The Comedy Couch

 DEREK EDWARDS - May 22, 2007

Derek Edwards

Derek Edwards: Hello?

Guy MacPherson: Derek?
DE: Yeah?

GM: It's Guy MacPherson.
DE: (laughs) What about that?!

GM: What's so funny?
DE: I just picked up the phone. It didn't ring.

GM: Oh. You always just pick up the phone and say 'hello' when it doesn't ring?
DE: Well, I thought someone in my family had it, Mr. Sarcasm. Turns out I'm just pre-scient, as you call it. Or is it prescient? You're the journalist.

GM: I don't know. I don't actually pronounce the words; I just write them... Are you doing a lot of press for this tour?
DE: Well, enough so that it's overwhelming.

GM: It must be the worst.
DE: It is not the worst. It takes a while to get your footing speaking to so many varieties of people from different locations. It takes a while before you're comfy answering these semi-personal questions. It's not a natural rolls-off-your-back moment for me. Although we have talked.

GM: We have. In fact, you're now only the second comic I've interviewed three times. A week or so ago I spoke to Bob Newhart for the third time. He had the courtesy to write a book so I had new questions for him.
DE: (laughs)

GM: You, on the other hand... But I see you have a website now, so that's something.
DE: Well, it's not mine. Somebody did it. But I have a couple of things in the offing.

GM: What? What?
DE: It looks really good that I might be a part of a golf show this July.

GM: What is a golf show?
DE: It's like four comics go out golfing. Imagine the hilarity. So I'm like the bad example versus the two great guys we got: Dave Merry and Dave Hemstad.

GM: I don't know them.
DE: Well, these are the Daves I know. So there's those two Daves and then there's me and Mike Wilmot, old buddy and hack golfer. We've chopped up many a fairway when we made it there in our time. So we got that.

GM: Where will we find it? The Golf Channel?
DE: I'm not sure. It would start out probably with the Comedy Network, but anybody who wanted to pick it up... It's just strictly summer filler anyway.

GM: It's a great idea. What would you be talking about?
DE: It'd just be hacking along through the course. They want to showcase some of these great Canadian courses they have around. So a lot of it is to make that look sexy. Part of the idea was to redo, at Glen Abbey, this incredible shot that Tiger Woods did in the Canadian Open. Kind of a recovery shot: out of a bunker, over a fairway, over a river, over another rough area onto the green. It rolled off the back. He's a bit of a hacker but he does okay. (laughs) Anyways, there's a few elements of people that are intrigued by that. People that are so keen on it that anytime they flip through the channels, if they see green they stop dead.

GM: I have friends like that. I'm not one, but if I saw you and Wilmot, I would stop dead.
DE: Just to gawk, at least.

GM: I know you love to golf.
DE: I do love to golf. But the thing is, I don't get hung up with the numbers. Anybody who loves the game, I think that's probably their key to their sanity. They don't get hung up with the numbers.

GM: Do you even keep score?
DE: Oh, yeah. I find it wonderful fun to keep score just in case you get a par or something. It's so exciting to get a par.

GM: Everyone's goal in life is to find something they love and get paid for it. So you have comedy, which I assume you kinda like, and now golf. This must be heaven for you.
DE: It's just a one-shot deal, unless it gains some bit of popularity. But what it would be is we'd get to play these ten courses. They'll chunk it up to somewhere between two and eight episodes. You know, the money's not great. Actually, it's not good. But I'm getting paid to play golf! It's insane, the scenario. Beyond anything I could have imagined starting out, stumbling off of my first amateur night: "Some day I'll be a professional golfer."

GM: Yeah, you're a professional golfer!
DE: But it ain't done and I don't want to jinx it too bad. But it looks good.

GM: And? What other news do you have?
DE: And in that same month, I don't know if you're hip to it - then again I don't know Bob Newhart - but Just For Laughs is making an incursion, an invasion, into Toronto for a weekend in July. It's their first time attempting to crack the Toronto market.

