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Sunday, March 8, 2009

March 8: John Wing

We've got a good show for you tonight. How do I know? Because it's in the can, baby. Done. I can sit back and relax and listen along with you for a change.

After helping comedian John Wing choose a new chapeau on Granville St. yesterday, he and I sat down at a local coffee house for an hour-long conversation. And as luck would have it, it just happened to be recorded. So you'll hear us, along with background tunes, coffee grinders and bathroom doors being buzzed open. It's historic.

Wing is one of my favourite comics. Dry, thoughtful, sarcastic, just silly enough and a real wordsmith. The veteran of 29 years has been living in California for the past 21 years, but he's still a national treasure. He's done six Tonight Shows (one with the legendary Johnny Carson) and tons more TV and radio work. Not acting, though. He'll explain why tonight. We'll also talk about bow ties, poetry, and the perils of performing on the high seas. I think you'll like it. To warm yourself up, check out his YouTubeclips over in the right-hand panel.

Besides being a headlining stand-up comic, Wing is also a prolific writer, who's written five books of poetry (with one more on the way) and a memoir. Despite a BA in English, I don't "get" a lot of poetry, but I own one of Wing's books (A Cup of Nevermind; Mosaic Press)and I really like his work. I thought I'd end this entry with two of his poems, one about his job; the other about mine. Reprinted here without permission:

THE COMEDIAN by John Wing, Jr.

In the red brick room
where the lights bleed smoke,
I have spent my bloom.

I have shed my cloak
and exposed my plume
to amuse these folk.

For above the gloom
and the days on coke,
in the spotlight's broom

I am swept, and soak
in the yellow spume
for my hour's croak.

Is the stage a tomb?
Will the dry throat choke?
In the night's cold womb,

I revoke, revoke
the all-seeing doom,
where the lights bleed smoke
in the red brick room.

by John Wing, Jr.

Your assessment of my poems,
I am forced to admit, is quite correct,
although you tempered it by saying
it was not in any way a lack of talent,
but more an absence of emotion,
a lack of gutsy, visceral, true telling
of events with the poet unremoved.

I have spitefully reread 20 years
of work as though it was composed
by someone else, and you're right.
I am the wallflower, the high-horseman,
silent and between the lines, hiding
real feeling and heart, strangled
in form and rhythm.

I needed to hear this.
And the new perspective will free me,
allowing poems to come straight
from the heart, allowing me
to say what I've always wanted:

I hate you.

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