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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Aug: 30: Pete Johansson (repeat)

To commemorate Pete Johansson's impressive Best Newcomer nomination at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival for his show Naked Pictures of My Life, we're rerunning his first appearance on What's So Funny? from way back on August 28, 2005. Pete, who got his start in Vancouver, went off to live in the U.S. (and England) for about 15 years before returning to town for a few years. Then he found the love of his life (seen pictured with Pete) and moved back to London last year. (All dates, timelines and nations approximate.) Now he's the only North American nominee at one of the most prestigious comedy festivals in the world. And that includes Mexico, the United States, my friends.

This is neither here nor there, but back in my university days, I did the play-by-play for the school basketball team. Whenever the team played UBC, I got to call the names of the T-Birds backcourt of Kevin Hansen (now the UBC coach) and Paul Johansson, who was a member of the Canadian national team. Paul went on to become a Hollywood hunk, acting in Beverly Hills 90210 and One Tree Hill. Turns out Paul is Pete's older brother. Small world.

If you missed Pete's appearance on the show the first time and haven't gotten around to checking it out on podcast, tonight's your chance. The guy can talk and isn't shy of opinion.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Three new podcasts

Are you jonesing for some new What's So Funny? podcasts? No? Tough, we got three new ones for you anyway. As always, you can listen to them right here, over at the Comedy Couch, on your favourite podcast server, or on iTunes. (Thanks to Raegan Birch for getting these up the night before her big trip to Europe.)

The first, and to date only, appearance of Paul Myrehaug, from October 5, 2008:

The third appearance of Darren Frost, from October 26, 2008:

The second appearance, but first solo appearance, of Erica Sigurdson, from November 2, 2008:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Aug. 23: Brett Martin... from somewhere

We are back with a live guest this week, who may or may not be in studio. Brett Martin headlined in Halifax this week and was due to fly home today. But there's a bit of a breeze in the maritimes, it seems, so he may be stuck there. If so, he's offered to be our storm correspondent and we'll talk to him via telephone for the hour. It'll be 3-4 a.m. his time, but he's a comic. That's nothing for him.

UPDATE: Just got a call from Brett in Halifax. Turns out the storm was not the monster everyone predicted. The bad news is he'll be flying out and won't arrive home until 11:30ish. But he will call in when he arrives and talk about the new monthly show he's starting next Sunday night. We'll play some more comedy clips while we await his call.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Aug. 16: Moving day

No guest tonight. It's moving day. Actually, day one of moving day. I'm beat and couldn't imagine having to prepare for a guest. But do not worry, faithful listeners, there will be a show. We'll play some comedy clips for you for an hour. And if Kevin's around, we'll chat.

Shortest blog post ever? Possibly.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

David Cross

I told you there'd be additions and subtractions to the comedy festival. Turns out the two Matts (Besser and Walsh) won't be able to make it afterall, which is a shame because they're great. And old friend David Cross will be making a return visit.

David Cross and I go way back. I've never interviewed him either over the phone or in person. And I've never met him (except once even before I was writing about comedy regularly I saw him at a Nashville Pussy show at Richard's on Richards and said hi). But I've been a fan ever since I saw him at Bumbershoot years and years ago. I think Patton Oswalt, Laura Kightlinger and Tenacious D were also on the bill. Can't remember who else.

So I've been a big fan. Then two years ago I had to do a festival round-up for the Straight. I took in tons of shows but I didn't have tons of space to go into much depth. But I gave a less-than-stellar review to Cross's stand-up. I wrote:
Probably the most famous name at the fest was David Cross, who gained mass appeal with his role as Tobias on Arrested Development, but his was a mixed bag. Doing standup, he's just an angry know-it-all who appears to hate his time on-stage almost as much as he hates his fans. Appearing last in the almost-three-hour Comedy Death Ray show, Cross insulted First Nations people and drug addicts before going on a seemingly endless–and humourless–rant about Mormonism, hemming and hawing his way through an ill-prepared set. But what a pleasure it was to watch him the next night in Match Game, where he smiled, laughed, and enjoyed himself, and in the SKETCH Show on September 22, also at the Cultch, where he was reunited with former Mr. Show partner Bob Odenkirk.
The thing about reviewing is you can only review the show you've seen, not the body of work. Re-reading my review above, I see that I shouldn't have used the present tense, because I don't think he's always an angry know-it-all. But I definitely thought he was for the two shows I saw him that year. That was my impression, at least, and I spoke to other comedy nerds who loved the guy but didn't at all like his festival sets. And, to be fair, I also spoke to others who did like his stand-up there. But I can only give my opinion when I review. I just try not to give cheap shots, say my piece, and move on. I also mentioned how much I enjoyed him during the Match Game and in his sketch show.

