like, it's horrific and you can't take your eyes off it, but thankfully nobody gets hurt. I was never a fan of their late brother Chris, but he was clearly the most talented of the Farley clan. Their "act", such as it was, consisted of telling stories about their family. I gotta admit, though, I'd love to sit around and hear those stories. I just think that an act should be more than recollections. But they were having fun and it was infectious in an odd way.

Unfortunately I missed the Snowed In tour, which was finishing up its run at the Rio Theatre. I boogied over there hoping to catch the end, but got there just as the crowd was filing out. Spoke to some people, though, and by all reports it was a big success. The Kelowna paper said it was even better than the Just For Laughs tour, which is pretty big praise. Dan Quinn pulled this tour together and did all the leg work. Former Vancouverites Craig Campbell and Glenn Wool shared the bill with Dan. (Irishman Ed Byrne did all the shows but Vancouver.) They're already talking about doing it bigger and better next year. I definitely won't miss it then.

Sometimes there's just too much damn comedy in this city.

I feel sick now from all the Mini Ritzes. I think I'll go shove my fist down my throat. Talk to you later.


Anonymous said...

I know you're dyin' for comments so how's this: yours is the best written blog on the whole internet and i know because i've read one or two. I read WSF as soon as it's updated, that's how much I like it. I read it despite little or no interest in comedians (except their jokes). Just think how interesting and great your blog would be if you expanded its scope to cover all subjects. I know you have opinions on everything (most of them ill-informed and negative) so why not write about everything? Everything that strikes your pretty little mind? You might have to start another blog because you may have another fan who really is interested in comedy and would write to complain. But come to think of it, screw him. "What's so Funny" is a perfect title for your mother of all blogs. As your agent I insist. You don't have to write every day. Every 28 hours would be good enough. You could become famous and make money. Believe me, I know all about that. I can help you. What do you say?

Guy MacPherson said...

Oh, Anonymous, you flatter me. By all means, you can be my agent. I can pay 10 percent of my earnings to Anonymous. This kinda reminds me of the Woody Allen journal entry: "Should I marry W.? Not if she won't tell me the other letters in her name." But thanks for reading, whoever you are.

Anonymous said...

What's so Funny is a 'catch-all' title, Guy.
Perhaps you could be Canada's Chuck Klosterman.