The irrepressible comic has had to lower his energy output a notch, but that hasn’t stopped him from cross-dressing for fun down at the mall
Shaun Majumder still chuckles when he thinks about his first week as a feature act. Not for anything that happened on-stage, though. In the mid ’90s, he and headliner Irwin Barker found themselves, as touring comics will, shopping at a mall on a Saturday afternoon in Sudbury.
The ebullient Majumder and the reserved Barker couldn’t be more different stylistically, both as comics and as men, but the pair share that special spark that sets brilliant comedic minds apart from the rest of us. And as any fan of Monty Python or Kids in the Hall—or even Milton Berle—will tell you, cross-dressing is just funny.
“We were in Reitmans [clothing store], in this fancy mall,” Majumder recounts, on the phone from his new home in Los Angeles. “He just pulls this sweet little, swanky little dress off the rack and holds it up to himself. And with that dry sensibility, he was like, ”˜Shaun, what do you think of this? You think it’ll be good?’ And I jump onboard. I was like, ”˜I don’t know about the colour.’ And the girl in the corner looks up and she has no idea what to make of it because obviously we’re not looking for a laugh. We ran with it. We tried on dresses and went full tilt with it. It was one of the funniest things I’d ever seen and been a part of. That was my introduction to Irwin, in terms of sensibility. And every time we get together, our brains just kind of mesh and we have a good laugh.”
Friday night (June 13), the two will get together again, along with some other notable Canadian comedians in Mike Bullard, Mark Critch, Peter Kelamis, Sam Easton, and a few surprise guests. The event, which will be televised later this year on the Comedy Network, is Irwin Barker and Friends: Fighting Cancer With Comedy at the River Rock Show Theatre. All proceeds will go to the Canadian Cancer Society. Barker himself was diagnosed last June with leiomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of terminal cancer. Don’t expect a downer, though. The emphasis will be on laughs.
You can’t help but smile while watching the irrepressible Majumder work a room. The self-described “Pewfie” (“half Paki, half Newfie”), known for his roles on such different shows as 24 and This Hour Has 22 Minutes, has an infectious enthusiasm that can’t be ignored. He’s always been that way, he says—if anything, he’s toned it down a bit.
“I put filters on my output, I think, in high school, because I started to realize how annoying I must have been to people,” he says. “But I think throughout my whole childhood I was even-keeled in terms of having kind of a positive outlook on life. I never went through a bitter, jaded phase, never went sour. I think it had to do with growing up in Newfoundland.”
Majumder is looking forward to seeing his old shopping buddy again. Barker, who wrote for 22 Minutes and is on staff at The Rick Mercer Report, is considered one of the good guys in Canadian comedy.
“There’s no reason to dislike him,” Majumder says. “ ”˜He banged my wife.’ You don’t hear that about Irwin Barker very much. ”˜He tried to sell me a shitty DVD player and then he went to Thailand.’ You don’t hear that about him. He’s universally funny. There’s no other way to look at it. He’s just funny and it just vibrates in everybody’s molecules, no matter how old you are. It’s really cool to see.”