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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stoked: Butt is back!

I've said it before, I'll say it again: At the top of his game, there's no funnier stand-up comic around than Brent Butt. Unfortunately, his TV work (Corner Gas, Hiccups) has taken him out of the stand-up scene for a while. Oh, sure, he'll occasionally play a high-priced casino theatre event every other month or so, but those gigs are always a little impersonal. When he was performing weekly at the old Urban Well, whether before a packed house in Kits or before seven lost souls downtown, there was nobody better.

Great news: Butt is back! Back in a club where he belongs. He was never a Yuk Yuk's guy so he never played the club on Burrard St. but now that it's the independently-owned Comedy Mix, he's going to be playing six shows there, April 13-16. Don't expect nothing but the classic routines about Fabio on a roller coaster, growing up in a small town, his childhood diet or wrestling. He may break some of those oldies but goodies out, but the purpose of his visit is to work out some new bits. Fear not, though: Brent can't be not funny... or can't not be funny... or, if double negatives aren't your thing, he's always funny. Off-stage, some comics sound like just about anyone, i.e. not particularly witty. But Butt's comedic mind is always working and, more importantly, sharp. He learned well from his older brothers – he doesn't try too hard; he's just naturally, and easily, quick-witted.

And check out those prices! You can't beat that for someone of his ilk. Knowing how he sells out 1000-seat theatres at three times the cost, you can be assured he'll sell out fast at the Mix. (I sound like a shill. Really, I'm just excited.)

After all these years, the night Brent dropped by the What's So Funny? studio remains one of the best episodes. If you haven't heard it yet, I highly recommend it. Have a listen here or download it at iTunes:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mar. 27: Lisa Lampanelli and Chris Porter

While I'm away this weekend, my trusty manservant, Kevin, will play two banked interviews I recently conducted. The first is a phoner, as we say in the biz, with comedy's lovable queen of mean, Lisa Lampanelli. It was my second time chatting with Ms. Lampanelli and right off the bat you find out just how meaningful our first talk was. But she was great. A nice mix between her on-stage persona and her real self.

Half an hour later, you'll hear an in-person interview with comedian Chris Porter. I feel I need to qualify which Chris Porter it is to differentiate him from the gay porn star Chris Porter. And since our chat took place up in his hotel room, I really wanted to make that clear. This Porter is the one who bears a resemblance to Willy Wonka and who finished a very respectable third on season 4 of NBC's Last Comic Standing. We talked about that and find out his opinion of alternative comedy, among other things.

So that's tonight at 11. Be there. I won't be, but you can be. CFRO 102.7 FM in Vancouver or livestream it at

Podcast episode 222ish: Johnny Scoop

Remember Room 222? I certainly do. In theory, that is. I remember the theme song and liking Karen Valentine. But that's neither here nor there. It's just that this particular podcast episode happens to be number 222ish. I use the -ish suffix because we've been at this a long time, long before podcasts became so damn popular and their hosts so anal they needed to keep track of how many they've done. I know for damn sure we've done way more radio shows. Some didn't make it to podcast format for one reason or another (lost, technical glitches, what-have-you). So I think this one is about our 222nd available online.

Johnny Scoop is the guest. It was Oscar night 2011. For once, I was the only one in the room who watched the spectacle. It's fitting that while I'm reminiscing about classic television here, Johnny and I reminisced about the price of pop on this show. Also he told us why sandwich boards are better on land than car rooftops, and I lambasted him for cowering to the almighty Canucks. That's worth a listen, right?

Here's your chance. Well, here or iTunes. Choose your poison.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Podcast episode 221ish: Ryan Hamilton

As the blurb I wrote for iTunes says about this particular episode, "Ryan Hamilton, best known for his two turns on NBC's Last Comic Standing, has a face made for comedy. And, luckily, an act to match. You can't see the mug on this podcast, but we talk about it. That, and a whole lot more, such as why the press insists on commenting on said visage and the fact he works clean and happens to be Mormon." I think that about sums it up.

