TRAGEDY PLUS TIME VOLUME 36 – PAUL BAE

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1971

“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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The classic example of the forever young looking entertainer has always been Dick Clark. I always wondered if through all his experiences, if he projected a maturity that could make up for the fact that he was, for a time, kind of an ageless wonder. I suppose someone like Meryl Streep probably exudes this, as she too never seems to add any days.

The only reason I bring it up is because anything I would write about Paul Bae would have to include the fact that he hasn’t aged a day since I met him, and years later, despite being younger than him, I look his senior.

I only assume Mrs. Streep and Mr. Clark exude maturity beyond their young looks, because Paul Bae certainly does. Maybe it’s natural. Maybe not. Paul Bae has certainly taken one enough roles to form that type of “adult” atmosphere. He has been a youth pastor, a high school teacher, one half of the spectacular sketch duo Bucket (with the equally baby faced and brilliant Charlie Demers) and the host of a television show on City television.

I don’t know how, but if you are with Paul Bae, he will somehow run into someone he knows. His past students would always be in attendance at comedy shows, which shows you the lasting influence a person like Mr. Bae can have (that’s what they call him, Mr. Bae).

Years ago, I was supremely lucky to have traveled with Paul to Just For Laughs to represent Vancouver there. His calm informed mine and turned what could have been a nerve racking experience into a unique adventure.

It has been twice that Paul Bae’s wise-beyond-his-face ways have given me calm. His duties as the moderator/ host of the CityNews List made the potentially overwhelming task of helming a daily show a definite smoothness.

Even if you have never been taught by Paul Bae, seeing him live and in control of an audience could teach anyone a thing or two.

To learn more you can go to: http://plasticramen.com/

Paul was kind enough to answer some questions for Vancouver Is Awesome.

When was the last time you laughed until you cried?

Teaching ESL.  I had a female student whose first name was “Man-ho,” and her classmates were teasing her because her name was “Man.”  It was the only time I was grateful my students’ English skills were sub par.

What is one myth about live comedy you’d like to dispel?
That heckling adds to a show.  It doesn’t.  It’s the most narcissistic behavior any audience member can engage in, and a stand-up comedy show can only handle so many narcissists before it breaks.  (See Dane Cook’s “Tourgasm.”)

What would be your idea of a perfect venue?
Any Klan meeting.  If I can kill there, I can kill anywhere (which is, by the way, also a phrase from their anthem).

What do you think is a comedy premise that needs to be retired?
When “ethnic” comics assume that their “white” audience is prejudiced or ignorant about that comic’s culture.  Especially in Vancouver, it just doesn’t fly.   Like when a comic goes, “I’m from the Middle East, but don’t worry, I’m not a terrorist.”  I can see the audience members going, “Who thought he was a terrorist?”

What does it feel like to have former students see you perform comedy?
I love it.  Allows them to see I wasn’t bullshitting about all that “follow your dreams” bullshit.

You are a philosophy buff. What do you feel is the role of laughter in life?
Actually, Graham, we were at the gym and I was doing squats while Soundgarden’s “Superunknown” boomed out of my ghetto blaster and you happened to call me a “buff philosopher,” but that’s a different story.

What made you decide to change course from teaching and pursue comedy?
I was actually content doing both, but in 2001, Christy Clark became Education Minister and threatened to revisit class size restrictions.  It takes me about 3 to 5 minutes to mark a paper.  If you add just 1 student to each of my seven classes, that’s already another half hour of marking per week, so I said screw it.   But I began missing it again, which is why I’m substitute teaching again this year–just in time for Christy Clark’s premiership.  And…the circle closes.

Why is Vancouver a good place for comedy?
It is?  I kid.  Um…but, really.  It is?

Who is one performer/group of performers you think everyone should see at least once?
Louis CK and Paul F. Tompkins.  It’s like watching comedic daredevils the way they stretch their premises to their outer, unpredictable edges.

What is your favorite joke (street of otherwise)?
Can’t repeat it here.  All my favorite ones are incredibly racist.

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

“Hitting The Slopes With Paul Bae,” and it’d be accompanied by a picture of me in ski gear, pretend-punching some Asian dude. (I told you.)

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