Comedian Ron James figures part of his job is to “carry the knapsack” for a while.
He’s there to lighten the load for you, if only fleetingly.
The energetic funny-man brings his clever schtick for a return engagement to Chilliwack on May 3.
He’ll be rolling out his brand-new show Ron James…Live! in the Chilliwack Cultural Centre for the first time, as he embarks on an 11-city tour of the West Coast.
“I’m looking forward to taking the stage in your new Cultural Centre,” he says. “The dressing room in the old place smelled a little like trench foot, but the old posters from the 70s were truly amazing!”
James has a deep appreciation for B.C. and he’s crisscrossed it several times, impressed by its sheer scale and beauty.
“It’s your proximity to nature I think,” he tells The Progress in phone interview before he hits the road. “It’s all right there on your doorstep.
“Plus B.C. is such a province of polarities. You’re either chained to a tree or you’re chopping it down, aren’t you?”
The show, delivered in his trademark staccato delivery, tackles new territory, like how it feels to be “t-boned at the crossroads of midlife,” and the realization that everyone’s “at the mercy of impersonalized, corporate world.”
“Everyone feels like that, don’t they? Spun by the government — or advertising — or The Man.”
“All we’re trying to do is earn our three squares a day and maybe find a little happiness, something that will lift that Sisyphean lump of despair.”
Toronto is home-base these days for the native East Coaster, but he travels all across Canada doing his live show when he’s not working on his successful CBC TV series, The Ron James Show.
“We just found out recently that the show got picked up for a fourth season, which is fabulous,” he says.
They’d been on pins and needles awaiting the news. He was forced to let go of the writing room staff.
“It was like sitting on a powder keg.”
“But in the end, the reaper’s blade never touched us,” he says referring to “Draconian” cuts made recently to the public broadcaster.
“We survived the slaughter and are moving forward.”
The Ron James Show held its own last season in the notoriously tough Friday night time slot.
“We really found our groove this year, and the show became what I wanted it to be, and the satire was more consistent.”
James knows what it takes to make people break out laughing.
He has starred in shows like Blackfly, Made In Canada and the Road Between my Ears. He won a Gemini Award as part of the writing team for This Hour Has 22 Minutes, and he’s headlined at Just for Laughs in Montreal.
James has been honing his craft for more than 20 years, going from Second City, to LA and back to Canada to carve out his niche as one of its premier comedians.
“I’ve been threatening to start my book.
“It took me 25 years to get a career, but now I think I need a nap,” he quips.
He’s religious about exercise when he’s not on the road, and finds it easier to eat healthy while travelling than it used to be.
“But life is about being in it for the long haul, eh? To catch lightening in a bottle. Yes, but not if you suck you won’t!”
Comedy doesn’t suffer fools gladly, he says. That’s what is good about getting a lot of stage time.
“It allows you to become comfortable in your own skin — or at least competent at your own craft. But it’s also important to come to the work with a sense of humility.”
He always conscious of the pacing, and works hard on the rhythms of the language and his monologues.
“Comedy is a populous art form, so you have to reach the people at the gut level. You have to respect the room.
“I’ve got material for everyone from the plumber to the professor, who are sitting side by side, laughing at different parts of the same joke.
“At the end of the day, everyone’s looking for a little happiness. That’s my mandate for the show to make sure they leave with a spring in their step and a song in their hearts.”
In the end buying a ticket to a show means the audience members are “invested in the hope” that he will elevate their day.
He takes that very seriously.
“In a world driven by hype, I want the audience to leave feeling they got their money’s worth.
“That’s a comedian’s job, to connect the dots and lighten the load.
It’s like, I’ll carry the knapsack for a while.”