The Comedy Couch

 NANCY ROBERTSON (aka Wanda Dollard on Corner Gas) - August, 2004

GUY MACPHERSON: You are part of Vancouver
TheatreSports. It says in the bio "over six years".
What does that mean? Like, 15?
NANCY ROBERTSON: Yeah, something like that. Actually
at this point, it probably means seven. Seven years
doing it.

GM: Oh, you still do it?
NR: I do it periodically. It's a good thing for an
actor to do because it keeps you on your toes and
you're so used to improvising that when you go into an
audition and they go, "That's great. Can we try
something different?" you're not, "Oh my God! But I
prepared two days for this!" You can switch it up and
actually thrive on it. It's a great tool. So acting in
the day; TV, film or whatever. Then on the weekends go
and do some improv.

GM: Was improv where you started?
NR: No, I was acting first. Most people that do improv
at TheatreSports are actors. We're actors first. At
certain stages of your career, it saves you from
waiting tables. Because you're pursuing your acting
career, but while you're doing that you're getting
paid to be on stage. So it's an ideal actor's day job
because you're performing.

GM: But you gotta be funny. You can't just be an
NR: You can be an actor who's funny. Obviously you
have to be an actor who has a flair for comedy.

GM: Did you have to sleep with Brent to get this role?
NR: We all did. Everybody did. He had to sleep with
himself, too.

GM: But that's not unusual.
NR: That's just a bad visual. (laughs)

GM: You're on this smash hit. How difficult is it for
you as an actor, because everyone comes up to you and
says, "Hey, love the show!" You know watching it, this
is good. But you don't know if you just have a bunch
of yes-people around you going, "Hey, that was great!"
NR: Oh, you know. You know because you know when
you're reading the scripts that it's good. Long before
you get handed the paintbrush, you know the foundation
there, which is the writing... I always look at
actors... we're the decorators. We're the interior
decorators and the writing's the foundation. You know
then. If it's a good foundation then it makes it
easier to decorate and have fun with. So you know it's
good. And I also know when some people come up and go,
"You know, my uncle doesn't get it." And you go,
"Good!" Because you also know that it's not too

GM: It's not generic, but it is very universal.
NR: It is universal, but it's also got a good sense of
silly to it that most people get. When some people
don't get it, then I think, well, that's okay because
then you know it's got a little bit of an edge to it.

GM: You must have read scripts that you thought were
pretty good, and then you see the finish product and
you just cringe.
NR: Oh yeah, definitely. The difference is is reading
the good scripts and then watching everybody do their
performance and you're enjoying everybody's
characters. And you're not feeling that there's a
false moment or there's a dip. And that's a rarity.
And you're not thinking in the back of your head, "I
don't know if I would have done it that way." You go,
"God! That's so great that you did it that way!" So
you just know. When we finished the first season, we
knew that it was good. The fact that it was a hit was
just icing on the cake. Because you walked away and
thought no matter what happens, this is a great
experience, it was a whole lot of fun. The fact that
it's a hit is just extra. But we're here, so we don't
feel it as much. It's when you go out of town and when
you go back home. I get a lot of either recognized, or
people look at me like they know me, like I've gone to
school with them or something like that., which is new
to me.

GM: They hired great actors
NR: I'd like to think that. I think the cast
definitely is a strength, without a doubt. I think
that, combined with the extremely strong writing and
the creation and heart of Brent, and network people
who are just really cool and are like friends. They
enjoy it as much as we do. And the local producers.
Everybody is like a peer. So it's very cool being very
comfortable. And because, as I said, we're in Regina,
you don't feel like you're on this number-one show
set. You just feel like you're at summer camp.

GM: The writing is a given and the direction and all
that. But there is a potential in some scenes where an
actor could take it way over the top. But you guys
don't. You take it right to that line and, as you say,
it's very believable.
NR: Yeah, hopefully it is. That's what we're certainly
striving for. I think that's where you get the benefit
of when you get to create. They give you the
ingredients and then you get to create this character.
So you kind of know internally where you're going and
whether it's something that would be believable and
would your character react this way. And to be honest,
there are great directors on set. There's multiple
takes. Some are over the top; some are underplayed.
And then you just find a... you play, and that's the
beauty of it, is being able to play. And then the more
comfortable you get with the character, you know where
your range is, you know where you can go with them and
what's going to fly and what isn't.

GM: Is it a sitcom?
NR: No, I don't think so.

GM: What is it? How do you describe it? With a sitcom
you think of the audience and the laughter.
NR: And the ka-boom-boom.

GM: And yet it's a comedy, so what do you call it?
NR: I think they told us once we were to refer to it
as a comedic arc. And then I thought later they're
probably right. I just think it's just a... I don't
even know how to articulate it. It's a nice half hour
show that happens to be funny. It's a comfortable
half-hour show that's funny. Just a comedic half-hour
show. A sitcom is so formulaic, I think. It's kind of
the one-liners and sharp and edgy and all that kind of
stuff. I say in all the interviews, I feel boring
saying it, but it's comfortable. You feel like you're
just peering in. You're a voyeur watching this
strange, quirky little town.

