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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Jon Dore interview

Jon Dore - December 3, 2008

"There's gotta be something redeeming about an asshole or else I don't think anyone would really watch." – Jon Dore

Guy MacPherson: So you're still doing your show this late in the year?
Jon Dore: Yeah, I'm just on lunch. We broke a little later than we're supposed to, which is why I didn't get your message. But yeah, we're on lunch for a few more minutes. It's our last week of taping.

GM: Aren't most shows done by now?
JD: I don't think there's any real rhyme or reason of when they start. Our show wasn't officially picked up till a little later than we were expecting. And we throw some hiatus weeks in to give departments a bit of a breather. So it just happens that we wrap December 5th.

GM: What season is this? Two?
JD: Season two, yeah.

GM: How many shows have you done?
JD: We did 13 in season one; we have another 13 coming down the pipe this season.

GM: Is it as good or will there be a sophomore jinx?
JD: I don't know. Was the first season even any good? Who knows?

GM: I thought so.
JD: We made a television series and we're making another one so it will be equally as made, that's for sure.

GM: Is the first season on DVD?
JD: No, it's not.

GM: Will it be?
JD: I don't know. It hasn't crossed my mind. Possibly. I mean, I'm not really proud of all of them so I'd rather hide as many as I can and maybe take a best-of from season one and two and have a three-episode disc.

GM: Out of the 13, how many are you proud of?
JD: (laughs) Oh, I don't know. I mean, I like elements of some of them but it's too long of a story to get into why some of them didn't work out the way I wanted them to. But I'd say there's probably about six that I'd be like, "Yeah, yeah, if you're really bored...".

GM: Is there any particular aspect of the parts you aren't proud of or is it just comedically?
JD: Oh, it's just a first season, a first run at things, first kick at the can where things don't come together the way you expect them to. But in the meantime, you're also pleasantly surprised with other things so it's a nice little balance. But I'm a little hard on myself when it comes to that kind of stuff.

GM: I have to admit I was a typical Canadian who saw this thing promo'd over and over again and just thought 'lame Comedy Network series. I'm not even going to watch it.' And then I watched it and thought it was really good. I was surprised.
JD: That's great to hear. That's really great to hear.

GM: There's always a backlash to things that are made in our own country.
JD: Yeah, there's a stigma attached to shows. Yeah, we have gotten that from some people, which is nice to hear. A compliment's a compliment. Yeah, we get that from time to time.

GM: It's rare to see a unique show being made. Usually they're derivative of something. I'm wondering, what was the model?
JD: It all kind of started with... I mean, I love interviewing. But I'm not a fan of interviewing in a live format. I knew that I didn't want to do like a live nightly television show. I didn't think that was possible. So it was just combining elements of sketch and interviewing. It kind of just evolved. The executive producer of the production company that was working with me on it said, "Just go and imagine your show." So it was pretty much that. It went through several different evolutions but it always had a strain of interviews that tell the storyline and then a fake world that surrounds it.

GM: Yeah, which I haven't seen anywhere else.
JD: Well, I dunno. You wanna say The Daily Show. They have their correspondent interviews where they go out and do them then come back into the studio. When the Borat movie came out, I thought, "What the fuck is this?" And since I've stumbled across another show, The Armando Iannucci Show. It's a BBC show. It's similar minus the interviews. He explores a different topic in his life through sketches. But I don't know if it's that new, really. I mean, Ali G and The Daily Show do their interviews and that's kinda like what we're doing. And then we're just borrowing what we think is funny sketch stuff from other existing shows. It's like you're just combining different influences probably.

GM: It's also rare for the Comedy Network to develop shows that are any funny. They have stuff like The Keys to the VIP.
JD: (sarcastically) A verrrry funny show.

GM: Hilarious.
JD: Mm-hmm.

GM: You don't often see comedians in this country getting their own sitcom, for lack of a better word. And yet they gave one to you. Was that a hard sell or did they come to you saying "Do whatever you want"?
JD: Well, when I used to be part of the Canadian Idol television show I formed a relationship with the network, CTV. They knew that I did standup and enjoyed writing and that I had aspirations of doing a show and that the Canadian Idol show wasn't a perfect fit for me and not ultimately what I wanted to be doing, that's for certain. So I think I was fortunate enough to have a great relationship with Insight and the Comedy Network, and CTV are huge fans of what Insight do. So I had a bit of an in, for sure. So they were willing to listen to a pitch. But I don't think they would have picked up the show unless I had a relationship with Insight Productions. We shot a pilot for the show about four years ago and based on the pilot they weren't thrilled but they wanted to continue working on it. So that's what we did. So was it a tough pitch initially? No. But it was a tough road when it came to rewriting and repitching.

GM: It's who you know, isn't it?
JD: Mm-hmm.

