Local comics ready for download at the Waldorf Hotel
In the comedy world, Louis C.K. is king. During his reign, it has become the standard for standup comics to constantly push forward and create new material rather than rest on their laurels, thanks to C.K.’s yearly out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new practice. With his cultlike following, he recently decided to forgo labels and release his latest concert footage as a download on his website for a mere five bucks. In 12 days, he amassed over a million bucks. Fellow comedians’ heads began to spin. Aziz Ansari and Jim Gaffigan followed suit. And now that DIY attitude is trickling down to the rank and file.
Enter Paul Breau. The Vancouverite (and nonpractising standup—he hasn’t performed a set in over a year) believes this model just might work on the local level. Vancouver, after all, has a thriving standup-comedy scene, even if its practitioners aren’t household names. Working in the multimedia industry, Breau realized he has the technical expertise and experience to put together a three-camera shoot and develop a website that will sell downloads for $5 apiece. So he’s gathered 10 of the city’s best comics and will film their respective acts over five nights this week.
“None of these comedians are well-known enough that they can afford to do this themselves,” says Breau at a downtown coffee shop. “None are of the stature of Louis C.K., but I think they’re extremely talented. I think they should be household names.”
Each night, two performers are recording their shows at the Waldorf Hotel’s Cabaret Room. Tuesday and Wednesday featured Jane Stanton, Carter Hortie, Patrick Maliha, and Ivan Decker. Tonight through Saturday (May 17 to 19) it will be Graham Clark, Ben McGinnis, Erica Sigurdson, Dylan Rhymer, Charlie Demers, and Paul Bae.
“I think it’s an idea whose time has come,” says Rhymer, who, along with Sigurdson, performs on Saturday. “How long has the Internet been around? Music figured this out a long time ago. They stopped being beholden to the record labels ages ago.”
Rhymer, like several of the other comics on the bill, has had his own Comedy Now! special on CTV. The problem with those vehicles is the made-for-TV aspect of them, where the performer looks like he is directing his act to the camera rather than the live audience. Add the fact they’re heavily edited and saddled with laugh tracks, and the result is often stilted-looking.
“The great thing with what Paul Breau is doing here,” he says, “is, because it’s online, I can do as much time as I want, I can say whatever the hell I want, and it’s not going to be censored.”
Rhymer is an issues-oriented comic who takes on religion, politics, and corporations both on-stage and online, at his site Stateoftheweek.ca.
“I would love to be sued by Monsanto,” he jokes about the genetically-modified-seed giant. “If I couldn’t make hay out of that, then I should just quit. I fantasize about being sued by Stephen Harper. It would be the best thing ever for my career. Because I would lose and I would just declare bankruptcy.”
Breau claims these specials are “raw and uncut”. “We’re not removing any jokes or editing it in any way,” he says. In that respect, the finished product will be a true reflection of the comics’ live act. “It’s their show,” he adds. “We’re just acting as a host. They can do whatever they want. They own the material.”
The specials will be available online at Thestandupcomedians.com when it goes live in June.
“I have every faith in Paul,” says Rhymer. “Unlike myself, he is exceptionally organized and focused. He really knows what he’s doing. This is an opportunity for me to do a three-camera shoot. I’ve been wanting this for a very long time: a sharp-looking, uncensored special. Because if I get hit by a bus, at least I know there’s something out there.”
Dylan Rhymer and Erica Sigurdson perform at the Waldorf Hotel’s Cabaret on Saturday (May 19).