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Friday, October 2, 2009

Night two in Saint John

Turns out I was wrong in yesterday's post. Go figure. It happens sometimes.

Saint John has a thing about abbreviations, it seems. So one must never, under penalty of death, write St. John. It must always be fully Saint'ed. Don't know why; that's just the way it is. Deal with it.

I learned that from John Mazerolle's one-man show called Faster, Higher, Stronger, Foggier at the Oland Theatre in the New Brunswick Museum. The show featured John, a one-time city hall reporter in Saint John now living in Toronto, and his brother, who now resides in Halifax. Yes, a two-person one-man show.

The show was basically a history lesson of the city. It started with a rather painful karaoke version of Billy Joel's We Didn't Star the Fire, but made less painful by the quick photos accompanying the original lyrics. For those who didn't pay attention in their Canadian history class, there was a big fire here in 1877, otherwise known as (according to Mazerolle) "The great urban renewal of 1877."

Not gut-bustingly funny for an outsider, but humorous enough. For locals, though, look out. There were lots of inside jokes and jabs at every single member of city council. Apparently an Elton John concert figured prominently in the city's history, too. His show sold out "quicker than Norm MacFarlane sold out Saint John." Zing! Cue the groans!

But there were jokes I could get, too. Samuel de Champlain (or "Sam de Cham", as Mazerolle calls him) discovered Saint John Harbour "because the natives weren't looking hard enough."

Next, I took a cab to a club three miles away. It was called the Three Mile Club, if you can believe it. A little story about the cab ride first. They don't have meters in taxis here. Your fare is calculated based on zones. And they don't accept credit cards. The cabbie had to then take me to a bank machine nearby without any fare increase because we were in the same zone. Looks like I won that round.

Also this cab had four (count 'em) TV screens, each playing Smokie & The Bandit, starring Burt Reynolds and Jackie Gleason. There was an awesome sound system so much so that I kept looking around for cops. Those siren wales sounded so real. The driver had dozens of DVDs between his seat and the passenger seat. I'm hoping they were for the customer's benefit, even though one of the screens was right on the dashboard. I watched him carefully and he didn't seem to sneak any peaks, so I could ride in comfort.

I met television's Jon Dore outside the club. He must think I'm stalking him because I saw him less than a week ago in Vancouver outside Yuk Yuk's. Dore was hosting last night. He's a great choice. Talk about never not funny, it's this guy. His straight-faced delivery gets me every single time. He came out and immediately ingratiated himself to the crowd, as any good host will do. He said how happy he was to be there: "I love coming to Newfoundland." And that was a running gag throughout the night.

The bar was just off to the stage's right. With his cordless mic, Dore walked down the steps, over to the bar, and ordered two Jaggermeisters, which he then downed. Didn't seem to affect him. Nor did the numerous beers or the smoking up between comics. He said it did, but it always seemed to me he had his wits about him throughout the night. At one point, he did an impression of an invisible comic by walking up the stairs to the balcony and hiding behind the wall, followed by about five minutes of crowd work and visuals... You see, nobody could see him. It might lose something in the telling, but it was very funny. Dore is the master of the sincere set-up and killer punchline. He gets all serious, saying how good it is to laugh, using the old bromide that laughter is the best medicine. It's true, he says. "People that laugh a lot actually live longer than people with terminal cancer." Ah, yes, it's funny because it's true.

All the comics were Canadian Comedy Award nominees. First up was Kate Davis, who I'd never seen before. She has the dirty pervy mom schtick down pat. Lots of talk of her kids and her sex life, which is funny enough just because we don't expect it from moms, but I always find a bit unsettling, old stick-in-the-mud that I am. Best line: "We were so poor, last year somebody stole my identity and it ruined her life."

Shane Ogden was next and he's the answer to yesterday's question about who won the Funniest Person in New Brunswick competition. He's a Mr. Leahy lookalike. Like me, he finally succumbed to the evils of Facebook. He compared it to junior high, where we excitedly ask, "Did you get my note?!" and amass friends for no apparent reason.

Former Vancouverite, and What's So Funny? guest, Allyson Smith was next. She's changed a lot since moving from the 604 area code. Instead of Rikki Lake, she now looks like Sarah Palin. Or so she said. She still single (fellas). She likes shy guys, but her last boyfriend, she found out through friends, was dumb, not shy. "He listens because he doesn't understand you," is what they told her.

Just For Laughs fave Scott Faulconbridge talked of his three-year-old son: "He's for sale. If you act now, I'll throw in the grandparents." He's a cautionary tale to future parents. Even though it seems like a good idea at the time, do not, under any circumstances, teach your young child a knock-knock joke because you'll regret it almost immediately.

Victoria native (and Oak Bay high grad), and former What's So Funny? guest, Kristeen Von Hagen just flew in from Amsterdam that day, not having performed in a few weeks, which can be disastrous for some comics, did well with an assortment of fat jokes. She has become obsessed with the morbidly obese. Whenever she sees one in bed and shirtless on TV, she hears a voice inside her head saying, "Go for it. This is something you can totally do."

Montreal's David Pryde was next. He's one of the best joke writers in the business. I'd always seen him as a one-liner comic, but he did longer chunks last night. Still some great lines, though. His bit on Braille was good. It's the only language you can't understand wearing oven mitts. "You're a cold snap away from illiteracy."

Shelley Marshall was someone I'd never seen, or heard of, before. A zaftig cartoon character dressed in bright red. She was another horny bad mom who talked about her sex life a lot. A pap smear for her is "a discreet sexual encounter covered by health care."

Glen Foster, who, like Dore, was in Vancouver last week, has been a mainstay on Canadian television for 20 years now, which explains, he says, why nobody knows him. He had a really good chunk on how Canada has been relatively terrorist-free. "This is where they send their relatives for safety." Yes, people might consider some of his material racist, but I don't think it is. Uncomfortable, sure, but not racist. He described how if a terrorist bomb was going to go off in Canada, we'd be tipped off by noticing all the dollar stores closed. The way he acts it out is spot-on. Then when he realizes what's going down, he yells, "Taxi!" And he leaves it at that. We know what he's getting at. Do the Saint Johners, though? All the cab drivers here are white.

Closing the evening was Debra "I'm not gonna lie" DiGiovanni. I, too, am not gonna lie: I've not been a fan from what I've seen on TV and heard on radio, but she's way more compelling in person. Sure, most of the jokes are fat jokes and sad single jokes, but she sells them. I just feel a bit squeamish watching because I keep wondering if she really is that sad and lonely in real life. My gut reaction is to want to hug her, which isn't her intended response, I'm guessing. Oh, and I had the "I'm not gonna lie" count at eight, but I think I missed a few. That can get a bit annoying. Still, she killed and I'd gladly see her do an extended set somewhere else.

A really good night was had by all, even poor moustachioed Charlie, who was the butt of everyone's jokes.

Tonight the awards are handed out. Who will win? Find out tomorrow right here.

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