GM: Like a mini-festival?
DE: Yeah. To them, it's rather a big deal. I think they're coming up on their 25th anniversary of their shows in Montreal. I think what they want to do is test the waters to see how a taping might go. They're going to want to do a show out of Massey Hall or these old halls that have a feel of tradition. I'm waiting for a return call but they want me on the show, so that'll be really funky. Because if they want to impress a Toronto audience, they're going to have some big shooters on that show.

GM: Like you.
DE: Well, I mean, that's kind. But a big TV name out of America. I'm curious to see who it's going to be. Because it'll be some monstrously expensive dude.

GM: Who won't be nearly as funny as you. Isn't that always the way? The bigger the name, the bigger the disappointment?
DE: You know, I spoke to a journalist earlier today who was a big fan of the Trailer Park Boys. And he expressed disappointment when he went out to see Randy and Lahey. He was a bit disappointed. He was halfway in and he was going, "What is this? It's not like comedy-comedy." It's like they invited guys up on stage to compare bellies with Randy. They go into character and they stay in character and talk to the crowd and get them to participate.

GM: I know they come out here a lot.
DE: They do, eh?

GM: I've interviewed them.
DE: How are they?

GM: They're fine as interviews. I didn't go to their show because I'm not interested in that.
DE: Did you ever see the other boys? Ricky and Julian and Bubbles?

GM: Yes. Were you on that train-wreck of a show here that they hosted?
DE: Yup. (laughs) This guy Will Davis put it together. Have you ever seen the show Arrested Development?

GM: Yes.
DE: I think the funniest character is this failed magician loser named Gob. Gob is the loser brother in the family of losers. He always kept going, "I've made a huge mistake!" So this is Will Davis in between shows, going, "What have I done?" It's not that the boys were that bad or anything. The crowd loved them. But you couldn't have them going on between every act because the room goes insane.

GM: Even the show were they didn't come on between every act, everyone was chomping at the bit going, "Get 'em out here!" You needed to have them by themselves with an all-Trailer Park Boys show.
DE: That's true. That's definitely what everybody wanted, and would have preferred, instead of, "...and now please welcome Irwin Barker!" (laughs) He's doing Pythagoras jokes! (laughs) Oh, I laughed. And you know what? He hung in there and eventually won them over.

GM: That must be a rarity for you now, 15 or so years into your career. People now come out to see you. It's not like at a club where they don't know you and maybe heckle.
DE: The fact was, for the last I can't count how many years, doing the Yuk Yuk's circuit, it was a very rare night to have a bad crowd. After the whole comedy surge, and then it kind of waned for a while and then washed back in like a wave, the people who came out really enjoyed comedy. So they gave you a couple of minutes, even the most critical group, and if you get them, "Oh, okay, we're on your side, then." Heckles and catcalls are much more of an exaggeration than a chunk of real life.

GM: I avoid the Friday late shows because of all the drunks. They're trying to help but they're not helping.
DE: No, they're not. And the Vancouver club has been troublesome and is not really indicative of the whole chain, oddly enough.

GM: But it's usually a hot crowd, I'll give them that. The comics do well. I saw Darryl Lenox there on Friday and nobody said boo.
DE: Darryl is hilarious, first of all. And second of all, he's such a massive human being and people look at him and go, "I'm going to be good." And then he wins them over with this, I don't know what kind of charisma it is but it's very harmless. There's no sense of threat whatsoever. So I kinda liked Darryl. He spawned a few people that sort of went after his style. Sean Collins being one of them. Got the stool going and slowed down the pace. But you know you're doing well in the biz when there's people there emulating you. So I very much respect Darryl.

GM: I'll have to look for Sean Collins. I haven't seen him.
DE: No! It's derivative.

GM: Oh. But I'd like to see how that comes across when someone else is trying to do it.
DE: Yeah, he's just moved to England. He's a bit cantankerous, old Sean, but mostly gets along with everybody. But you're right, though. The theatre thing, the people know you. Or have heard you on the radio, they know the voice. I get that a lot. I'll speak to someone and they'll go, "Wait a sec! Were you on CBC radio?" They have no clue who you are to spot you on the road.
Derek Edwards

GM: You have a unique look and voice...
DE: (laughs)

GM: It's not a laughing matter, Derek.
DE: Well, it's such a gentle way of saying things.

