TRAGEDY PLUS TIME VOLUME 27 – JEFFERY YU

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“Comedy is tragedy plus time.”
It’s been said many times by many comedians. I believe the original usage dates back to the great Carol Burnett. It’s a quote I have borrowed from to title this column about the wonderful talent in the comedy community right here in Vancouver.Since I’ve lived in Vancouver, I’ve heard a lot of people say that they had a bad experience at a comedy show and never went back. This is as ridiculous as swearing off restaurants as a whole because of one case of food poisoning. It’s my hope, that the profiles here will bring back those who have turned away or open the door for those who have never seen live comedy.

Finally, for those out there that don’t like to laugh, they might be best served by a quote from another lady of show business, Julia Roberts:
“Show me a person who doesn’t like to laugh and I’ll show you a person with a toe tag.”

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At five o’ clock in the morning, I found myself reading an academic essay entitled “From Comic Asians to Asian Comics” by Professor Marie Gillispie of the Open University.

In broad strokes it detailed how comedy can be used to express the Asian experience to Asians and non-Asians alike.

For quite some time, any comic that fell outside of the dominating races of stand up, white and black, leaned heavily on their heritage for laughs. This is not to say that this practice has ceased… far from it. There is, however, a new breed of comic from varying ethnic backgrounds that can get as great a laugh from ethnicity as they can about any other subject under the sun. Aziz Ansari, Hari Kondabolu, Charlene Yi, Kumail Nanjiani and Vancouver’s own Jeffery Yu represent a new generation of comedians that have moved beyond race to be some of the funniest people in the game.

It has always been my immense privilege to have started stand up comedy around the same time as Jeffery Yu. Together we have done shows that include, but are not limited to: an MMA fight, a relay race at 3 a.m., and a road gig where the headliner had laryngitis. His ability to realize the horror show going on around us, and turn it into something hysterical is something I will always cherish.

Jeffery has a way of delivering a devastating joke about the horrors of our modern world, followed by a silly joke about ghosts with no change in tone or apology.

This skill has brought him across the country both on tour and with every major festival.

You won’t find too many traces of Mr. Yu online but you should just heed my advice and seek him out live. Believe me, there’s no other comic around that I would read an academic essay for at 5 in the morning for…I mean it.

You can find out more about Jeffery here: http://www.myspace.com/jefferyyu

Jeffery took time out to answer questions for Vancouver Is Awesome and sent in a termination letter with Yuk Yuks comedy club instead of a photo.

When was the last time you laughed until you cried?

I have never laughed until I cried, probably because I have never had a period. But the last time I thought something was funny was when I watched the latest Wanda Sykes special. I didn`t think I would like it, but I found it super funny. I also chuckle when I see those broken animal commercials on TV with the Sarah Mclachlan music in the background. It`s so sad that it`s funny, especially when the dogs are shivering for no reason.

What is one myth about live comedy you’d like to dispel?

That we are the same person offstage. Sometimes people come up to me after shows and expect me to be funny when all I want to do is kick them in the inner thigh.

What would be your idea of a perfect venue?

The Inglorious Bastards theatre where people are watching a movie and then my face pops up on screen and starts laughing at them while everything starts to burn and then a bunch of Jewish guys burst in and shoot Stephen Harper.

What do you think is a comedy premise that needs to be retired?

Any premise is doable. Maybe some punchlines should be retired, but any premise can be taken in a new direction by a good comic. Check out my new bit on the difference between men and women: Hey, what`s the difference between men and women ? I have not murdered any men.

You have been a school teacher as well as being a comic. Has one experience informed the other?

Something tells me you want me to say yes.

Is your comedic voice more the result of looking inward or outward?

I look outward for subject matter, and then I look inward for my own personal take on it. I look forward when I walk, and then I look backward when I sit on the toilet.

Why is Vancouver a good place for comedy?

Is it good? There`s only two or three rooms that aren`t run by goofballs. It was good in the Urban Well days, I don`t even know what to call it now. In terms of individual talent, we still have some of the best comics around. But as for the scene, it is significantly less enjoyable to drop by anywhere and do a set. I don`t know if that`s great for audiences either since I honestly can`t recommend most shows. It used to be that weekday shows would be stacked from top to bottom with the top pros in town. We rarely get that anymore.

Who is one performer/group of performers you think everyone should see at least once?

Reggie Watts

What is your favorite joke (street of otherwise)?

Who is the most overweight Leprechaun?

Answer: Fat Chance

Every article about comedy has to have a pun in the title. What would you like yours to be?

“Yu complete me” or “I am fine how are Yu?” or “Damn, why are Yu so handsome” or “Stick my Jeff in Yu” or “Chink in the armour”.