Have a listen. Here or at iTunes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


If you thought horses and art only go together in velvet paintings, think again. I saw Cavalia, the Cirque-like horse extravaganza, last night and while it's not a comedy, I thought I'd tell you about it. I'm a bit of a horseman, you see. Back in 2000, I was a greenhorn until I was sent on a cattle drive by Westworld magazine. I spent a week on horseback and lived to tell about it. I know these majestic animals are unpredictable at best. So to see them so well behaved for two solid hours while people are jumping on them and flying over their heads was impressive.

The 'wow' factor of Cavalia wasn't as high as any given Cirque du Soleil show unless you get particularly excited by dressage, but it certainly had its moments. Seeing one woman choreograph through apparent mind-meld nine seemingly wild horses who wandered onto the stage, and watching another group of horses slowly doing controlled Esther Williams-like formations isn't thrilling, per se, but it's very impressive if you know that horses aren't exactly known for their smarts. I kept thinking I would be so much more impressed if there was a colour commentator eagerly whispering how difficult a manoeuvre each move was: "Ooh, look at that! That leg cross-over looks easy but it's extremely complicated such an action is for a quadruped!"

What I found most impressive was the fact that not one of 49 horses didn't drop a load until the second half. Okay, there were other amazing feats from humans and steed alike. Jay Leno is quoted as saying it's the best show he's ever seen. Keep in mind, Leno is a workaholic who performs almost every night of the year so he probably doesn't get out to a lot of shows. But still, the event is a work of art. Check it out.

Now this gives me a good excuse to post the article I did lo these many years ago for Westworld, especially since it predates the time when every piece ever written goes directly on the internet so you won't find it on their site:
by Guy MacPherson

I am a cowboy. This surprises anyone who has known me for any length of time. This surprises, most of all, myself. You see, prior to my visit to the Kamloops Cattle Drive, I had never been on a horse. A real horse, that is. Now I have 90 kilometres of mountainous trails under my belt. I have ridden up to seven hours in a day. I have penned real live cattle. In fact, I am a champion (or sorts). I have listened (against my will) to country and western music 24/7. I have paraded through the streets of downtown Kamloops on my trusty steed. As I said, I am a cowboy.

How did this happen? I have never been what you would call at one with nature. Nature, I've always said, is nice to look at from the safety of your apartment window or a moving vehicle. I am a man who had previously slept in a tent once in his life but never set one up. And let's just say I don't even like using public washrooms, forget about port-o-potties. So what, you may ask, possessed me to borrow cowboy boots, purchase an Australian outback hat and saddle up for a week in the wilderness? I was asking myself this very question for my first couple of nights on the week-long drive, cowering alone in my nylon retreat frantically squishing insects who dared invade my personal space. The impetus was from an editor who either really liked me or, it occurred to me on day two, really hated me.

So I set off on my real-life western adventure unsure of what I am getting into. My only experience with horses so far involve 50-cent mechanical pony rides in the mall. And despite what you may believe, no amount of merry-go-rounds can prepare you for such an experience.

All I know of cattle drives is what I learned watching ‘City Slickers’. But I am a true city slicker; not some Hollywood version of one. I am not travelling with my own personal stuntman. And rather than a handful of riders, like in the 1991 film, B.C.’s annual Kamloops Cattle Drive has 190 participants. With wranglers, medics and vets, that's about a 300-horse convoy we're talking about, any of which could wig out at any given moment.

My goal is a simple one: To stay on.

After the first day, a sweltering 30 degrees, I’m not so sure even this is attainable. At a lull in our slate of "Pioneers Recognition" events, a time to meet our horses and attend information sessions, young Mandy from Seattle takes her new horse for a test walk. Said would-be stallion has other ideas: he takes off at full gallop, tossing Mandy to the dirt and breaking her ankle. Thanks for coming out. Later in the day, two burly young men are bucked from their steeds before even getting off the picket line.