GM: No, no, no. But I would think that you would get tons of work as a character actor. But I don't see you.
DE: Well, the third thing was... You didn't let me complete the trilogy... was that possibly, we're on the second draft now and they're paying us for it, the Comedy channel, myself and Wilmot and some other cool people are in the running for a regional based sitcom, the doors for which have been kicked open by Trailer Park Boys and Brent Butt's success, based in Timmins. And just maybe maybe.

GM: So it's you and Wilmot?
DE: Yeah, we play, I know it sounds kinda hacky so we might change it eventually, but the premise now is deejays in Timmins, where Mike has just transferred from Toronto after this abysmal series of mistakes and now is getting his comeuppance in the small town. Eventually, of course, charmed by a fish-out-of-water story.

GM: Who wrote it?
DE: Me and Mike. And a guy named Greg Lawrence is probably the worker horse in this group. He had a couple of cartoons: Kevin Spencer, a late-night animated show. Dark humour. And another one called Butch Patterson: Private Dick, where he was the star, wrote it all, did the consulting, making, like, five paycheques a week, which is pretty good. Anyway, he's had some huge successes in probably 300 different half-hour shows attributed to him on his own accord.

GM: That sounds very promising.
DE: It does.

GM: I would like that.
DE: I'm tickled by it but I don't want to put any hope or faith in it because it's such a fickle business.

GM: You're like that, aren't you? You never want to get too excited until everything's a go.
DE: I'm looking at my half-empty glass of water thinking, "Guy has a point." I feel like as soon as you start talking about something, it's not just a jinx, it's double-sided that sword. Once you've bragged about it, the impetus to continue and finish it through so that you can really say that you've done it is diminished by the fact that you've already been blowing your own horn about it. Double-edged.

GM: So why did you open your mouth?
DE: Well, you were on me about Bob Newhart having a new book. (laughs)

GM: It would be guaranteed funny with you and Wilmot in it.
DE: Oh, there'd likely be some funny in there. Can you get them to believe that, that's the trick.

GM: Is that for this summer or further down the road?
DE: We just sent in the second draft. They always have these notes for you. It's usually very coherent, I was shocked to find. Now we're working on the third one to polish it up best you can. And then we'll see if they want to film a prototype, because basically they don't have a lot of cash. So they're probably going to try and get one down then show it to other networks to see if they have an interest. And then they might work out the financial backing. That's my minimal understanding of the process.

GM: Most comics in Canada, it seems, look to get out of here as fast as they can. But you've fashioned a nice career in Canada. Is that something you've always wanted to do or did it just work out that way?
DE: Oh, without question. Plus, it keeps you on your toes. I find with the American comics that I see, even the good ones, they don't take the joke right to the end. They could have another tag-line or two. It's just that the crowd there doesn't expect it. I don't think the demands are as high. If you're working always in front of Canadian crowds, and I would have to extend that to Britain as well, it's going to keep you on your best game. So there's that added bonus.

GM: But the financial bonus is working in the States.
DE: Hey, we're up to 92 cents, what the hell do you want? I'll take the 8 percent cut not to have to go to L.A. every four weeks. (laughs) I hate that place.

GM: How old are your kids now? Thirteen and sixteen?
DE: You're damn close. Almost 17 now. He's upstairs playing guitar.

GM: You were saying that you didn't like to go on the road beyond two weeks when they were younger. I guess now they don't really want anything to do with you.
DE: That's precisely right. (laughs) And of course my dear spouse is very independent - ferociously so - and doesn't mind me being away for a chunk of time. She has her own interest and friends. There is no downside to me not being at home. It's just the time in life and the time in career, it's all sort of clicked with Terry [McRae]. He's a very organized, cool guy. He's been at this 25 years, working tours and stuff. He does the job of ten men, honest to God. He's a farmer, eh? Used to that hard work ethic. He just gave me a call out of the blue and all of a sudden I was on tour with him. It's wonderful.

