At Yuk Yuk’s on Thursday, January 31. Continues until February 1
Canadian comedy fans, and Vancouverites in particular, have known about Darryl Lenox for years. The burly American standup has been a star in the making for a good decade; it’s just that Canada’s not exactly a star-making nation. Still, it’s where he lived from 1996 to 2008, touring the country from his base in the West End.
He was always on the verge of breaking in his native land, it seemed, even while living here. There were rumours he was going to do The Tonight Show. Then he was apparently close to getting the Late Show With David Letterman. Neither panned out.
But he’s been on a roll lately. Next Thursday (February 7) he’ll make his first appearance on Conan, and he recently recorded an episode of the influential podcast WTF With Marc Maron. Name clubs south of the border are opening up to him, thanks to a special (Blind Ambition) he financed himself at the Vogue Theatre in 2010 and sold to the Starz television network, and to the subsequent CD. He lives in Manhattan now, but he’s always got time for his old hometown.
At Thursday night’s show at Yuk Yuk’s comedy club on Cambie, Lenox was the same assured performer he’s always been, commanding the room with his cool baritone voice. But that’s not all that’s deep with Lenox. The man is a comic philosopher. No matter what the subject matter, his jokes all have a solid foundation and levels of thought you don’t find often, on- or off-stage. Above all, his act has heart.
Lenox, who is completely blind in one eye and has a limited field of vision in the other, sees the world like few others. His outsider’s point of view on life in the Great White North and backhanded insults aimed our way get us simultaneously laughing at ourselves and patting ourselves on the back. He paints us almost as rubes but as having an unassailable logic and a simple, beautiful, virtually Gump-like wisdom. Whether it’s a ferry captain’s business-as-usual announcement following a man-overboard incident or a bartender’s matter-of-fact take on a contentious racial issue, Lenox walks us through his emotions upon first hearing them, from incredulity at the seemingly ignorant statements to acceptance of the mundanely profound. The African-American even appreciates our kinder, gentler racism. Rather than the “black/white I-hate-you/I-wanna-kill-’em racism” of the States, ours is the “I just don’t like ’em” variety, he says.
He exudes calm, a trait he learned from many a northern Canadian telling him to “Relax, buddy!” In fact, he learned lots more here, he explains, and not just sentence structure (although that does impress his American buddies back home). His Vancouver eye surgeon’s warning of “This is gonna hurt and I’m sorry” has become something of a mantra for him, a life lesson that can be applied to all kinds of situations. Buckle down and you’ll get through it.
But Lenox has nothing to be sorry about on-stage. There’s not a false note in his act. He’s a rare comic who slays whether he’s doing heartfelt material or dick jokes and still manages to elevate the spirit.