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BeatRoute Magazine BC Print Edition February 2018

BeatRoute Magazine is a monthly arts and entertainment paper with a predominant focus on music – local, independent or otherwise. The paper started in June 2004 and continues to provide a healthy dose of perversity while exercising rock ‘n’ roll ethics. Currently BeatRoute’s AB edition is distributed in Calgary, Edmonton (by S*A*R*G*E), Banff and Canmore. The BC edition is distributed in Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo. BeatRoute (AB) Mission PO 23045 Calgary, AB T2S 3A8 E. editor@beatroute.ca BeatRoute (BC) #202 – 2405 E Hastings Vancouver, BC V5K 1Y8 P. 778-888-1120

Todd Barry: Icky comic

Todd Barry: Icky comic keeps things unscripted By Johnny Papan TODD BARRY “I did a one-man show years ago about a woman who insulted me on a Conan O’Brien message board. She said I was the worst guest of the week, and that I had no charm, no wit and a personality that could only be described as ‘icky.’ I called that one-man show Icky.” Though Todd Barry’s deadpan style of comedy may not be for everyone, as is the case with every comedic styling, he’s certainly captured the attention and respect of many since the start of his 30-year career. In honour of this tenured course, Barry is doing his signature Crowd Work tour, an unscripted standup performance that plays with the audience. “I look for people who are intriguing,” Barry explains. “Not everyone looks intriguing, so [sometimes] I just have to start picking people at random. I just look out at the sea of bearded dudes and start talking to one. Sometimes the people who seem the most timid have the best stories.” After Barry picks his victim, he will ask the audience member a series of simple questions that can take bizarrely hilarious turns when infused with unexpected answers and the comedian’s sniper-shot wit. “I guess I’ve always been a smartass, but only right up to the point of actually getting in trouble. I usually know when to stop and I’m not interested in actually insulting someone.” This experimental trek was so successful that Barry released a special entitled: Todd Barry: The Crowd Work Tour in 2014. Last year Barry released his Netflix exclusive, the interestingly titled: Spicy Honey. Barry began his career in 1980s Florida while working a day job as a substitute teacher. Even as a comedian, he still has knowledge to bestow on the scene’s newcomers. “My advice for young comics is to stay focused on what’s important: jokes and stage time. The biggest weapon you can have as a comic is being good. Don’t get caught up in money or getting an agent or manager. Just write and go on stage as much as possible. Also be patient and don’t annoy people. I didn’t follow all these rules when I started, but you should!” Todd Barry performs at the Biltmore Cabaret on March 10. RHEA BUTCHER CAMERON ESPOSITO Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher: wives take centre stage, please Among the abundance of talented comics participating in this year’s Just For Laughs NorthWest comedy festival happen to be two of Variety’s 10 people to watch award winners, Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher. “Rhea and I are the only couple to win Variety’s 10 people to watch back to back. I won in 2016 and Rhea in 2017,” Esposito says. Butcher humbly adds “It was really cool because you are surrounded by your peers so to have it happen to me and then watch Cameron go though it was awesome. It’s basically one more step of us taking over the world,” she proclaims with a sarcastic confidence. Esposito and Butcher are riding a runaway train of success, coming off a cross-country American tour: “Back to Back.” “The style of the show is we do thirty minutes together and thirty minutes each individually. As far as I know this is the only show like this, especially being a couple,” Butcher recounts. They recently finished filming the second season of their hit series Take My Wife. The