I am neither burly nor young, and I begin to worry about the waiver I sign upon arriving at the Crater Valley Ranch in Westwold, a small cowboy community fed mostly by agriculture and forestry that’s our drive's starting point. I am assured they’ve lost nary a soul in ten years of moving some 100 head of cattle every summer. Rather than providing relief, I am convinced they are now due.

After signing away my life, I get the rundown on the night's events.

"There's a live band tonight," I am told, "and they play country music. I guess if you're here you like country music."

Oh, God, I hadn't even thought of that.

Still, along with the remainder of the ride's 10-to-82-year-old greenhorn cowpokes and seasoned veterans, I dutifully drag my one week’s supplies to the camping area in search of a suitable spot for my mauve (not pink) tent. I feel like I’ve been conscripted.

What a suitable area is I'm not exactly sure. But I find a spot, dump my equipment on the ground and start to set up my sleeping quarters. Only I have no idea what I'm doing. I figure if I 'Jerry Lewis' it enough, someone will come by and give me a hand. But we are all strangers today. I finally petition the woman next door, who comes over and assists (read: does it for me while I stand there watching). Once inside, I am dismayed to learn that tent walls aren't soundproof and I'm hearing 'Blue Mesa' for the first of about 15 times that week.

I arise early the following morning to a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call over the P.A. system, the smell of bacon and eggs wafting over from the mobile canteen — a much more pleasant aroma than I get the rest of the day out on the trail, with 300 riders on horseback. And the horses don’t smell so sweet, either.

Those of us who arrived sans steed are given one. Mine is a beautiful bay. The crusty wranglers who assign me this horse don't know her name, though. I was looking forward to going through the desert on this horse with no name for the kitsch value alone, but it is not to be. I call her '108', the number on her harness thingy (I'm not a good listener). But I don't call her that for long. Old 108 senses my greenness and decides to have some fun with me. On our short introductory walk, she won't do anything I want. This may have something to do with the fact I don't know what it is I want and wouldn't know how to get it if I did.

"I'm outta here," I say, and hop off about sixty feet from where we started.

Spooked from my one try, and the image of Mandy and the burly dudes being thrown from their horses, I am convinced I'll be riding the wagons all week, which is an option on the drive. I don't need to experience riding in order to write about it. I covered the NBA for six years without ever once checking into the game. But head wrangler, Brian Chase, will have none of that. He leads me to Gumby, a huge black animal with a slightly swayed back, an enormous gut and a giant ass -- not to be confused with the genuine giant ass, Emma, also in attendance (Emma may technically be a mule, but for the purposes of this joke, she's a giant ass). My spidey senses immediately tell me this horse is not for me when I see her jump up and boot the horse behind her. Then I'm told she's in heat. So adios, Gumby.

I'm finally introduced to Spike, part Appaloosa, part turtle. Spike is, without a doubt, the slowest horse in captivity. When I 'tsk tsk' or kick his hard belly, he speeds up for exactly the duration of the 'tsk' or the kick. I love this horse! I am set. Spike and I will be a team for the first leg, a 16-kilometre journey from Westwold to... er, 16 kilometres outside of Westwold.

But good-natured Spike is a love-struck little goof. He will not let anyone between him and his pal, Salty. There's a walking-only policy on the drive. This is a good policy. I endorse this policy. Unfortunately, Salty is ridden by John, a nine-year veteran of the drive. And after nine years, he wants to branch out. So John goes off the beaten path and explores while the rest of the posse trods on, per the rules and regulations. But not Spike. No, my enraptured, co-dependent horse follows Salty everywhere while I, the helpless bysitter, hold onto the saddle horn for dear life, identifying me as a tenderfoot to all who pass by. And they all pass by. Forget what Robert Redford says, whispering doesn't help any.

Along the way, I get a heapin' helpin' of advice. For example, I learn that when a horse is relieving itself you should sit forward in the saddle in order to keep the pressure off its kidneys. Which didn't exactly jibe with the next bit of advice: To get your horse moving, kick it hard in the stomach.

