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Thursday, January 22, 2009

My worlds are colliding

Being a life-long comedy and jazz fan, my worlds had never met before. It was one or the other. When I'm out on the town, it's either for a comedy show or a jazz concert. If I were a little older, I could have indulged both those interests in one sitting. At one time, comics used to open for jazz musicians. How awesome would that have been? Pretty. Jimmie Walker told me he used to open for Miles Davis. Imagine that for a second. Chances are, if you're under the age of 30, you only think of Jimmy Walker as the pudgy guy who shows up on Letterman every half a year or so. If you're a little older, you think of him only as the "Dy-no-mite!"-spouting J.J. on Norman Lear's Good Times. But if you're even older than that, or have read my interview with him, you'll know that he was a pretty hip Black Panther comic and was named Time magazine's comedian of the decade at one point. And Miles Davis is/was Miles freakin' Davis, the epitome of cool.

While I haven't seen a comic opening for a jazz musician yet, my two solitudes have at least come together on the same grounds, if not the same night. The Cellar Jazz Club on Broadway and Alma is about the coolest underground New York-style jazz club in the country. In fact, the venerable Downbeat magazine has named it one of the Top 100 Jazz Clubs Worldwide for three straight years. In the five year's of its existence, I've seen probably over 100 shows there from visiting and local jazz musicians. It's the place to be if you have any interest in the music.

And now they have comedy. Well, at least for this month. And maybe next. I've been the last two Tuesdays. Attendance has been spotty, but I remember the early days of the club and attendance was spotty for the jazz shows, too. Now it's regularly sold out. So I'm hoping they stick with the comedy because the venue is ideal. Not too big, not too small, good stage, good sound system.

Vancouver veteran, and Seattle Comedy Competition winner, Damonde Tschritter hosts. It's a pro night (as opposed to an open mic with amateurs) and what makes it different is that the pros are expected to do only new material. For someone who sees a lot of these guys, it's great for me because I know much of their acts by heart. But it's good for others, too, because most pros are able to make even their failed attempts funny.

What I don't like, though, is the fact that it's the same line-up each week, with maybe one or two different faces added in. The reasoning is that the crowd can sort of chart their progress from week to week. I think that's a lot to ask for. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Repeat customers I'm sure would rather get a full sampling of the town's pro-comic community. But I'm niggling. It's still a fun show and I'm more than happy to make the trek in from the North Shore every Tuesday to see it.

Which brings me, somewhat sloppily, to the topic of gossip. I love it as much as the next girl, but I have enough of a journalist's mindset to want to find out the truth as best I can by asking the subject of the gossip if it's true. There's always two sides to a story.

Well, I was the subject of some gossip recently that took place at the Cellar. After the Snowed In comedy tour last Saturday, I ran into a young comic who said, "Hey, I heard someone yelled at you from the stage at the Cellar last week." I knew exactly what he was talking about, but not because there was any truth to what he heard. That is, I was heckled by a comic. Here's what happened:

I was sitting off to the side of the stage. Richard Lett, who was performing, walked to the piano to tinkle the ivories when he spotted me sitting there. Richard recently battled back from testicular cancer and had just done a chunk of material on the subject. For a while, he was hairless and bloated from his chemotherapy treatment. In his low, gruff voice he said, "The media's here! Nice haircut... Chemo wannabe."

That was it. People laughed. I laughed. It was harmless. Richard and I, while not friends, are certainly friendly. I always enjoy talking to him. We disagree on lots and neither of us is afraid of saying as much. And he's one of my favourite guests to have on What's So Funny? He's open and honest and thoughtful and a little bit insane. So it makes for great radio. So I took the jab in the spirit it was intended. It's a bald joke, for crying out loud. How on earth did someone hear that and jump to the conclusion that there was ill will between us? Believe me, if Richard wanted to, he could have skewered me on any number of issues.

Then this last Tuesday I sat in a different seat. Richard gets up on stage and spots me again, identifying me to the crowd then mentioned that he heard the same rumour about how he attacked me. He didn't get it, either. So there you have it. The original gossip is way more fun and interesting, but there was nothing to it.

My point is, go to the Cellar. For comedy. For jazz. Just go.


Anonymous said...

Excellent . . . you snuck jazz in here. That's a good start. (Why does my spell-checker not like the word "snuck"?)

richard glen lett said...

i guess i could say "I love you" and it could sound threatening with my pipes. you did manage to keep anything complementary out of there, and maintained your ability to keep out of performers press kits and off of show posters. you do manage to say nice things privately, they just don't seem to make it into the public domain. "Damning with faint praise" I believe is the expression. Come on guy, you like us, admit it!

Guy MacPherson said...

I meant to say that I think you're a lot funnier since you got cancer.

There's a name for critics who hand out ready-made pithy, quotable praise in their writing: quote whore. I could care less (or couldn't care less, I'm never sure which is right) if anyone ever uses a quote from me. They'll just have to read the whole thing to get the context. I thought in this post I made it clear that I liked you and that the show was lots of fun. If it's fun, it goes without saying it's enjoyable. Since it's comedy, you wouldn't be wrong to surmise that I thought it was, ergo, funny.

And in this post I called you open, honest, thoughtful (and a little bit insane) and said you were one of my favourite radio guests.

I like you! I admit it!

Besides, you can already use that quote from me that you made up.