||“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.”
The last decade has belonged to the talent show. From American Idol to So You Think You Can Dance? to America’s Got Talent, people showing their stuff hasn’t been so present in pop culture since the hey day of Star Search. Unlike Star Search, this new wave of talent show thrives on cruelty. The humiliation of someone who dared to make an effort is the very core of this new breed’s existence. In this way, Paul Anthony and his long standing “Talent Time” show is the antithesis of this whole shift: real people exhibiting their talent to a room full of people who are excited to see it. In a time so dedicated to irony, Anthony has somehow found a pocket of people who are genuine in their appreciation.
Paul Anthony has had some experience going against the tide. For the entire first year I knew of him, I didn’t actually know his real name, knowing him only by one of his alter ego: “Hugh Phukovsky”. He was a punk comedian, armed with a bunch of attitude and energy to match. In fact, he is still saved as “Hugh” in my phone.
One of his other creations, Porker, was a reflection of the type of comedian who leans entirely on his or her weight problems for laughs.
It wasn’t until Anthony started Talent Time at the Biltmore three years ago that his true onstage personality came shining through. The excited host, part Ed Sullivan, part Andy Kaufman puts together an array of talents so vast that no two shows are the same.
It is not just a live show, but a show that is expertly recorded and aired on the Novus network.
It exemplifies the DIY attitude that so many arts scenes rely on, and I’m sure Hugh Phukovsky himself would be proud.
If you have come to a point where the network talent shows are the disease, than I say give Paul Anthony and Talent Time a shot at being the cure.
Talent time is the first Wednesday of the month at the Biltmore. This coming Wednesday February 2nd, is the 3 year anniversary.
You can find out more here: http://www.talenttime.tv/
Paul was kind enough to answers some questions for Vancouver Is Awesome.
When was the last time you laughed until you cried?
How about crying till I laugh? I do that way more.
What is one myth about live comedy you’d like to dispel?
That being repulsive is really “edgy”. I enjoy a good blue joke but it’s gotta be funny or clever. I think “edgy comedy” is delivering tough material that may push an audience out of their comfort zone but in doing so makes them rethink their values. It can’t just be shocking. And heckling….it never makes a show better.
What would be your idea of a perfect venue?
As Hugh Phukovsky I have performed in a public washroom, on top of billboards, in art gallery’s and in the polar bear cage at Stanley Park. As porker I have performed at an all you can eat Filipino restaurant and a strip club. As far as Talent Time… I would like to do a summer show at the Kits Showboat. You know the open air theatre beside Kits pool? It has a real history for variety shows but the current calibre of performers can be a bit uneven. It would be great to do a killer show there in the thick of summer.
What do you think is a comedy premise that needs to be retired?
Any premise can be funny if it’s looked at in a new way but I really abhor any obvious joke where you can guess the punchline during the set up. The whole “Don’t you hate it when someone does (certain thing). Quickly followed by the person doing that certain thing. It would also be great if somebody brought back funny faces. Now that’s comedy.
You created several comedy personas in which to do comedy, did that give you some degree of freedom that performing as Paul Anthony didn’t afford you?
Defiantly. Being myself on stage has just been another experiment for me. One that I am still not entirely comfortable with. Although “Character work” for me was never about distancing myself from the material. I have just always been more interested in doing “bits about comedy” rather then doing “comedy bits”. I still don’t really DO comedy. I curate the acts, I write humorous bits and create silly themes that link it all together. Then we invite people in and I present it to them in the most fun way I can.
As far as I know, you have never turned down a chance to meet one of your comedic idols, tell me about your most memorable experience.
Name dropping alert! I saw Bobcat Goldthwait at Caroline’s comedy club in 2000. I found his set incredibly unfunny and felt so ripped off that I marched back stage to tell him he sucked. I busted into his dressing room and said “Hey Bobcat!” He looked up and when we met eyes I chickened out and just said “Good show”.
Through the years I have been lucky enough to hear various first hand stories about Andy Kaufman from people who knew him well like his best friend Bob Zmuda, Robin Williams, Little Wendy and film director Larry Cohen. Some of those conversations I even recorded including Little Wendy leading me through a meditation that Andy taught her.
Probably the most haunting comedy conversation though was with Mitch Hedburg in a storage room at Giggles comedy in Seattle. It was shocking how gentle and kind he was to me. I had previously performed with his opening act who really laid the groundwork for us meeting. I gave him some Phukovsky merch and he insisted I sign it for him. It was one of the best live performances I had ever witnessed but I walked away fearing “This guy’s too sensitive for this world.” He died shortly after.
What would be your ultimate destination for Talent Time?
Any TV channel with more viewers then Novus. The Game Show network, Showcase, MTV Canada? The Knowledge Network? Above the urinals in restaurants? Anywhere really.
Is your comedic voice more the result of looking inward or outward?
Outward. I can’t steal other people’s ideas by looking inward. I am also a big lover of spectacle. I enjoy subtleties in other performers but I personally enjoy working towards sensory overload.
Why is Vancouver a good place for comedy?
It’s full of really fun, funny people who value expression. People who love watching it as much as they love doing it. Also there is very little industry here. You can’t have big success ambitions and stay in Vancouver. Because there is no big money to be made and very little chance of being discovered, there is virtually zero infighting and jealousy. It’s a big hilarious incestuous cuddle puddle party. If I can just figure out a way to make a steady living in entertainment out here…this place would be paradise.
Who is one performer/group of performers you think everyone should see at least once?
Locally people should check out the China Cloud on a participating Tuesday, the Sunday Service Improv and of course Talent Time. Globally Weird Al Yankovic puts on perhaps the best show I have ever seen. The energy, the commitment, the song catalogue, the video segments and the way he uses supporting players and elaborate quick change costumes is astounding. The only live comedy show I saw that came close was Mitch Hedburg and he’s dead. Go see Weird Al.
What is your favorite joke (street of otherwise)?
Remember when Charlie was on Stop Podcasting Yourself and you guys were talking about mini kiss? It’s a tribute band made up entirely of little people and Charlie referred to the singer as “recessive gene Simmons”? I still laugh at that one when ever I’m on the TV and I flip by Family Jewels (or the Little Couple) .
Every article about comedy has to have a pun in the title. What would you like yours to be?
Paul Antho-Funny? (And the question mark is there on purpose. This would be a mistake to write it as a statement)