GM: Most Canadian comedies either last three weeks and
nobody sees them, or they last 25 years and nobody
sees them. Either way, nobody sees them.
NR: I think it was time. I think it was time for a
good show. And if not this one, another one. But thank
God it was this one. But I think it was time. Because
if you go down to LA -- and I lived there for a while
-- most of the writers and the sitcom actors and
comedic actors are Canadian. So it's about time that
we are able to stay home and create it here without
going abroad and doing it. I mean, I've done a lot of
US production, and other Canadian, but mostly my
résumé is fully American. And I've never been prouder
of a show, period, than this. And it just happens to
be Canadian.

GM: Isn't it your goal, as an actor, to get into that
US market?
NR: Depends how old you are. I think it depends on the
age. In your mind, you think it is, but when you've
been around and you've done it for a while, you
realize it comes down to the material. For me, anyway.
And I would far rather be doing something like this
than doing some weekly written show -- and sure you're
getting paid a fortune and everything like that, but I
think it would be a really hard existence not getting
any great joy. I mean, this really is the best-case
scenario. Sure, there's always that in the back of
your mind to get some kind of US exposure financially,
and also because there's more opportunities creatively
in some cases. I wish it wasn't the case. I wish there
were more opportunities in Canada -- and I think there
eventually will be -- just to spread your wings a
little bit more. But I think one of the positives
about staying in Canada is you have to be a Jack- or a
Jill-of-all-trades. For myself, I'm an actor on TV and
film. I'll also do radio, I'll also do live stage. You
have to do a lot of things to keep afloat. And I don't
think that's such a bad thing.

GM: There's potential for this show to be picked up in
the States.
NR: Sure. I think it could be sold in the States.
Definitely. It's universal.

GM: Even though it's set here...
NR: There's small towns everywhere. Yeah.

GM: As Eric was saying, you can't get a million
viewers every week without getting the big cities. So
you have big city people watching it as well as the
small town people.
NR: Well, yeah, because it's about people. And I think
that was the point that Brent originally was making
was that people are the same no matter where they are,
and everybody has their quirks. It's just in a small
town, everybody's aware of everybody's quirks. So
yeah, it's just a good show, you know?! It sounds so
boring, but it's... it's good. I'd like to tell you
there's all this going on behind the scenes: major
drugs and beatings. But there's not. That happened
before we all got there. We got that all out of our

GM: How long can it last?
NR: As long as it's still fresh and fun to do, I see
it going for a while. Because they're small stories.
They're not ambitious story lines. They're very
charming, simple, everyday... You can't run out of
those. Basically, you know, somebody lost a shoe.
They'll make a story about it. So they'll never run
out of story lines because they haven't been
over-ambitious with the movie-of-the-week style
issues. So I think it can go a while and I think
everybody probably feels if it stays fun and it's
fresh and it's still positive, then it'll go till

GM: If you expand every one of Brent's standup jokes,
it'll last 50 years.
NR: (laughs)

GM: The lost shoe. There's one right there.
NR: Does he have a bit about a lost shoe?

GM: He does.
NR: Oh, does he? He does one about lost underpants.

GM: That's the one. But he ties it in with a lost
NR: See, we can't do underpants storylines until it
hits cable.

GM: Do you have a favourite scene or moment from last
NR: From my character or just in general?

GM: In general. Or both. You probably only think of
NR: Well, I am an actor... I've always liked the
scenes where everybody's together. Because you can
really sense the comfortability and the chemistry.
Like, I like the Grey Cup.

GM: There was a problem with that.
NR: What was that? Nobody got to it?

GM: No. It was hot.
NR: I was in velvet pants and a wool sweater. I know
it was hot... Along with Wanda's other sexy outfits.
There was just something about everybody being
together. It was the end of the first season, we knew
it was special. And there was something about seeing
it on TV and we're all sitting around the Ruby. That
was pretty much it for us for that season. It was just
very special. So personally that's one of my favourite
scenes. But I love the hockey episode because I
thought it moved, it had heart, it was charming, and I
thought every single character had something fun to
do. And they really work hard at that in every
episode. But it just seemed that everybody had a nice
pop in that episode.

GM: It's an ensemble cast, but it seems everybody gets
a fair shot.
NR: Oh definitely. And I think that must be very hard
for the writers. But they work very hard at it.
Everybody gets a shot. And everybody's so different.
It's very cool. So yeah, that's my favourite episode.

GM: How does this season compare?
NR: I think everything's up a notch.

GM: Really. That would be hard to beat.
NR: Yeah, but that's half the fun of it. I think
because we're here, we're not really focussing on last
season or the big success. It really disappears when
you're here. It really is like going to mining camp.
We're here, you put your hard hat on and you go. I
think because the writers know us, and we know us
better -- last year was the discovery of our
characters, but we know our characters this year, the
writers know our characters -- and I think there's a
little bit more room to play because of that. So I
think everything's up a notch. And the humour... you
know when the crew is repeating the dialogue from the
script, that's a good sign. And when they're relieved
that the scripts are really good and not worried that
anything's changed, that's a good sign. So more
laughs, I think, are around this year than even last
year. So I think it's up a notch.

GM: Are you going to have an episode where everyone's
back in the 1800s like most Canadian shows? Like a
dream sequence?
NR: Yeah, with beaver pelts and everything like that?
Yeah. I'm kinda going the other way. I think we should
have a space episode.

GM: You could have one of each.
NR: Why not? If we're here long enough. And maybe we
can fit in Corner Gas Goes to Hawaii.

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