Day two turns out to be a resounding success because I am able to separate Spike from Salty by grabbing a tight hold of the reign and showing him who’s boss. Poor dumb Spike is crying out for his beloved, but eventually gets over it. It’s called tough love. I feel masterful and ready to take on another day. That is, until I get back to my tent and find I can't sit down. Tenderfoot? Tender tush, more like it. The human rump has more muscles in it than you might think. I head over to the medic tent to get some ice for my "knee", but I think they see through that.

At each campground, the cattle drive crew arrives early and sets up the beer tents, picket lines and port-o-potties. Once our own tents are assembled for the evening, we can rest (my specialty), socialize, booze it up, or attend demonstrations on two-step dancing or horse-training, to name but two. If a live band isn’t playing or a cowboy poet reciting his odes to the range, a sound system is playing music for our dancing and listening “pleasure.” I notice the deejay putting up a banner that reads: “We play the music *you* want to hear.” I ask him if it’s true. “Yep,” he drawls. So I request some jazz.

“I really shouldn’t put up that sign,” he sighs.

The days become a blur of jostling horses on narrow trails, stressed-out newbies, and saddle sores, but the scenery makes it all worthwhile: sagebrush hills, flatlands, babbling brooks. The clippety-clop is hypnotic as we take in black-billed magpies (I’m guessing), rabbits and more horse “exhaust” than is appreciated. Thankfully, the only cougars we encounter are riding horseback with us. As for the cattle, they've usually got two hours on us, having moved out enmasse at 5 a.m. each morning with the keeners. I've always felt more comfortable in the majority. Back in the big city, I'm a bit of a night owl. Although I find it's not that difficult to arise at 5 a.m. providing you hit the hay immediately after lunch.

On the fourth day, high above a breath-taking river valley, there's a cattle-penning competition. Although it’s a very welcome day-off from riding. I am encouraged to enter. It's a lot of fun, I'm told. I'm not so sure. I’m not confident enough yet for the added stress of having freakin’ cows running around my horse's feet, but being the sport I am, I enter. Three-member teams ride into a large pen filled with numbered cattle. The announcer reads out a number, and the team sets out to get the corresponding bovines into a smaller pen within 90 seconds. And these crafty critters will do anything to stick with the pack.

Looks like I’ll have to carry my squad. Just my luck, I’ve been teamed up with two women. But hold on there one gol-darn second, pardner. These aren’t just any womenfolk: one’s a champion cattle penner, and the other pens once a week — for fun, yet. After the first six teams fail to pen a single cow, team number seven corrals one in 28 seconds. Not to be out-done, the ladies and I corner one in in 27 seconds. Record time! This game is easy! Round two takes us 56 seconds. Not to blow my own horn or anything, but I had very little to do with either capture. We finish fourth out of 39 teams, earning me the respect and admiration of my newfound peers. Success is a huge boost to my manhood, giving me the will to carry on. I might even learn to ride with my hand off the horn.

With another day of hands-on experience, and a change of mount (a competitive sort determined to beat all comers to the finish line), it all comes together. By the last day, our four-hour descent into Kamloops, I am ready to confidently strut my stuff. I even begin to admire the spectacular scenery, although I learn a very valuable lesson: As soon as you take the opportunity to soak in the breathtaking view, your horse will routinely walk you straight into a branch. But what I saw was striking: grasslands, rocky slopes, forested mountains, and no sign of civilization anywhere for as far as the eye could see. I truly felt like I was home on the range.

My new horse and I make it to town without incident. I proudly ride through the streets, nodding my head to the adoring masses the way a cowboy nods. After all, I'm one of them. From novice to horseman to cattle penning champ (kind of) in one week. I can live with that. There’ll be no need to get back on that horse and repeat my triumphs. I'll go out exactly the way I wanted to -- on top.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Podcast episode 220ish: Pete Johansson

I had a good sit-down with Pete Johansson a month or so ago. The former and future Vancouver stand-up and I chatted over a coffee at a local Starbucks about respect, comedy as legitimate art, the elevation of sports in society (both his father and brother were elite athletes) and why it sucks, why abortion is a force for good in the world (but not necessarily in Canadian comedy clubs), and why local comics need to get up and go. As always with Pete, it's a stimulating discussion. More than anything, I was happy to hear he'll be moving back to Vancouver (most likely) this summer after spending the last few years in London, England.