GM: How do you wile away the time when you're on tour? Do you have interests other than golf?
DE: Oh, yeah, I never get to golf anyway. I'm not going to bring my golf clubs on a six-day tour, you know? A lot of the time it's just digging for material. Rifling through papers to see what I can find. Taking wanders around town. And this unique new thing: I'm doing interviews! (laughs) That's pretty cool, too. By the time you get to town, you gotta go through your act in the afternoon. Sometimes there's not that much time. It's just when you have a spare day and you can explore the community.

GM: And of course drinking.
DE: Well, there is that. But it's tapered now. Unbelievably. It's just too much with the headaches. Just too much.

GM: They don't go away as quick as you get older.
DE: No. Oh, no, you still have a reminder of it. A little bit of a subtle reminder that third day after the fact. I just couldn't take the beating I was putting on myself.

GM: You described your comedy as "dumb, inconsequential garbage".
DE: (laughs) You must have caught me in a foul mood.

GM: You were just being your usual self-deprecating self. You were saying it's escapist. But you must have opinions in real life. Are you ever tempted to share them on stage?
DE: I don't want to use the stage so much as a soap box. Politics or religion. It isn't the right forum. I don't know that people really want that. I just want the crowd to be happy. I find that as soon as you delve into deeper multi-faceted topics... not that it has to be simple-simple, but politics and something like that with millions of opinions, who's right? How do you come off as making [muffled]. I don't know how to do it. If I could do it well, I'd do it.

GM: How much writing do you do now? Because I would think that you have such a body of work that you could get by with your greatest hits.
DE: In a sense, that's what this tour is. But I've been writing nevertheless. It's good mental exercise anyway. This is the final leg of a tour that started a year and a half ago. Not like all the time. There's been huge breaks. Just to get to every little market. Now I have to crank out another hour, I would think. At least an hour. I have to pull a Ron James out of my arse. I don't know how I'm going to do it. Even so, I'm injecting new when I can. There's some freshness. But it's an ominous notion. I don't know if you saw Comedian, the movie with Jerry Seinfeld, but he was working four or five shows a night often, going town to town in his own private jet, and it takes him a year to get an hour. So I've gone three months. And my jet's in the shop! (laughs) It's the transmission. Or the belt. So I probably have to drive.

GM: Are you part of the Toronto scene still? Do you work out material in clubs and rooms there or do you just do it in the theatres?
DE: I still like to go. I'm going again this week. I'll try some stuff out in Ottawa. I rarely go to the same club twice in a row. I try and bounce around and get different slants and reactions from different crowds from different places. But it's wonderful to go back. Because it's conscience free. I'm not getting paid. I just get to go horse around.

GM: Are you a surprise guest or do they advertise you ahead of time?
DE: I'm always a surprise. I don't know if I'm going until the last minute.

GM: Have the audiences changed over the years? Newhart was saying that he's had to cut back some of his longer routines because audiences have shorter attention spans.
DE: That's a sad reflection on things, eh? I guess I have my own A.D.D. going so I've never really noticed if anybody else is getting dumber.

GM: Have there been any changes in the audiences?
DE: No, not really. Some things come in and out of vogue with what you can talk about with immunity. I'll tell you what's a constant: if it's crappy weather, people have a better time. They all came through the same misery to get there so are somehow more determined. And if it's sunny and wonderful and all the patios are open, they're just looking across the street going, "Oh! Why can't we be over there?!" (laughs) So this is what I'm worried about. I've heard there's going to be some rain out there. I'm very excited to hear it. And the Canucks are out of the playoff run.

GM: Can you explain the name of your tour, Sleepless in Gogama?
DE: Gogama's a little nothing town outside of Timmins where I had my first ever headline act. For a town of 600, we had a pretty good turnout: about 50. But half of them were unilingually French. My very first recollection of my headline moment, taking the stage at a road house, that half the crowd was incensed with anger, that they paid the four bucks and nobody talks even French. (laughs) That's my rearview mirror check when I'm on these theatre tours.

GM: And it's a one-man show as opposed to standup?
DE: Yeah. It's just a longer chunk and you can take it at a different pace.

GM: Okay, Derek, I'll let you go.
DE: My best to Bob, when you're talking to him.


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