GM: They seem to give you carte blanche. You can do whatever you want, judging from your first season. Do they interfere at all?
JD: Oh, yeah, absolutely. It's not really interfering, but they're concerned with story elements, concerned about some language, concerned about certain topics. So yeah, they voice their concerns and if it's something we really want to fight for, we will. Otherwise we'll back down. But they haven't been too bad.

GM: You do have the language, you do have nudity...
JD: Yeah, yeah. We're highbrow.

GM: I'm just wondering what on earth they'd go, "Hey, hey, that's too far."
JD: Like, what is sacred anymore? I don't know if anything is. And I guess it's not what you talk about; it's how you approach it. That's maybe what their concerns would be. Last year – and I'm not sure if this was an actual concern of the network's or not, but ultimately it didn't make it in the show – it was a baby that I found in the garbage and had a conversation with. We had our art department design an animatronic baby. That was, for whatever reason, cut. Which we fought for over and over again but their argument was that it didn't help the story at all. True that it wasn't necessary but it also wasn't unnecessary. So that would be one example. But otherwise they've been pretty good.

GM: But if it's funny, who cares if it helps the storyline.
JD: Yeah, I guess so. I don't know. That's the whole Family Guy theory, I guess.

GM: You're pretty fearless on the show, from pissing to kissing guys to whatever.
JD: What's to be afraid of?

GM: Have you always been that way or did you just say, "Ah, I'm gonna go for it because it's funny"?
JD: That's a good question. It depends. You know, I'm pretty thoughtful and methodical in my regular life, for the most part. But no, when it comes to television it's completely different. It's more the character that would do these outrageous things. As long as it's appropriate, I'll do it. But I'm not really like that, I don't think, in my real life.'

GM: It's interesting that you play a guy called Jon Dore and Sarah Silverman plays Sarah Silverman and Stephen Colbert plays Stephen Colbert. You're all essentially more loutish versions of your real selves.
JD: Versions of.

GM: The worst versions of, but still with a good heart.
JD: Yeah, there's gotta be something redeeming about an asshole or else I don't think anyone would really watch. Like Larry David. He's a perfect example. There's gotta be a redeeming quality to him or no one would watch. I think we empathize with his situation. Yeah, it's fun to play a character where in situations in real life you'd love to say something horrible to a child, but in real life, of course, you would hate to scar them in any way. But it's fun to write it into a show and get to say it.

GM: Do you get any flack from you being Jon Dore on the show and people thinking that's really you? Especially given the real interviews you do?
JD: No, I don't think so. I don't think a lot of people watch. So that's also helpful. But no, not really. I don't think so.

GM: Do you have any idea of the numbers?
JD: I know from last year they fluctuated. When they were up, the network was really happy. But they were really sporadic. We'd drop incredibly within a week and be down for a week and then a week later we'd jump up even higher than we ever were. So they were really hard to read.

GM: I would think that your show could do well down south or in England. Has there been talk of that?
JD: We have a distribution company Insight works with. Insight's the production company, by the way. And Freemantle Media is their distributor. So it's kind of out of our hands. I don't know. It would also be kinda nice to have the show here and no one else see it, which could be kinda fun, too. But it's kinda out of our hands. The distribution company takes it from there. So I don't know if there's any interest but they're definitely out there shopping it around. So maybe it'll be on in Argentina one day.

GM: What really won me over was the scene where you were jerking off to the Bible, then we saw St. Peter who opens the door to tell God, and God is sitting on the can jerking off, and he does the I Dream of Jeannie blink to disappear.
JD: Right, and he turns into a cat.

GM: Tell me that was a moment you liked, not one you're ashamed of.
JD: Oh absolutely. That was a moment where my friend Mark and I worked it in in the writers' room. We knew we wanted a masturbate-to-the-Bible scene, which Mark had written and put into a show but we didn't feel like it was enough so we shot around an idea of what might happen. It's one of those fun experiences in a room where you just say, "Oh, and what if this happened? And then what about this? Then what about this?" So that's definitely a favourite moment of mine, as well.

GM: Did you leave Canadian Idol for this show or for other reasons?
JD: No. We had shot the pilot for the show between season 2 and 3. I went back for season 3 and I had known that was going to be my last season. It wasn't what I ultimately wanted to be doing. Then when I left the show, we continued working on it and they had turned the pilot down and they asked us to continue working on it. So it was a year of not knowing what we're doing.

GM: Is Ben Mulroney the reason you left?
JD: No, God no. Not at all. Ben was a huge supporter of mine and I'm a fan of his for sure. He's a very nice man.

GM: A fan of his?
JD: Absolutely.

GM: This conversation is over!
JD: Well, I mean, you know, you meet people and you see who they really are. He really is a good person.

GM: You started on Rogers Cable in Ottawa, is that right?
JD: I did.

GM: Doing an interview show?
JD: Yeah, it was a daytime show. Do you know, I'm not sure if it's still called the Urban Well in Vancouver?

