Canada’s funny man is back.
Award-winning comedian Ron James, who has been selling out theatres for more than 20 years with his marathon performances of side-splitting humour, has returned for a tour of Vancouver Island, including a stop in Duncan.
If you’ve heard him or seen him on TV, you know he can combine a comedian’s eye for satire and a writer’s ear for language, skewering pomposity, and finding fun under every rock as he takes his audience on a non-stop roller coaster ride. He truly is a stand-out amongst stand-ups. In fact, there’s so much noise in the room, it’s hard to believe only one man caused it all.
With nine critically acclaimed one-hour comedy specials under his belt, plus five seasons starring in his own series, The Ron James Show, this is Canada’s No. 1 road warrior.
This time he’s offering a high octane ride in Ron James: Full Throttle!
“I’m saying goodbye to my 87-year-old mother,” he said recently from Nova Scotia, where he was getting ready for his western Canada tour. “I’ve been here all summer. I just rode out the hurricane. That was something else, I’m telling you. She landed with a fury, and the winds were up to 130 km/hour.”
During his years on the road, James has experienced earthquakes, just missed an avalanche, and been flooded out. He was interested to hear about the drought problems that have been worrying Vancouver Islanders.
Since he was last in Canada’s far west, he’s been writing a book called All Over the Map.
“It’s an embrace of people and place, all the travels I’ve done in the last 20 years. It’s where I’ve been, where I am and where I’m going: embracing this country that has provided me with a living for the last 20 years. I call it my ‘anti-fame’ book because it’s all about real people I’ve met on the road.”
James came to comedy from the world of film, and he’s finding himself returning to that milieu.
“I’ve got a film coming out this fall. It turned out to be Burt Reynolds’s last picture. I’ve got a nice part in that. I’ll be shooting another one in October. I’m moving back into an arena that I started in, which is wonderful. I’m really looking forward to it.
“As far as this last year is concerned, I’ve also been doing some traveling. I just canoed the Broken Skull River in the Northwest Territories, a tributary of the Nahanni River. I just can’t get enough of the country or its wilderness.”
For comedy lovers, there’s a federal election coming up, but James had an interesting view of that.
“There was a day when you could poke fun at the politicians without incurring the wrath of the audience but since populism has hijacked the system, it’s very easy to alienate the room. I’ve always believed you have to be an equal opportunity offender. So you hit all parties equally. In the U.S. you can pick a Republican side or a Democratic side and have half the country hating your guts and still have seven times the population of Canada endorsing your work. We don’t have that luxury here.
“I’ve never known Canadians to like their comedy mean. They’ll give comedians from other countries a great deal of rope but [when talking about themselves] they like a certain tone to their funny. I’ve always found that I get more mileage if I’m affably subversive.
“That’s why I do a 90-minute to two hour show. I like to land on a lot of different bases, and I like to spread a fairly ecelctic buffet for everybody. I like people to leave my shows feeling better about themselves, and their lives, and their world than they did when they came in.
“We’re all so burdened by this existential angst that the world is going to hell in a handcart. I think it’s the comedian’s job to lighten the load on life’s journey and carry the knapsack for a while for the two hours he’s on that stage.
“I like to keep it very silly, too. I like to talk about days that are gone without that right wing nostalgia about it: just growing up, or hockey, or contemporary touchstones that people can relate to. Mid-life change is big with me.
“I’ve been on the road for almost 25 years and you notice these changes. I went for a haircut the other day and the barber spent more time on my ears than he did my head,” he quipped.
James sees his audience ranges in age from mid 20s to late 60s.
“That’s a good thing because everything has become so tribal, so fractured. I believe it’s a comedian’s job to be progressive. It’s our job to rock the applecart, not ride in it. You do have to hold power to account; that’s the satirist’s job.
“However, that needn’t be the entire flavour for your show,” he said, comparing himself to American comedians.
“That is a different ball of wax: they have an answer for everything. There are a lot of American ex-pats who live around me in Nova Scotia. They love it up here. There’s a sense that something’s been lost in America they’ll never get again. It’s bittersweet, especially those that went through the civil rights marches and the war in Vietnam.
“That’s really one of the themes of my show: trying to find the heartline of authenticity amongst the chaos. As the world gets increasingly fractured and polarized among partisan lines, it’s very reassuring that I can get people from all walks of life in an audience for two hours laughing at the same thing,” James concluded.
Reserved seating tickets for Ron James - Full Throttle are $60 each. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.
He’s on the big stage at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre Sunday, Sept. 29. Get those tickets from the Cowichan Ticket Centre by calling 250-748-7529. Don’t delay. Call today for the best seats.