Who: Mike MacDonald
Where: Buffalo Bills
When: Tuesday, Oct. 19
Surprise, surprise. One of Canadas most recognizable standup comics lives in California.
"Socialized medicine is great, but socialized entertainment isnt," Mike MacDonald quips dryly over the phone.
The 49-year-old mainstay of such Canadian comedy institutions as Just for Laughs has been down there for the last 16 years or so, although he remains fiercely loyal to his home and native land.
Hed rather fly to the other side of Canada to perform than walk across the street in California he says, a testament to the consistency of Canadian audiences, who are generally concerned more with the quality of the performer than the nature of their act.
"With American audiences its: prove to me youre funny," he grumbles. "Its like a competition. Theres a lot of this cheerleading stuff. A lot of audiences want you to be just like them and if youre not they dont care about you. They dont want to hear from you. You have five minutes to show them youre just like them or get off the stage."
If he sounds like a gruff old veteran of standup, its because he is. Hes been in the biz for just over 25 years and will be the first to admit hes no longer one of the twentysomething rock em sock em comedy set, which used to freak out the establishment, but now is mainstream fare.
Well established before societys fixation with youthful entertainers really took hold, MacDonald has a wealth of experience to draw from and impart to those just starting out.
Hes been around long enough to know what works. This goes beyond his material to include his apparel: black jeans, black Levis shirt, black shoes. Hes not out to impress anyone.
"I dont wear black to be cool," MacDonald states with a hint of the sarcasm his profession affords him. "Just straight black because its easy. Plus the people can concentrate on looking at my face because thats where the laughs are, at my face. Who wants to be looking at my pants or my shoes?"
The fictional gals from Sex in the City perhaps? Obviously not the most influential part of his fan base.
Like any old-timer worth their salt hes also got stories about what it was like "back then," in his case the non-existent comedy circuit in Ottawa circa 1978. Sure he was an anomaly at the folk and heavy metal clubs that gave him stage time, but the flipside was that his art had not yet become the commodity it is today.
He recalls being able to hit four clubs, one after the other, and log 20-minute sets in each venue, racking up an impressive 80 minutes plus in one night. That would be unheard of in todays scene where he says common practice is to have 20 or so hopefuls in line for 10 chances at five minutes in the spotlight.
"I had a lot of stage time under my belt in the first couple of years," he reflects. "A hundred times more than anyone else starting now. Its a lot harder now."
Over the years hes also collected a bag full of anecdotes about the icons like the time he and Sam Kinison once walked in and interrupted the late Rodney Dangerfield in his bathrobe bent over a table full of illicit substances.
Its only been a day since Dangerfield has passed away at the age of 82 and MacDonald pauses to reflect. He says hes often compared to the late comic, and hes saddened by the loss of a master of the craft.
Style-wise, he cant see it. MacDonald points out that hes very animated, borrowing heavily from pantomime, whereas Dangerfield was a classic joke-teller.
But in other ways, hes encouraged by the comparison.
"Thats the kind of guy I think Id like to be," MacDonald says, "still doin it when Im that old, but still cool."
En route to the Vancouver International Comedy Festival, Mike MacDonald is detouring up to Whistler to perform at Buffalo Bills standup night this Tuesday, Oct. 19. The special event will have a $10 cover.
For more information call the club at 604-932-6613.
MY Place to host Best in Canadian Standup Comedy tour
The laughs keep coming.
Next Sunday, Oct. 24, MY Place hosts the Best in Canadian Standup Comedy tour featuring a trio of headlining acts: Jeff Rothpan, Tim Rykert and Jamie Hutchinson.
The comics take the stage for two shows at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $23, available through TicketMaster.