SFU’s community summit concludes with Urban Conspiracy 2: It’s The Economy, Stupid!
It’s comedy, stupid. But comedy with a bite—and a variety of other entertainment—loosely centred around B.C.’s economy.
SFU’s annual community summit concludes its week of programming with a comedic cabaret hosted by the creator/producer of CBC’s The Debaters, Richard Side, and standup comic/author Charlie Demers. Urban Conspiracy 2: It’s The Economy, Stupid! will explore the topic from different angles, only it won’t put you to sleep like most economic discussions.
“Charlie honestly and politically represents the left view,” Side says with a chuckle over the phone. “He’s an avowed Marxist; I have a business degree. You can’t say I’m the most conservative guy in the world, but I’m representing a more conservative point of view.”
Joining Side and Demers will be performing artist Margo Kane, Double Exposure’s Bob Robertson, singer-songwriter Geoff Berner, standup Sunee Dhaliwal, the Downtown Eastside performing-arts program Project Limelight, trumpeter John Korsrud’s quintet, and others.
Throughout the show, Side and Demers will provide a throughline with comedic bits, such as Demers, under instructions from his boss Side, debating himself so he can gain an understanding of both angles of the issue.
While his behind-the-scenes role with the CBC comedy series has kept him busy the past eight seasons, Side relishes the opportunity to hit the limelight when he can through various side projects. Well-known in the improv community, Side started out at Vancouver TheatreSports League in 1981. He won a world-championship improv tournament at Expo ’86 with Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie, toured the globe with bassist Bernie Addington in their beatnik duo Scat in the Hat, and has done all sorts of acting and writing for film and television.
But it’s been a few years since his last acting gig. “The Debaters just sort of became all-encompassing,” he says. He’s thankful for it, even if it did take him away from an art form he loves. The vagaries of show business can be cruel, after all. “I feel very lucky that it came along right when I have two young children.”
Even though The Debaters is a product of the radio, he’s managed to keep it vibrant by playing to the people who come out and watch it. “It’s captured and recorded, but it exists first and foremost as a live event for the audience and the performers. And that’s where the juice is,” he says.
With well over 200 debates recorded from countless debaters, you would think he could scratch his creative itch by doing one himself. But surprisingly, that’s one credit that eludes him.
“Maybe that’ll come one day,” he says, laughing. “Maybe in my last year.”
In the meantime, he’s got this yearly gig at SFU’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. “I love variety, the genre, which is sort of out of favour a little bit,” he says. “But it’s certainly fun in a live setting. And to be working with Charlie—I mean, he’s just a top-level talent. It’s very invigorating. And it feels very natural to be entering into that space. I mean, there was probably a period of 20 years where I was on-stage three or four nights a week. It’s fun to get back on stage and do a few things.”
Side says the format of Friday’s show brings a hint of unpredictability and improv to a structured framework.
“Things are tightly scripted where they have to be and loose where that’s appropriate,” he says. “It keeps it honest.”