As always, listen here or wherever fine podcasts are made available to you, such as iTunes, to name the only one I know. Download them all, as a matter of fact. Collect them and trade them with your friends.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mar. 20: Sunee Dhaliwal

I spent the week watching tonight's guest sitting on a chair in a dress shirt and a tie. He wasn't funny in the slightest. But he wasn't trying to be. Or expected to be. Sunee Dhaliwal, besides being one of the top up-and-coming young stand-up comics in town, is also the assistant coach of the mighty W.J. Mouat Hawks boys basketball team. The squad just wrapped up the BC Boys High School Basketball tournament in Langley finishing 4th in the province. This is the same week Dhaliwal finished second in the Comedy Mix comedy competition (losing to former, and hopefully future, What's So Funny? guest Ivan Decker), so it's been a whirlwind few days for him, capped by his first appearance on WSF? Oh, we'll have lots to talk about, for sure. And I'll do my utmost to keep the jock talk to a minimum but you know there'll be some. That's tonight at 11 on CFRO, 102.7 FM or livestreamed on

Friday, March 18, 2011

Debaters TV tapings

Do you love The Debaters on CBC radio? Did you know it's now a TV show as well? It hasn't aired yet, but they have a number of shows in the can, as they say. And next week you can get a sneak peak by attending live tapings at the CBC in downtown Vancouver. There are some heavy hitters and great match-ups. Details below:
Mar 29th, 30th, 31st at 1 pm & 6:30pm each day
Apr 1st at 1 pm only

Location: CBC Studio 40 – 700 Hamilton St.

Tickets are free but MUST be reserved by email:
Include the following information
1. Date AND time you wish to attend
2. Full names of all the people in your party.
3. Your phone number(s).
4. Your email address.

The best and funniest go head to head moderated by the incomparable Steve Patterson.

Tuesday March 29th 1pm
Ron Sparks vs. Graham Clark, Graham Chittenden vs. Morgan Brayton, Rick Green vs. Don Kelly, and Scott Thompson vs. Elvira Kurt

Tuesday March 29th 6:30pm
Paul Bae vs. Erica Sigurdson, Laurie Elliott vs. Phil Hanley, Derek Edwards vs. Nathan MacIntosh and Nikki Payne vs. Dave Hemstad

Wednesday March 30th 1pm
Don Kelly vs. Graham Clark, Andrew Younghusband vs. David Pryde, Elvira Kurt vs. Charles Demers, and Dave Hemsted vs. Scott Faulconbridge

Wednesday March 30th 6:30pm
Alan Park vs. Ron Sparks, Derek Seguin vs. Rebecca Kohler, Jon Steinberg vs. Darren Frost, and Mike Wilmot vs. Deb Kimmett

Thursday March 31st 1pm
John Wing vs. Teresa Pavlinek, Harry Doupe vs. Tim Steeves, Darcy Michael vs. Alan Park, and Sean Cullen vs. Pete Johansson

Thursday March 31st 6:30pm
Glen Foster vs. Pete Zedlacher, Roman Danylo vs. Ellie Harvie, Pete Johansson vs. Charles Demers, and Sean Cullen vs. David Pryde

Friday April 1st 1pm
Pete Zedlacher vs. Kristeen von Hagen, John Wing vs. Arlene Dickinson, Rebecca Kohler vs. Dave Hemstad, and Sean Cullen vs. Charles Demers.

Please note: Cast and times subject to change.
For those keeping track at home, local boy and master debater (he was a youth champion in non-comic debating), Charlie Demers leads the way with three debates.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Podcast episode 219ish: Craig Campbell & Phil Nichol

What a blast I had when ex-pats Craig Campbell and Phil Nichol dropped by the studio a few weeks ago. It didn't take much to get them going. Craig is a former Vancouverite best known for being Ed the Sock's sidekick and Phil was a semi-regular on Mad TV with his former band Corky & the Juice Pigs. They both now live in jolly olde England, where comedy is king. Among an hour of highlights, the two told a cautionary tale about drinking with Mike Wilmot and railed against the PC brigade. Check it out. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll beg for more.