Well, Dave read my review and commented on it in his blog. Fair enough. Critics have to be able to take it just like they dish it out. I have no problem with that. To rebut my criticism, he wrote:
Hmmm, well, I don’t hate my fans, nor do I hate doing stand-up. I’m sorry if I gave (or give) that impression, but as I said, I genuinely like doing it. That’s why I flew to Vancouver for the shows. And I actually like it when people like my act. Not too surprising really. I certainly don’t do it for the money. 7 shows for a thousand bucks total is not very lucrative. I made more money middling at “The Laugher’s Den” in Made-Up-Town, New Hampshire. It’s true though; I did insult drug-users, specifically heroin addicts. So, sorry junkies. Also I did insult a “First Nationer”, or “drunk Indian” as I called her. It was after she stood up in her chair, and yelled out that she didn’t have a TV to a rhetorical question I asked. Then, I guessed that she was a drunk Indian, which it turns out was correct. She wasn’t insulted (at least not then – she waited for me after the show to drunkenly apologize in a drunk Indian way). I then talked about drunk Indians for a minute. I am not angry about drunk Indians at all by the way, I find them adorable.
That was his take and it's good he clarified that he does, indeed, like doing stand-up (or at least doesn't hate it) and likes (or at least doesn't hate) his fans, and he's sorry if he gave that impression. Good to know. Seriously. Who knows, he could have been having a shitty week or whatever. Hopefully if I get to review him this year, I'll be able to give him a better review. Because, as I said, I really do like him.

As for his recollection of the drunk Indian bit, I think his memory is selective. He did the same bit twice. There were two different shows. One at the Comedians of Comedy at the Cultch and the second one at the show where someone yelled out at the Commodore. So he wasn't just reacting to someone in the crowd.

Anyway, here's what I didn't like about his rebuttal:
Here, from the same article is an example of the kind of humor Guy enjoys:

"Former locals Irwin Barker and Darryl Lenox got me all nostalgic about the good old days when we could see these two pros just about any day of the week. Lenox talked about his girlfriend's hippie parents, who served him porridge for breakfast: "I didn't even know that shit was real." And Barker, who's suffering from cancer, is still writing gems: "I bought the book France for Dummies because I've always wanted to see Buckingham Palace."

Well, there you go.

I didn't like it for a couple of reasons. No doubt he's never seen Irwin Barker or Darryl Lenox, who are great comics and well-respected by their peers, so he doesn't need to slag them by way of me. Now, I know he didn't overtly slag them; he just said I enjoy that kind of humour and his is different and he didn't offer any opinion. But we can all read between the lines. He probably just thought they were lame examples of jokes I gave but he should know jokes don't always translate well to the page. Sure, I could have done a better job summing them up in one sentence each, but... uh... deadlines. That's my excuse.

But the other reason I didn't like it is because he's doing some nifty editing. In that same review, I led by saying Paul F. Tompkins (who Cross certainly does know and like) was the highlight of the festival for me, and that Jimmy Pardo (another Cross crony) was another highlight. So they were also examples of the kind of humour I enjoy. And I even mentioned enjoying Cross as Cross in Match Game and as characters in sketch. So to slough me off as a guy who just doesn't get his style of stand-up isn't really accurate.

Still with Cross, I was reading an interview with one of my favourites, Doug Stanhope, the other day. It seems Stanhope might have the same impression of Cross that I had back in 2007:
With Bill Maher, I agree with the majority of things he says, and I hate him. He just comes across as so cunty, and smarmy, that curled up sarcasm … and too many guys on that side of the fence do that. That David Cross kind of delivery of, “I’m smarter than you,” not “We’re smarter than them.”
I agree with that notion completely and have been saying it for years, that just because I agree with a comic politically or socially doesn't make me like their comedy. As I said, I do like David Cross, although I get what Doug's saying here. But I feel exactly that way about Bill Maher. Yes, I agree with almost all he says, but I don't find him funny. I used to, back when he was a young comic on The Tonight Show.

It's funny because for ever I've been saying that Doug Stanhope is a guy I disagree with 90 percent of the time, yet find him hilarious.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


We've got three more podcasts for you today. You can listen to them here or at the Comedy Couch, or download them at iTunes. And if you're at iTunes, why not subscribe to us and give us a rating and a review? Be the first!

The Baby Jessicas sketch troupe's Ryan Murphy and Stephen Morton. I can't even remember when this one was recorded. Maybe Ryan or Stephen can help out here.