first season was well received by audiences and critics alike and was an intelligent, witty scripted account of life in a same-sex marriage successful movie and comedy careers. Along with fans and with the help of the #takemywife hashtag, the twosome is in search of a new home for the show because Seeso, the NBC streaming site they called home, recently folded. By Chris Dzaka As comics, turning the tragedy into something to laugh about is key for the duo. “In choosing to be a comic I had to talk about how I am as a person. All of stand-up has taken a turn to the more personal,” Esposito says with a laugh. “I looked around and saw some comics didn’t have equivalent experiences. I wasn’t seeing myself anywhere. But if it wasn’t me it would be someone else telling me what it’s like to be gay, still, in a positive way. After a while, hearing gay marriage jokes from straight guys became exhausting, even if they are on the right side of the issue that affects you so personally. So I found myself running toward it. I don’t know, is it less serious than that? We are stand up comics.” Rhea enters as if on cue, also giggling, ”I agree with Cameron but where there’s people, there is conversation. Every step we take of understanding opens up interesting people. It’s not that our differences will become invisible. Our differences will become interesting. It’s not about making individuality invisible as it is about making fear invisible.” These women are using comedy as a weapon for their greater good. Uniting the diversity in humanity with a laugh, a wink, and of course, a smile. Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher perform “Back to Back” at the Rio Theatre on March 9. Jim Norton: making failure funny By Alex Biron JIM NORTON Although the legendary Opie & Anthony show ended years ago, there are still tons of YouTube videos dedicated to preserving the fans’ favourite moments. One of the most popular is a video titled “Carpet Bombing,” where the show’s third mic, Jim Norton, shows up to work particularly tired and proceeds to tell one terrible joke after another. This video demonstrates one of Norton’s biggest strengths as a comic, his ability to make anything funny, even (or perhaps especially) failure. BeatRoute chatted with him ahead of his Vancouver debut at JFL Northwest to talk about his many projects, and he spoke with lightning quick wit and total honesty. “I’ve got a lot going on right now,” Norton says. “I’m doing an MMA podcast for the UFC, a radio show with Sam Roberts, stand-up, and The Chip Chipperson Podacast.” Yes, “podacast” is spelled wrong on purpose. It’s a show starring one of Norton’s many characters, the offensive and socially inept Chip. “I created him while annoying my girlfriend,” Norton reveals. “I’d whisper things in their ear that ruined the moment and then I eventually started doing the voice on the radio. Doing Chip is really fun and people seem to love it.” Radio is what helped Norton gain his huge following and he’s still doing a regular show on SiriusXM, something he believes has made him a better comedian. “You have to stay topical,” he says. “That’s what I miss most about the O&A show, just getting to be there everyday live, and also the sense of camaraderie, working with so many legendary comics.” When asked about what audiences could expect from his new (Kneeling Room Only) tour, he replies “It’s kind of an update on my life. It’s a different hour. You have to switch it up from year to year otherwise people get very bored. With YouTube and Facebook people see your material quickly now. Once it’s been out for a few months, you have to assume your fans have seen it.” When told that the Vogue was one of the most haunted places in Vancouver, and some performers have reported seeing ghosts in the crowd, Norton was thrilled. “I don’t care what they have to do to fill that place up,”, he jokes. “Get some dead people in there if that’s what it takes.” Jim Norton performs March 2 at the Vogue Theatre. 10 February 2018

