When I was 10, we emigrated from Swansea, Wales to Montreal. It was in Grade 6 that our school was putting on a variety night for our parents. My teacher worked with us to see how our class could contribute to the evening.
She asked if anyone wanted to do a comedy routine. My hand was up before I even knew why. And only my hand went up and stayed up. I had just committed myself to a solo act.
I went home and racked my brains as to what I could do. I think during that time that I saw pianist and comedian, Victor Borge, on TV. So I did what any up-and-coming comedian would do. I stole his act.
I went to the library and took out a record of some piano concerto. I listened to it roughly 60,000,000 times to visualize what comedy bits I could insert while I pretended to play this piece. I worked it and worked it and drove my parents nuts as I wore the needle through the record getting familiar with it.
I did bits where I waited, bored, for the violins to finish their bit so that I could start my bit. I fell asleep and jumped awake when my face hit the keys. I played to the end of the keys and fell off the bench. Basic sight-gag stuff like that.
On the night of the show, I walked out to the piano wearing a black jacket with cut-out tails pinned to the back. Huge laughs. Just from entering! I was onto something. I milked laughs out of simply sitting down at the piano with my back to the audience. My parents were in the crowd, surrounded by other parents who were laughing their heads off. My parents had not actually seen me rehearse although they were quite familiar with the concerto by now. My folks were shocked.
When the laughter died, I nodded into the wings and the person working the record player placed the needle onto the concerto.
The wrong concerto.
I shit my tux for about a second. In that one second everything went through my mind about this being nothing but a disaster. And then… I improvised. I just made something up that not only got me unexpected laughs but also got the message to the person in the wings to change it to the right song. They did and I was away to the races.
The bit totally killed.
I did not perform comedy again until 18 years later when, living in Burlington, Ontario, I took some improv classes with Toronto’s legendary Second City Theatre. After a few months of workshops they offered me a spot in the National Touring Company. Two years of driving around in a van and honing my improv chops later, Second City set up shop in Vancouver at Expo ’86 and invited me along. I performed 8 shows a week, 6 nights a week for 6 months.
After the fair closed and all the pavilions were packed up and sent back to Ikea, I stayed on in Vancouver and got involved with Vancouver Theatresports. Through Theatresports I met other improvisers, writers and stand-ups.
I went on to play Captain James T. Quirk in the Theatresports smash improv hit, “Star Trick: The Musical.” In 1993 I co-wrote and co-starred in the hilarious Fringe-Fest one-act, “World’s Greatest Guy.” I mention this because it got such critical acclaim that Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre asked us to expand it into a two-act so that they could run it at their Revue Stage. We did that and this funny play went on to garner the “Best Play” Jessie Richardson Award of 1994.
On the eve of the Millenium I performed improv comedy in the home of Bill and Melinda Gates. (You might know him as the richest man in the world.)
I’ve performed at Montreal’s Just For Laughs and the Calgary Winter Olympics. I’ve been a regular on a charades game show “Acting Crazy” where I achieved legendary status by guessing the charade “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” in 3 seconds.
It goes on and on.
So here I am.