"Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go."
- TS Eliot
He's not normal. Of that, there's no question. Taking risks — constantly stepping beyond the bounds of conventional behaviour, physically, mentally, emotionally — well, that pretty much defines the man. And yet he does it with such verve and childlike pleasure that he rarely gets reproached for his limit-pushing conduct.
He has imagination to spare. And enough energy to get him in all sorts of trouble. There's no fear there. No insecurity about his status or his level of competence — he's completely at peace with who he is... really, he doesn't seem to care one bit how the rest of the world perceives him. Which means that he can go places that few of us will ever travel to.
Maybe you've seen him on stage. You know, in one of the Chairlift Reviews or in one of Heather Paul's pantomimes. Maybe you caught his Chaplin-inspired role in the 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown's winning entry last spring. Or his hilarious pratfalling debut in the faux-beer commercial, "The Summer Mountain Mix-Up," he and a friend produced for the Whistler Film Festival a few seasons back.
That's where his fearlessness is most evident. In his acting, his stunt work. That's where the 38-year-old really stands out. I mean, being slapstick-funny — using physical humour to connect with your audience — is a skill not shared by many. Sure, it looks easy, but that's the magic of it: to be good, you have to combine a high degree of athletic skill with flawless comedic timing plus a casual disregard for your own safety. And Fish Boulton is a master of all three.
But to think of him strictly in those terms is to do him a disservice. Why? Because Fish is the kind of person who commits his considerable energy — 100 per cent of it every time — to whatever activity he's decided to get involved with at that moment.
Whether it's teaching himself to ski — from scratch! — because he wants to become a ski patroller, or spending a year — a year! — cycling across India to learn more about yoga, Boulton immerses himself totally in his chosen activity... until, that is, something more interesting catches his attention. "I love to learn new things," he says. Laughs. "But that can get difficult at times. I mean, there's so much stuff I want to learn about on any given day..." More laughter. "It's like serial ADD, I guess."
Take the way he got involved with snowboarding. "I was born and raised in Winnipeg," he begins. "Hot summers, good thunderstorms... and a whole lot of drinking." Like many Canadian kids, Fish grew up playing school sports — "Mostly hockey and football," he says. "I even had a potential football scholarship in the U.S." He sighs. "But I got kicked out of high school before I could graduate..."
Yes, he admits, he'd fallen into a bad crowd by then. "I was a banger," he says with a grin. "You know, leather jacket, long hair and tight pants." He also owned this grotty Metallica t-shirt that was heavily coveted by one of the skateboarders at his school. "And you know, bangers and skaters definitely didn't hang back then." No matter — Fish decided to trade his hallowed t-shirt for one of the kid's boards.