Volume 92, Issue 90

Thursday, March 18, 1999


Second banana takes the stand

Reefer Madness infects Post-New Yorker Series

MacPherson digs deep for inspiration

His name is Eminem - isn't it?

Second banana takes the stand

Gazette file photo

EVERYBODY'S GUY NEXT DOOR? Derek Edwards brings his unique brand of humour to the Wave tonight as part of the Just For Laughs Comedy Tour.

By Luke Rundle

Gazette Staff

"I had no previous experience in the field of comedy. I wasn't even the class clown in school – more like the second banana who tried harder and took over when the class clown was sick."

Meet Derek Edwards, a man who realizes his station in life and relishes in its normalcy. A master at everyday, observational humour, Edwards is the nonchalant, laid back guy in every school.

A native of Timmins, Edwards uses his upbringing to his advantage. With an unpretentious delivery he weaves funny stories from everyday life, with a charm difficult to fake.

Edwards believes it is his fish-out-of-water approach which makes him so accessible to audiences. "Most people take for granted the things that happen around you, but if you come from a whole different background, everything's so new and amazing that you get to make these little comparisons and contrasts and that facilitates the jokes," he says.

Eleven years of paying dues in comedy clubs across North America culminated in Edwards' first place showing at the Vail National Comedy Invitational in 1995. This victory included a cash prize and a trip to the An Evening At the Improv comedy club in Los Angeles.

"Vail was quite an honor, but I didn't really follow up the leads I got in America," Edwards says. "I did a show at the Improv and man, there are some simple bastards livin' in L.A.. They didn't get irony or understand sarcasm. There was no sense of nuance. It was pie-in-the-face humour or forget it."

Sticking to venues where his satirical wit is appreciated hasn't hurt Edwards. Besides appearing tonight at the Wave as part of the Just For Laughs Canadian Comedy tour, he has starred in comedy specials on CBC, A&E and The Comedy Network. Still, this isn't Edwards' first visit to Western, having been a fraternity member of Sigma Chi years ago.

"[It had] no sense of reality at all... Just a party waiting to happen," Edwards recalls of his fraternity life. Another warm memory of Western was a chance to see his comedy idol, George Carlin, at Alumni Hall.

"Two solid hours of gut-wrenchin' hilarity. I didn't know one person could take over a room like that," Edwards explains. "I'd seen bands do it, but this was just one guy with a stool and a glass of water."

Traversing the country has also allowed Edwards to experience the fringes of lunacy. Not an adept handler of hecklers, he learned a valuable lesson at a one engagement.

"You ever go into a small town bar and there's a guy who's the biggest guy in town who runs the place? He's gotta be the centre of attention at all times – people laugh at his jokes because he might hit them. When you come into a room like that and want to be the focus of attention, these guys don't take well to that," he says.

"So this 300 pound big biker actually grabbed a chair and came at me. I had made some little comment because he set me up beautifully. I got this huge laugh, but he wasn't too impressed. The bar owner eventually took care of everything, but I think I scooted around the back, out to the car and just gunned 'er after the show. No Braveheart happenin' here, I just wanted to live till tomorrow."

Besides dates across Canada this summer and the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal this July, Edwards is also developing a Vegas-style show called Magnum and Opus with another Canadian comic, Mike Wilmot.

"The gist of the tongue-in-cheek idea is silly humour, done poorly, by two guys who don't know enough to know they shouldn't have such huge egos," Edwards explains. "I think there's a nice vulnerability there and it might be marketable in some way or another.

"We're not going out and actively seeking performances, but if somebody calls us wanting to do something for them with the white tuxedos and the white shoes on, we'll be happy to do it."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999