Andrew Barber and Adam Pateman: A standup tale of two comics
Three years into his comedy career, Andrew Barber finally tapped into the zeitgeist with a character that had everyone talking. When Barber’s favourite hockey team made it to the Stanley Cup finals, he felt the need to contribute to the discussion.
What many of the million-plus viewers to his six-part YouTube video series didn’t understand was that the Boston Greg character was portrayed by a diehard Canucks supporter.
“All of them were quite positive towards the Canucks,” Barber said of his sketches at a Cambie coffee shop. “A lot of people didn’t get that. I’m a Canucks fan.”
So much so that the Game 7 loss still hurts the 27-year-old comic. “I still can’t believe it,” he says. “I really am still blown away. Especially since it happened before when I was nine years old in ’94. For it to happen again, to come down to that last game, they just totally shit the bed. It wasn’t even a decent game. It still blows my mind. I don’t think you ever really get over it. Really, you don’t!”
Thankfully Barber isn’t a one-trick pony. He’s been performing his unique brand of one-man sketch, or character-based standup, all over town, and just finished a run of his show, One Man’s Trash, at the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival featuring four of his oddball characters: Richard Dimwitty, a terrible standup comedian; Theodore Tatum, a pretentious acting student; Philippe-John Braynard, an old-folks entertainer; and Angela, a typical 16-year-old narcissistic terror.
One Man’s Trash aside, the Douglas College theatre grad prefers to ply his trade on standup stages rather than in more theatrical settings. “It’s the most dangerous atmosphere to do comedy in,” he says. “It’s a lot of pressure. People aren’t expecting a character, so a lot of people are judgmental right away and think it’s going to be kinda hokey.”
So why not peel away the layers and just be himself? He tried that but found that’s one character he can’t nail down.
“I’d wanted to do standup for a long time, so I tried it about three times and it went quite well. But it just wasn’t for me. It was kind of nerve-wracking,” he recalls. “I find it kind of awkward to play myself. I’m still working on that. I don’t really find playing myself to be beneficial. It’s not really my strong suit.”
While he plans to continue performing live, Barber wants to produce more videos this fall and cash in on his Boston Greg notoriety. You can keep up to date with them on his new website, andrewbarbershop.com/. “Videos are probably more important [than live shows],” he says. Both art forms have their challenges, but videos have the upper hand: “Once you make it, it’s done and people can watch it for years to come.”
Back in 2008, Adam Pateman, like many other local comics, was hosting experiments onstage at Science World. When he found out that, due to his having an American mother, he was eligible to become a dual citizen, he applied for the special status on his lunch break. A year later, an American passport arrived in the mail. Just like that, Pateman up and moved to New York City.
“I like the nomadic lifestyle,” he said over sliders at a Main Street diner.
He likes it, if that lifestyle isn’t the exotic one of legend. Pateman found that wages are a lot lower south of the border and stage time was hard to come by. But he took his ability to make balloon animals (learned on the job at Science World) to Central Park where he could work three-and-a-half hours an afternoon and pull in $150 a day.
“You realize that New York is just a place,” he says. “I think people have this romantic view of what New York is. It’s kind of a make-believe city, to be honest. Everyone’s there to follow a dream and people aren’t necessarily living it. They’ll say, ‘Yeah, I’m a working comic. I live in New York City.’ It says that on paper but when you look at the actuality of it, it’s like, ‘Oh, you sleep on a couch in Brooklyn and you’re eating just rice for a week. And as a working comic that means you got paid 20 bucks to do some show at a sports bar on Staten Island.’ ”
That said, the comedy scene there is “super exciting and fun”. Pateman and two other New York-based comics opened an alternative room in the Lower East Side that became quite popular before the venue shut down. Established acts like Reggie Watts and Hannibal Buress, along with staff writers from Saturday Night Live, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, and the Late Show With David Letterman would often drop by to perform.
“The great thing about comedy, and it’s pretty universal, is it’s not about seniority; it’s just about being funny,” says Pateman, whose Comedy Now! special recently aired on the Comedy Network. “If you’re funny you get to be involved in the scene. I luckily met a lot of the right people really early on.”
After two years in the States, the 27-year-old moved back to Vancouver in June but his second passport keeps him working down south. Earlier this month he played the Out of Bounds Comedy Festival in Austin, Texas. He plans on moving back to the Big Apple in the spring.
Does he fear losing some of that Manhattan momentum back in sleepy B.C.?
“Probably,” he says, “but I think it’s good to revisit a place that really inspires you. This city’s great. It’s got an amazing comedy scene. You can get up three times a night and the crowds are smart. Whereas in New York you can get up three times a month, there’s such a waiting list to get on.”