GM: Yeah. Urban Rush.
JD: What's it called, sorry?

GM: Urban Rush.
JD: Oh, Urban Rush. Urban Well is the old comedy room. Yeah, Urban Rush. It's similar to that, just the budget's even smaller. Yeah, we did that for three years. It was a magazine-style interview show. Occasionally you'd get, like, a Pierre Berton-type author in, but for the most part it was prostate cancer awareness week interviews and the Carp garlic festival. That kind of thing.

"When stand-up's great, it's so fun. When it's horrible, it's awful. And TV just gets really tiring sometimes." – Jon Dore

GM: Were you doing stand-up at the same time?
JD: Yeah, I was. I started doing stand-up out of college. My first year of college. In Ottawa I was doing stand-up and the TV show during the day and working as a waiter at night.

GM: Are you still working as a waiter?
JD: I wish.

GM: Is that where Tom Green started?
JD: Yeah, the same TV station. I never crossed paths with him. He left a couple years before I got there.

GM: Which is a bigger thrill, stand-up or your TV show?
JD: Oh my God, they're completely different disciplines. Bigger thrill? I couldn't pick a bigger one. I mean, when stand-up's great, it's so fun. When it's horrible, it's awful. And TV just gets really tiring sometimes. It's fun but there's just too much to do, sitting in an edit suite, shooting, rewriting. There's just too much going on and you don't really feel like you're able to give it your best attention sometimes. So that would be the downfall of it. They're both great for different reasons.

GM: What are your roles on the TV show?
JD: We start writing the show...

GM: So you're a writer, producer, actor?
JD: Mm-hmm. That'd be about it. Our showrunner and myself kind of oversee every element of the show. If there's a question from the art department or a question from the director, or just about anybody, we answer that call. And we sit in a room and me and my friends write it, and we sit in the edit suite and trim things down the way we like them. It's fun.

GM: You're doing it all.
JD: But it's the way it has to be. It's like raising a kid. You can't leave him with a babysitter for too long.

GM: No. I have mine in front of the TV right now.
JD: Really?

GM: Yeah.
JD: That's terrible.

GM: But I have to talk to you. I gave him a cookie. He's alright. Is doing the show putting your stand-up on hold, at least creatively, because you're having to devote so much time to the show?
JD: Yeah, it definitely does. I mean, I still do stand-up during the show if I can, but I haven't had time to get up at open mics and really work on new material. It's a little frustrating. You feel like you can't give it the attention you want to.

GM: So you're coming to Vancouver. Are you coming cross Canada?
JD: I'm just flying out to Vancouver and then back to Ottawa for shows there.

GM: On your cellphone you said you wouldn't be back until May.
JD: Oh, that's an oldie. I gotta change that. That was from May of last year. Or this year. I like leaving it on only because I say "if my plane doesn't crash". No one thinks my plane crashed and I didn't change my message. So it's not working.

GM: Are you getting different crowds out to your standup, fans of the show?
JD: Yes. Not a lot but a handful of people at a show who seem to be fans, and that feels great. We just did a theatre tour in Ontario and, you know, it wasn't well attended but those that did attend, a few of them were fans of the show, which is nice.

GM: For those who don't know, how is your stand-up similar to the show? I guess it has the same sensibilities.
JD: Good old-fashioned Christian comedy, the way the Lord intended it to be. Yeah, that's the best way to describe it. If the Lord wrote a joke and then gave it to a disciple to tell the people, I'd be that disciple.

GM: That reminds me of the episode where you weren't a manly man and Jesus came and you just shoved him out of the way.
JD: That's right.

GM: Like you, I have never changed a flat tire or been in a fight. I don't know if that's you the character or you the real person or both.
JD: Yeah, I have since changed a flat tire. It was with the crew and someone stuck a razor blade in my tire, so me and the crew had to change the tire.

GM: So now you're a manly man, I guess.
JD: I am. I learned how to do it.

GM: In the first season, most of the episodes, or the ones I saw, were some sort of aspect of your character you were trying to figure out, be it alcoholism or rage or being a manly man. Are those the same sorts of stories you've developed for the second season? And were these all real aspects of the real Jon Dore?
JD: I'll answer the second one first. No, not all. I guess there's like a little ounce of truth in everything, but... Not a little ounce, I guess. An ounce is an ounce. But this year we do have a few personal topics. Like I'm worried am I getting old in one episode. Why am I horny? That is completely fictional. But sex topics are just irresistible. But for the most part, no. Our topics get a little bigger this year. I try and bite off more than I can chew as far as trying to end discrimination. That's our first episode this year. Trying to save the planet, our environmental episode. Right now we're shooting a drugs episode, where I think drugs are bad and then I discover that they're great. So some of the topics are a little bigger. Personal ones are like is my apartment haunted, am I competitive enough? So they're still personal but we attack a few bigger topics as well.

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