“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.”

When I first started doing stand up comedy I had long hair and a penchant for looking at my feet while onstage instead of the audience. Getting up the nerve to get on stage was one thing, looking that audience in the eye was another. During this time some elder comics said that I was doing comedy in the style of a man I hadn’t even heard of. His name was Mitch Hedberg, and though he is no longer with us, you can easily find footage of him online and see the physicality they were referring to (ok, I did it for you, jeez…  Mr. Hedberg would often perform with his eyes closed. Despite comedy instinct to the contrary, he won over audiences of all sorts.

I see that same spark in a newer comic in the scene named Sean Emeny. Sometimes on stage, he will wear a visor; the type golfers of tennis players wear, so eye contact with the audience is not a big part of the equation. His jokes, and dry delivery do all the heavy lifting. He has a self-deprecating style that doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable, in fact they make you feel right at home.

On a few occasions, I have seen him chat with someone brave enough to sit in the front (that’s the reputation anyway, that if you’re sitting up front, the comedian will automatically pick on you) and inquire about what they are eating. Disarmed enough to answer, they tell him to which he responds, “If you die, can I have the rest?” Sean has made a good impression, as comics have already taken to quoting his very smart and short material. He has also made a great impression in the story slam community, taking top spot regularly at events in Vancouver.

I suppose the only downside to not being sure if he’s watching the audience, is he doesn’t get to see how much they are enjoying what he does.

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

When was the last time you laughed until you cried?

I didn’t cry but the first time I saw Simon King do his motivational speaker bit, my ribs were sore. Not because it was so funny but after the joke he kicks every member of the audience in the ribcage. I guess you had to be there.

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

That being funny means you’ll be good at stand-up comedy. All the best comics I know are good writers, performers etc. and have a great work ethic, in addition to being funny. I’m not sure this applies directly to “live comedy” but it’s all I got.

What would be your idea of a perfect venue?

Anywhere where there are no distractions and people are there specifically to see comedy. And on a night when there’s no Canuck game.

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

Anything that a comic doesn’t genuinely find funny but only does for a cheap laugh because it’s proven to work. I’ve done this myself and felt bad about it, mostly because I didn’t even get the cheap laugh I was promised.

What has been the greatest challenge that you’ve faced since starting comedy?

In the beginning I was extremely scared to ask for stage time. I was more afraid of being rejected in that regard than actually being rejected by the audience onstage. Both happened though

How did you know that comedy was something you wanted to be a part of?

When I first came to Vancouver, my father and I stayed at the Holiday Inn on Broadway. Greg Kettner used to run a comedy show at Stages, the hotel lounge. I really enjoyed the show and went back to watch every week. It just made me feel better and helped me deal with some things to the point where I needed more so I sought out other shows and eventually got involved, feeling that would really help me. I was right. Interesting note: you were the headliner of the first show I saw and I approached you after the show to tell you your joke about the guy heckling you for “standing on Granville Street because you’re too good to sit” was so funny.

Why is Vancouver a good place for comedy?

I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer this particular question since I’ve only actually done a handful of shows outside Vancouver (and none outside B.C.)

Based on the comedy I’ve seen, I think Vancouver has a very high concentration of talent. Thus you’re constantly pushing yourself not just to compete for stage time, but also to keep up artistically.

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

Stewart Lee. He seldom performs outside of the U.K. so a lot of people don’t know him but in my opinion he’s the most intelligent comic out there.

What is your favourite joke (street of otherwise)?

Zach Galifianakis has a joke that says, “You know you have a drinking problem, when the bartender knows your name… and you’ve never been to that bar before.” Just the idea of that actually happening makes me laugh every time. I wish I thought of it.

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

Sean Emeny is your friend.

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