Profile: Get your granny blasted with Elliott

By Kristin McVeigh

At first glance, with his half-hearted explosion of red hair and gawky glasses, Canadian comic Lorne Elliot doesn’t seem to share too many similarities with legendary musician Bob Marley–one does stand up comedy with a ukulele and the other brought reggae music to the mainstream. Still, the two artists share a certain perspective regarding audiences that guides their work. As Bob Marley himself said, “I don’t play an instrument, I play a room.” But Marley never did stand-up comedy. He never had a joke fall.

Elliott knows the joke may be brilliant, but if audiences aren’t laughing, it’s just not funny. And for the suckers for punishment out there who like to be played, it makes Elliot’s set even more irresistible, when he takes on the U of C campus as part of the “The Collected Mistakes 2005” tour.

Montreal born, Lorne Elliott’s credits are impressive. Host of the radio comedy show “Madly Off In All Directions,” he has opened for the likes of Rodney Dangerfield and Jay Leno and regularly appeared on the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival. With all these accomplishments under his belt, Elliott is defiantly Canadian as he talks about his art.

“I never felt anything bad about people laughing at me, I will say,” he says of being a successful comedian. “When people laughed at me I sort of laughed along with them. I think being laughed at is a good thing.”

Elliott’s career officially began in Newfoundland, where he performed as a musician in bars. He played what would be called folk songs here, but is considered the norm for Newfoundland.

“Its just sort of an unbroken folk tradition there,” he explains. “Humour is a great folk art and actually in Canada it is one of our really big natural talents. All the good [folk artists] come from Canada, I wish they’d stay here.”

Singing comedic-themed songs during his act, it’s a skill clearly carried over from his early days in Newfoundland. In one song, “Johann Sebastian Bach,” Elliott explores how the composer would fit into today’s world and with “Knee Deep in Manitoba Mud” he sings about what the title suggests. But that doesn’t mean he neglects the actual straight comedy of his act.

“I’m a bit of a word freak,” says Elliott. “I like putting sentences together that mean more than what they say. The good lines are when I see people nudge their neighbour and ask them to say it again to them. But I don’t like people that set themselves up to put down other people.

“I think the proper place of the comedian is to show that, ‘oh man, you’re an idiot, I’m an idiot too.’ The real line for me stops being funny when you’re making fun of somebody who’s less powerful than you.”

For a man who can read an audience well, getting to that zone all comedians strive for shouldn’t be a problem. And if it is, Elliott won’t give up.

“You have to make sure that when that magic doesn’t happen there will still be as much magic as merits the price of the admission,” he says.

His particularly skewed view of Canadian history will surely have audiences happy to have paid and feeling played.

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