SASHEER ZAMATA: exploring the psyche and sense of self post-SNL By Jordan Yeager The universe has a way of working itself out; Sasheer Zamata’s professional trajectory is proof. Growing up, she was a shy child who sang in choir, eventually transitioning to musicals and plays while studying at the University of Virginia. No one who knew her in childhood would have predicted Zamata would be headlining shows as a comedian, touring with Just for Laughs, and graduating from an almost four-year run with Saturday Night Live. But quiet kids make the best comedians – while you think they’re reading in the corner, they’re actually quietly observing your every move, gathering material. “Because I started doing choir so young, I was able to feel comfortable onstage, so it was easier to do everything else,” says Zamata. “I moved to New York thinking I was going to do theatre and audition for plays, but at the same time, I was always watching improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) Theatre. Eventually I took some classes, started doing standup, and then I was on improv teams and sketch teams and booking shows. It was like, oh, I think you can actually make a career out of this.” “It really was just for fun,” she continues. “I didn’t know how improv was going to play into my life. When I was younger, I wanted to be on SNL or MADtv – I thought it would be so cool to do that, but I had no idea how anybody went about it. When I was performing, I started to see that I was actually on the path that was getting me to that goal anyway.” In 2014, Zamata’s vision of being cast on SNL was realized when she became the first black female cast member since Maya Rudolph’s departure seven years earlier. The show’s lack of diversity gave Zamata ample opportunity to fine-tune her impressions; over the course of her run, she portrayed the likes of Beyoncé, Michelle Obama, and Rihanna. But she was never given enough screen time to truly show off the skillset she’d been honing for years with UCB. At the end of season 42, she departed SNL with neither announcement nor ceremony. “It was time to start focusing on my own creative pursuits,” says Zamata. “I like being the boss of whatever I’m doing. It’s nice to be able to express myself and show different sides of me that audiences maybe wouldn’t have been able to see before.” “I was [with SNL] for three and a half years, and part of me feels like I was there for so long, but part of me also feels like I was there for 30 seconds,” she laughs. “It was a great training ground for all things entertainment. You had to write and rewrite so quickly, you couldn’t be attached to your work – you had to be able to kill your darlings. I’m so grateful for the experience. Everything I do after SNL is a piece of cake in comparison, because that place is really like a boot camp. It’s an education you can’t pay for.” Breaking away from sketch comedy means Zamata is no longer delegated to portrayals of other icons and can focus instead on introspection, self-discovery, and being vulnerable with her audience. “Most of the stuff I’m talking about comes from a very personal place,” says Zamata. “I want to be able to connect to people in the audience through what I’m going through, and hope that they’re able to absorb this and take these thoughts into their lives, too.” Her set at JFL NorthWest is sure to be a glimpse into the psyche. But leave your manners at the door – in her experience, Canadian audiences are “too nice.” “It really is a symbiotic relationship – I feed off the energy the crowd is giving me,” she says. “If the audience is just nice, I’m going to give a nice performance. If you’re having fun and enjoying it, I’m going to do that too. I don’t want to generalize every Canadian audience I’ve seen, but I have been like, ‘Oh, I think maybe people are just really nice and sweet here.’ I mean, it could be worse – I’d rather that than people yelling and throwing things.” Sasheer Zamata performs at the Biltmore Cabaret on March 2. SASHEER ZAMATA Beth Stelling: busy comic motivated by joy and gratitude By Beth d’Aoust “Sweet Beth” Stelling is bringing her delightful comedic stylings to the Biltmore Cabaret as part of JFL NorthWest, and if history repeats, perhaps she’ll even drop in for a guest spot at one of the annual comedy festival’s lower profile rooms. When asked whether she prefers performing in cozy, underground, hole-in-the-wall venues or lofty, prestigious, sold-out theatres, Stelling admits “It’s just fun to get invited by local comics in whatever city I’m in to perform at their show. It usually means they like you. And that’s the only reason I do this: to be liked.” Throughout Stelling’s wide range of subject matter runs a common thread of gentle razzing. From playfully roasting those who insist on introducing her as a “female comedian,” to lambasting her own regrettable tattoo choices, her dietary dilemmas, and her absolutely precious relationship with her adorable, Midwestern, music-teaching mother, Stelling delivers material that is both exceptionally well-constructed and genuinely pleasant to behold. These abilities clearly have not gone unnoticed by her peers, as well-established fixtures in the LA comedy community have begun to vie for her sharp, refreshing voice in the writer’s room. Last year, Stelling begun flexing her screenwriting skills on seasons one and two of Judd Apatow’s Crashing, starring Pete Holmes, and season three of Riki Lindhome and Natasha Leggero’s Another Period. “Writing for other people is most fun when you believe in, care about, and are inspired by the person,” Stelling insists. The ambition doesn’t stop there, however, as she divulges, “I’m currently developing my own show. It just keeps developing. I can’t stop it.” In a mere 31 laps around the sun, Stelling has achieved remarkable acclaim for her uniquely charming brand of comedy, due perhaps in part to her ability to prioritize genuine joy for the work above the bright lights of super stardom. The joy in Stelling’s voice is palpable as she gushes about her craft: “I’m doing it! It’s amazing to me. I’m patient and want to really enjoy what I’m doing. More importantly, I want to do it very well. I’ve found that even if I’ve watched other comedians get things before me, I’m thankful I was forced to wait because it makes my work better. I’m grateful for where I am in my comedy career, while simultaneously reminding myself I’ve been working toward it for 10 years. I just want to create quality material that finds the right people.” Beth Stelling performs at the Biltmore Cabaret on March 1. BETH STELLING February 2018 11

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