Copyright © 2000. All Rights Reserved
by Julie Pithers
Just for Laughs
Runs until March 25
For 17 years Montreals Just For Laughs comedy festival has been the place for young comics to be discovered. You get invited. You bring your best stuff. You barf backstage. You kill. You get on Leno.
However, before you trade in your dark little soul for the ability to deliver a joke, know this: Just For Laughs has another kind of prize in store. If they really, really like you theyll want to take you with them... ACROSS CANADA IN MARCH!
They should call it the Just For Evil Laughs. Mmmmwaaahaaahaaahaaa! Strangely, the comedians I spoke with seemed quite cranked about the whole idea. There werent any muffled punches in the background of any of the calls I made, and they didnt sound like they were under any unusual influences. Jeremy Hotz, for example, seemed excited about the experience.
"Im working with old friends like Brent Butz, and other guys who started around the same time as me and I havent seen in a long time," he says. "Im looking forward to it."
I know. I hit the phone on my desk a couple of times to make sure it was working. After Mr. Hotz stopped yelling at me to "Quit it!" we got to the meat of what exactly hell be doing on the Just for Laughs tour. Hell be starring on the evening titled Comedy Night in Canada quite a departure from his cushy life in L.A., where hes holed up with a satellite dish and non-stop Leafs games.
"The jokes that I do here, the ones Ive taken from my old Canadian act, are pretty universal," says Hotz, with all of L.A. blaring in the background. "You pretty much have to just have heard of Canada to laugh. You cant talk about the prime minister of Canada in L.A. cuz they dont even know what that is. Is that someone the Queen elects?"
But then he says something that makes me insanely suspicious.
"I wanna go across Canada. Who knows if Ill ever be able to do it again," he says with no hint of irony.
"Its a great chance to remember it the way it was one more time. Where I came from."
I hang up immediately and phone all my friends to alert them to the oncoming apocalypse the United States must be preparing to unleash upon us, its favourite neighbour to the north. My boss in the newsroom tells me to shut up and stop wasting his companys time on my Fast Forward work.
(Editors note: Ms. Pitherss other job is with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, so the "companys time" is, in fact, the citizens of this great countrys time. Actually, if you need some work done around the house, legally, she has to do that too.)
So I quietly phoned another comedian on the tour. Someone a little more, shall I say, earthy. And a real American, so he cant help but tell me the truth about what the U.S. is planning, because as everyone knows, Americans love to brag. Instead, he too tells me he is looking forward to this trip.
"I like the road, but its definitely more wearing the older you get," Doug Stanhope confides in me. "I have a girlfriend now, so when you take out the threat of getting laid by strange pussy after the show, the road kind of loses a bit of its gloss. It takes all the fun out of your average shitty gig in Baton Rouge."
Yes. Mr. Stanhope is starring in a little thing called The Nasty Show on the Just For Laughs road trip. I have now all but forgotten the destruction of Canada and am mesmerized by what a complete stranger is saying to me over the phone. I dont know why, and maybe this is why he gets work, I am laughing. A lot. But Mr. Stanhope is a realist.
"By the end of the Canadian tour Im sure Ill be peddlin lots of dick jokes to survive," Stanhope purrs. "Smut makes me laugh. Anyone who says dirty comedy is easy.... Ugh. When its strictly shock value, the shock wears off. You only have so many body parts and offensive words."
What both Hotz and Stanhope are most looking forward to is hanging out with other successful comedians on this road trip. Doing stand-up is the loneliest number that youve ever heard. However, something called The Nasty Show, if done badly, could make you wish there was only one potty-mouthed comedian.
"Its not redundant," says Stanhope. "I generally dont like themed shows, whats the point of hearing four guys saying the same thing. This lineup should be great because its all different kinds of nasty."
Stand up comedy has lost some of its vim and vigour over the last decade. It had a big resurgence when cable TV had all those channels to fill and Whoopi Goldberg was making people laugh for charity. But when I asked Stanhope if he thought his brand of comedy was overlooked because of his non-TV friendly material, he said, "No I dont think my comedy is looked at at all. Comedys a dead sport in most places. As far as a mass audience. In the early 90s there was stand-up on every channel all the time. (Now) its got its fans, but so does karaoke and arena football."
So comedy fans, start rubbing A-535 on your sides and gargling with salt water. Your time is here. You can buy a whole seat, but youre only going to pee on it.
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