Volume 93, Issue 41

Thursday, November 11, 1999


Comedian living the high life

Building a Shakey base

Kilt pulling threads from Celtic music fabric

Marcy Playground stuck on see-saw

Building a Shakey base

Gazette file photo
THAT BIG? ERM, NO. I SAID RON JAMES, NOT RON JEREMY. Funnyman Ron James brings his well-endowed sense of humour to the Grand Theatre on Sunday.

By Luke Rundle
Gazette Staff

"I've covered everything from the winter to growing old, to investments and being a baby boomer, as well as the reality of trying to make a living in Canada when the loonie's falling faster than the prom queen's dress after a pint of lemon gin."

So sayeth Maritime comic Ron James, one of Canada's most prolific comics of late, on the focus of his show. Building on the success of his one-man performance about the misadventures of a Canuck transplanted to Los Angeles, Up and Down in Shakey Town: One Man's Journey through the California Dream, James has parlayed his triumph into a wide array of television and film projects.

Besides writing for arguably the nation's funniest homegrown show, This Hour Has 22 Minutes (for which he recently won a Gemini award), James also acts on another Canuck-conceived series, Made In Canada, as well as producing a show of his own for the Global Network.

Having come from funny stock, or "comedy through osmosis," as he puts it, James began his career at Toronto's Second City main stage in the mid- '80s, then moved on to commercial, television and stage work.

A 1990 spot on a Ron Howard-produced sitcom called My Talk Show, brought James over the 49th parallel for three years and the writing of Shakey Town, upon his return, saw James' career turn towards comedy.

James has a distinct soft spot in his heart for the show, which he insists changed the scope of his work as well as his life. "[Shakey Town] was my seminal turn in my late 30s, when I decided to be responsible for my own career rather than wait for somebody else to validate me. I wanted to articulate as best I could my adventure in California, because that's what it was," James states.

"I was looking to validate three years, because I went to California and I didn't become a movie star or get a big break on a series, but at the same time, I felt that a lot of experiences down there were worthwhile. There's a trend in California to forget the past and recreate yourself and I realized that some of my own experiences in Halifax were being intoxicated by American culture," James explains.

"Basically, what I came up with was a comparison between both nations from my own perspective and when I came home and wrote that, it turned things around for me."

As for future plans, James says he is hoping his adventure/comedy pilot set in the era of the Canadian fur trade, Blackfly, will be picked up by Global for a run of episodes. He adds he has plans for a new stage show and a toour of Northern Canada on his agenda, notwithstanding a visit to London's Grand Theatre this Sunday.

Fans wishing to attend his London date will not find themselves disappointed, at least according to James, who employs a blue collar method in his onstage rants. "I figure that if people are planning a night out, getting a babysitter and paying 20 bucks to see me, then they deserve to see a man working for his money and working for the audience," James claims.

"I guess that's why I perform live, because you create this relationship between you and the audience for 90 minutes, when you're pretty much aligning the planets for a little bit. It's a cathartic relation and primal surge that you just can't find anywhere else."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999