Comedy Interview: A man with the cold funny bone

By Chris Tait

“That’s really Canadian of us, eh? Touching base about the weather,” quips Ron James from his frozen hotel room in Winnipeg, after two minutes and 14 seconds of conversation concerning climate.

Meteorologists and first-date conversation gaps aside, there isn’t another group of people in North America or probably the entire world who could have a discussion about regional weather for more than two minutes and actually remain interested. Canadian conversation is astounding.

Standup comedian Ron James is a master of the Canadian conversation, often dealing with a plethora of Canadiana within his shows, including our cities, politics, and donuts. He takes full advantage of our self-satirizing nature, including the devilish charms of “that Tim Horton’s maven behind the counter, that bovine betty with the unpretentious country-wide ass.”

His comedy tour, Gone With Ron, hits ten towns in Western Canada in three weeks and promises to be a witty mixture of poetry and comedy. Each city he performs in seems to hold a special place for James, and he often talks about customizing material to a local audience.

“I like to have a sense of place,” he says. “I like to pay homage to the region that has bought tickets to see me.”

James poetically describes his perfect pre-show morning in Calgary as beginning with a hour-long run down the Bow River to watch the city come alive and then going back to the hotel to crack open a paper and customize some material.

“I’ll sound like I’m just stroking Calgary, but one of the best shows of my life–I’m serious–was at the Jack Singer last time,” swears the comedian. “It was a huge room and I really had to work that room. I hit two hours on the nose, I was so free.”

Which is saying plenty, considering he’s been in the industry for 25 years. Not only doing the stand up circuit, Ron James was part of the Genie Award-winning writing team for This Hour Has 22 Minutes and received the Comedian of the Year award at the Canadian Comedy Awards. With all those credentials, James pushes himself pretty hard to get the job done and makin’ with the funny. He has just one mandate for his performance.

“If the ushers aren’t wiping the seats down after my show, I haven’t done my job,” he declares.

Imagine ushers, icicles dangling from their eyebrows, thawing out the frozen urine of mukluk-sporting audience members with blowtorches and sweeping up donut crumbs from the aisles with a Zamboni at the big igloo downtown. It’s what Canadian comics have to deal with, and Ron James is prepared to face it head on.

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