If you absolutely can't wait to navigate your way over to iTunes and download the episode there, just click below and it'll start filling the airwaves immediately. For some reason, the description has not been included in the last two episodes. Check for the one dated 3/14/11. (The one dated 3/9/11 is Larke Miller.)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mar. 13: Paul Myrehaug

It's been 2.5 years since Paul Myrehaug made his first visit to the What's So Funny? studios in Cracktown. The Vancouver transplant has since put out his first comedy album, Bad Things Are Funny (available on iTunes, as is his first appearance on this show). One track on that album is a clip from him playing a military show in Iraq. I'm not sure that particular bad thing is funny, but a good comedian can get laughs on any topic. Tonight, we'll catch up with Paul and play a few clips from his CD. Tune in (or livestream) at 11. And if you haven't yet, for God's sake put your clock ahead one hour already!

Saturday, March 12, 2011


As mentioned yesterday, Vancouver comic Phil Hanley made his US network television debut last night on Craig Ferguson. He nailed it. You want proof? Exhibit A:

The defense rests.

Friday, March 11, 2011

For realsies this time

On Feb. 17, this space posted that Vancouver comic Phil Hanley would make his debut on CBS's The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Well, he got bumped. That's show biz.

But set your PVRs, ladies and germs, because young Mr. Hanley just wrote me to say he'll be on tonight! Presumably, given it's already late in the day and these shows aren't really live, it's for sure this time. So tune in at 12:35 after Letterman on a CBS affiliate in your area. Hanley is hilarious and no doubt it'll be a great set.

As a companion piece, to get ready for Phil's big break, go download the last time he appeared on What's So Funny? in May 2010. It was a really fun show.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Podcast episode 218ish: Larke Miller

I had a fun time talking to and learning all about Larke Miller when she guested on What's So Funny? last month. I learned that, despite her dumb blonde persona and not going to high school, she is far from just another pretty face. I learned that she did, in fact, hit a woman with her car and did, in fact, rent out her closet to someone. I learned she's performed at AA meetings, laundromats and prisons. And I learned she'd make a great lawyer. Who knew learning could be so fun?

Here is the podcast version of that soon-to-be classic episode. Just this very evening I had someone ask me how podcasts work. Yes, this very evening in the year of our Lord 2011. So let me explain. It's free. You can click on the thingy below and it'll magically start playing on your computer. You can head on over to the iTunes store (don't let the word 'store' scare you – as I mentioned, it's free) and search for the What's So Funny? podcast and download it onto your computer and then transfer said download to your MP3 device (such as an iPod). Or you can find another podcast server online that carries the show and download it there. So many options. Or better yet, get a young person to do it for you.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mar. 6: Marke Driesschen

We've got a pretty big system on its way tonight, folks. Expect lots of stimulating discussion with periods of laughter as TV's Marke Driesschen makes his What's So Funny? debut. Why a weatherdude, you're asking? Who's next, Wayne Cox and Tamara Taggart? No, rest easy, although I'd love to have on former weathercaster Norm Grohmann, who at least had a comedy background like tonight's guest.

That's right. Maybe you didn't know it but Driesschen used to do improv comedy in Saskatoon and he still does stand-up. On occasion, anyway. I haven't seen him prowl the stage recently but he assures me he's going to get back into it. He's opened for the likes of Dennis Miller, Steven Wright, Louie Anderson and Gilbert Gottfried and no doubt has stories from back in the day of a young Louis CK and Chris Rock. Marke has also got the market cornered on playing reporters in movies and on series television. I'll never forget his work as a play-by-play radio ski announcer in the epic Mr. Magoo. I'll get to do my James Lipton impression as we talk about his movie career. And we'll also get his long-range forecast. Details at 11.