If the on-again, off-again blasts of cold weather the Valley has experienced lately have you mired in the mid-winter blues, an evening of laughing 'til it hurts might be just the remedy you need.
On Feb. 10, Cornerstone Theatre and Restaurant will host the Blackjack Comedy Tour – 21 Shows, 21 Nights in 21 Towns, featuring Mike MacDonald and Matt Billon.
MacDonald has pretty much done it all as a comic – he’s the only comic to appear on all Just For Laughs TV specials and has appeared on the Arsenio Hall Show, The Joan Rivers Show and Late Night with David Letterman. He’s hosted the Geminis, was featured in the Touchstone movie Three Fugitives with Nick Nolte and Martin Short and hosted TV specials of his own including Mike MacDonald’s Politically Correct Christmas Special (CBC), Mike MacDonald on Target, My House, My Rules and Happy As I Can Be.
Billon’s reputation for his witty, creative and clever material has landed him feature appearances and specials on CBC’s Madly Off in all Directions, Much Music’s Video on Trial, XM Satellite Radio’s Laugh Attack, and his own one-hour, jam-packed special on The Comedy Network. Billon has been a finalist/winner in The Great Canadian Laugh Off, Stand Up & BITE Me and the Seattle International Comedy Competition.
In doing his part to break up the February blues, MacDonald has vowed to leave his sunny abode in Los Angeles behind and head north for the Blackjack Tour – “well, somebody’s gotta go up there. But I won’t be outside much… "
Born in France as a Forces brat, MacDonald lived near Ottawa for years, but he’s been based in L.A. for close to 18 years now.
A couple of months ago he was touring in the Interior of B.C.; this time it’s Alberta’s turn.
In hooking up with British Columbian Billon, a good friend of his, MacDonald said, “he’s a real go-getter. People come up to me all the time and say, 'we can do this’, or 'we can do that’, but nobody ever does. But Matt’s real gung-ho and makes things happen. "
MacDonald shared the fact that there are two types of comics, “the diagnosed and the undiagnosed. " He didn’t say specifically which category he falls into, but being that he’s made his living as a comic for three decades, one suspects he falls into the former category.
As a youth, he discovered being a Canadian Forces brat was made easier with the aid of humour. In high school, he became interested in theatre and performing and after school performed as a drummer in a band that toured Canada on a government grant.
He worked at a number of ho-hum jobs and at 23, a friend coaxed him into stepping on stage to offer up his brand of stand-up. He hasn’t looked back. He moved to Toronto for regular gigs and his status grew from there.
“At the time, " he said, “I quit a couple of good jobs, but it seemed to be a natural thing for me to do. I like to work by myself and you can see how much work it takes when you do something by yourself. "
MacDonald’s comedy tends to be slice of life style – the remote control, police and green lights, etc.
“Some bits are from dreams, where I have to wake up in the middle of the night because I’ve gotta write something down. Some bits are from TV, although I don’t agree with the majority of what people are thinking. "
As far as formative years-type influences, MacDonald says a lot of comics will say Red Skelton or somebody similar. “They forget to go back to the old days and most comics forget about Bugs Bunny.
“Bugs Bunny was the first thing you saw that was anti-authority. At home, I’d do something from Bugs and my mom would laugh like crazy. Then I’d do it for my dad and I’d get a slap on the head and a 'shut up’. Different audiences, but Bugs Bunny was cool… "
In having sidekick Billon in on the Blackjack tour, MacDonald said they have it made. “Matt handles all the local stuff (comedy bits). I can barely remember my own act, so he’s a good guy to have around.
“And, it’s always good to follow a good act. For some reason, there are a lot of comics who think it’s better to follow an act that bombed. But I’d rather go on after a guy like Matt, who has people up and going crazy.
“It’s a lot easier, and I think basically comics are lazy, or not. Matt isn’t. If we both sat back and did nothing, we’d never get anything done. That’s where Matt comes in.
“And when he has people up, that’s great. Some people take things way too seriously; even hecklers. I’ve had a few hecklers, but even for them, I try to deal with the problem so a guy doesn’t feel gutted. "
MacDonald also has favourite audience styles. “Some comics think it’s best when audiences are giving great applause after everything they say. For me, I think it’s best when, say when I stop to take a drink of water, you can hear a pin drop. That means they’re into it and I’ve got them in the palm of my hand. "