Red Deer fans can’t get enough of Canada’s busiest funny guy Ron James, who is set to perform at the Memorial Centre Dec. 13-14.
Coming off shooting the fourth season of his own television series, James hits the road again doing what he loves best – performing live.
With a new show of cutting edge material, covering everything from ‘mind-crippling Bell Customer Service conversations’ to mid-life meltdowns, politics, family, love, death and the rate of change, James tips the ‘apple cart’ of the country’s sacred cows with a marathon of non-stop laughs.
“Stand-up comedy is meant to be seen live,” said James. “It’s religion for the funny bone. Comedy fans are in a room of 1,000 people or more from all walks of life, and for a couple of hours everyone’s laughing at the same thing despite their differences. Plus, there are no commercials!
“I’m just trying to make sense of the chaos we’re all walking through.”
James is always crafting new material – both for live shows and the TV series. Some fits better for the road than the tube, and vice versa. Whatever the case, presenting it in a live setting injects it with an entirely different feel.
“It takes on a whole new dimension and life when I put it on stage,” he said. “I’m developing material 24/7 – you have to. You have to write more than you will need. Some stuff works, and some stuff doesn’t. You’re working all the time, and you can’t let the muscle atrophy.”
For every 12 minutes of material that makes it onto TV, about 22 pages has been written. “You write double for what you use,” he said.
“The only reason I’m on television is because I put in all those years on the road building up a repertoire of work, building my craft the old-fashioned way.”
He also works hard at keeping the TV series as fresh and immediate as possible.
“That’s why I put a studio audience in there; I want it to be as close to a club act as possible. Television is ‘slipper food’. People come home from work, they put their slippers on and they’re going to watch a certain kind of show.”
Conversely, the live shows are 100 minutes of non-stop verbal and physical action. “It becomes an athletic event. It’s communal; it’s visceral. I try to recreate it, as much as I can, with my television show.”
James was born in the coal-mining town of Glace Bay, Cape Breton and raised in Halifax. After graduating from Acadia University in 1979, he settled in Toronto and studied improvisational comedy at Second City. He later appeared in everything from Home Hardware commercials to corporate training films.
Tinseltown beckoned in the early 1990s, so he headed to Los Angeles at the invitation of Ron Howard’s company Imagine TV. James was to join the series My Talk Show, but it was cancelled.
He headed back to Toronto where he penned and performed his first one-man show about his time in LA called Up and Down in Shakey Town.
In the late 1990s, he was a regular on Made in Canada, wrote for This Hour Has 22 Minutes and was voted Comedian of the Year at the Canadian Comedy Awards in 2000. James has also enjoyed acclaim for his specials on CBC including The Road Between My Ears, Quest For The West, West Coast Wild and Back Home.
Meanwhile, The Ron James Show is also back for a fourth season and as James puts it, “If you want to show this country in all its glory, you definitely need four seasons.”
Viewers can look forward to more of that uniquely Canadian, poetically-charged stand-up comedy James is famous for. He said the plan is also to build on last year’s successful ‘Ode to the Road’ segments, in which he takes a crew to many of the towns he has played in over the years.
This year’s sketches also feature guest appearances from Patrick McKenna, Jonas Chernick, Colin Mochrie, Geri Hall, Sean Cullen, Deb McGrath, Raoul Bhaneja, Sandy Jobin-Bevans among others. The Ron James Show debuts with a one-hour New Year’s Eve special. Regular episodes of the series then move to Monday nights.
“I’m a product of my mother’s and father’s senses of humour,” added James, reflecting on where his gift to entertain springs from. “I’m a product of my kitchen and my region as much as I’m a product of the 32 years I’ve spent learning my craft in Toronto and subsequently taking it on the road. There’s a lot of influences that come into play.
“I also don’t consciously write a piece and think people are going to like this. I write something trusting that my point of view and my experience are going to find a place in the hearts and minds of my audience. And as you do this, you learn to trust your instincts. They’ve never let me down.”
Meanwhile, for tickets to his City show, call the Black Knight Ticket Centre at 403-755-6626 or visit www.bkticketcentre.ca.