At the Granville Island Stage on Saturday, January 14
As the saying goes, in comedy timing is everything. It’s always a stretch when the Snowed In Comedy Tour plays balmy Vancouver, but organizer and performer Dan Quinn is a resident here, so why not? Quinn has gathered a few of his snowboard-loving comedian friends every winter for the past four years to scream down select mountainsides in B.C. and Alberta during the day and then perform standup comedy at night, although one has very little to do with the other for the paying punter. And even less in the usually rainy ’Couve.
On Saturday, though, flakes were falling at showtime on Granville Island to meet the previous day’s snowfall already on the ground. Finally, we belonged!
With five headliners sharing the stage, and a second show added, the 8 o’clock performance seemed rushed. The comics, who are used to much longer sets, had to make do with about 20 minutes each. But they’re seasoned pros who know how to entertain a crowd. And that they did, each bringing a different style to the proceedings.
Host Craig Campbell, a bearded, long-haired, manic Canuck who’s been living in England for the past 15 years, got things going with some quick crowd work. His raving-lunatic image belies an intelligence and compassion. Hell, he doesn’t even look like a standup comic, whatever that may be, yet he’s a hilarious and engaging storyteller. His tale of a mugging gone wrong in Belgium proved all of the above.
Pete Johansson is another former local who sandwiched a stint in Vancouver between years in the States and the last three in England. Along the way, he says, he’s performed in 42 countries. Johansson, brother of actor Paul of One Tree Hill, is usually the smartest guy in the room. Any room. But he walks a fine line and never appears (too) condescending. His mind works faster than most and it’s amazing how quickly the words leave his mouth, especially when he’s pressed for time. But that would be nothing if he wasn’t funny. Thankfully, he is. He takes particular delight in goading an audience, too, but always delivers his punches with a gleeful giggle. And truth be told, he makes a pretty compelling case for randomly attacking children.
If you didn’t know Glenn Wool was a Canadian, you’d take him for a cowboy preacher from south of the border, with his boots and theatrical projection. Even though he’s an itinerant comic who performs worldwide, he makes it clear he’s Canadian. A storyteller too, Wool also has a few clever one-liners thrown in for good measure.
Quinn may have had the set of the night, with numerous applause breaks. He looked more comfortable than I’ve ever seen him. His material was largely based on the differences between men and women, a topic as old comedy itself, but he brought some fresh angles to it with a natural ease and likability.
American Arj Barker closed things out with a slower pace and a more playful persona. His story about an absurd breakup after his girlfriend forced him to sleep on the couch one too many times was so stupidly funny, it had me in stitches. But his set ended too soon in order to get the next show in.
Wish for next year: a bigger venue so that a second show won’t have to be added and the comics can stretch out a bit. But keep the snow. It was a nice touch.