Paul Breau, from just a few weeks ago, July 19, 2009:

And Darryl Lenox with Richard Lett, from July 26, 2009:

Oh, and while you're at it, this is me guesting (or trying to guest) on The Exploding Sandwich podcast with Devon Lougheed and Devin Mackenzie, recorded last Saturday. The ES is available on iTunes and at their website. Google 'em:

What the hell, let's get all my Vancouver podcast appearances out of the way. Here I am trying to keep up with Graham Clark and Dave Shumka on Stop Podcasting Yourself (available on iTunes and at their site):

It's your one-stop shopping for podcasts.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

August 9: The Exploding Sandwich

Talk about log-rolling in our time. Tonight we have the two Devons, aka the two Devins, on our program, one night after I guested on their internet radio program, aka podcast. Devon Lougheed and Devin MacKenzie, hosts of the moderately popular Exploding Sandwich podcast as well as comedic performers, will make their debut on What's So Funny? I'll tell you this much, they'll have it easy compared to what I was put through. I arrived at their fancy studio and was told I'd need to come up with two stories, one true and one false. That's something I need a good two weeks to prepare. I'm not a performer, goddammit, I'm a doctor, Kirk! Then on the air I had to improv a eulogy for Hillary Duff (God rest her soul) and write on cue. And finally I had to eat a Twinkie™ and describe it metaphorically. It was a workout for a guy who spends his time watching others pull off that kind of stuff, I'll tell you that much for free.

Anyway, I enjoyed myself. It aired live, but I believe they will podcast it on the morrow, aka August 10. On our humble interview program, I won't spring them with any surprises. We'll just chat, as per usual... Or will I? Revenge is sweet... Tune in to find out.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Canadian Content in London

You gotta admire the spunk of our Urban Improv/Canadian Content pals. The local improv/sketch troupe decided they wanted to put on a show in London. As in England, not Ontario. Drew McCreadie talked to me about it on Skype a while back, which you can see here. They're there for a month (Aug. 4 - 30) putting on shows at Leicester Square. They've already received one rave review. Chortle, the influential UK comedy guide, writes:
...this is everything you’d hope for from good sketch: fast moving, recurring characters, a showcase for versatility, interspersed with short films and animations... This is splendid ensemble work among the five actor/writers, no weak links and apparently no big ego jostling for the pole position.
Read the whole review here. Good work, kids. Way to represent the 604.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

It's official

The comedy fest has released the names of the performers, shows and venues on their website. I missed a couple. And no doubt there will be further additions and subtractions as we get closer to the date. Two I missed were Trevor Boris and Hollywood Harv.

I'm always hesitant to offer an opinion on performers I've never seen live, but from what I've seen of Boris, I'm not a fan. Nor does he seem capable yet of hosting his own show at the Cultch. I could see bringing him in as one of many performers on a few shows, but his own show? Hey, but I've been wrong before. One thing I've learned over the years is that live is a completely different entity than recorded. Brent Butt never did anything for me when I saw him doing standup on TV, but live he was one of the best ever. I always hated Sinbad from his years on the telly, yet I quite enjoyed his live set. Ditto Elaine Boosler. And Nikki Payne. So I always go into a live show with as open a mind as possible. Still... his own show?!

Hollywood Harv I've never heard of. But a quick search online tells me he's a Vancouver Punjabi hip-hop comedy dude. In other words, right up my alley. Can't wait.

Now let me respond to a few of the commenters from the last post:
  • To Anonymous 1: Yes, you can drop by the station to pick up goodies.
  • To Anonymous 2: Yes, Too Far TV is from Vancouver. But so are lots of comics. The organizers can't include every local act. I know there's always griping, but I actually think they do a good job of getting the best local comics involved. No doubt there will be more than the three I listed.
  • To Anonymous 3: Yeah, there are a lot of repeats. I'm of two minds on this. Selfishly, I'd love to see different comics, preferably those who haven't played here before. Then again, they're here for only a couple of days once a year. You can't go wrong with Paul F. Tompkins or Todd Barry. You just can't. If they were here year round, I'd go see them dozens of times, if not more. And you gotta admit, there are lots of new (old) faces, too. They seem to have gone a bit more mainstream this year than in years past, although you have to wonder about The Champions of Last Comic Standing series running over three weekends. Do people even remember that show? Will Dat Phan be there? But I also think it's a good fit for Lafflines.
  • To Anonymous 4: I agree, although not as strongly with Bamford. To me, she wears down on repeat viewings more than Tompkins, who is always fresh and new.
  • To Anonymous 5: Near perfect? Hardly. But still pretty good.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Comedy fest line-up

On Sunday, if you were listening you'd know that What's So Funny? broke the line-up for the upcoming Vancouver (Global) comedy festival (September 17-27). Today, it's official. Here's the line-up. Some new faces, plenty of old ones, but lots of laughs either way.

So what do you think? Opinions? Faves? Anyone you can't wait to see? Anyone you wish they had brought in?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Aug. 2: Cameron MacLeod

Yes, we had Daryl Makk scheduled here for the last week or so. But these things happen in the crazy world of show biz. Instead tonight we have Cameron MacLeod, professional Man Hussy as well as one of the comedy curators for the upcoming, and brand spanking new, Olio Festival, which runs August 13-16. There's music, art and comedy. He'll fill us in on the comedy side of things. And we'll talk about his sketch group, Man Hussy.

Banus from Man Hussy on Vimeo.