Vancouver has some of the best standup comedians in the country. The fact that you usually only get to see them doing five- and 10-minute guest spots at various bars throughout the city is no reflection on the quality of their acts. It’s the nature of the business.
The average comedy fan will pay through the nose to see big names in cushy theatres, and even arenas. Will they spend 20 bucks to see two comics they haven’t heard of but are on par with, or even better than, some of the more famous visitors? That’s what Simon King and Brett Martin are going to find out on Wednesday (December 16) at the Presentation House Theatre in North Van.
The locals headline clubs across the country and, to be fair, on occasion at Yuk Yuk’s on Burrard Street, but they don’t often get a chance to play theatres, which is why they decided to make work for themselves rather than sit around and wait for it to happen.
“We just got chatting one day about how it would be kind of fun to do something a little different,” said King at a downtown coffee shop. “And our styles are very complementary, I think. We’re both the same idea of comic: a little bit of politics, a little bit of social ideas, but still kind of silly and fun. And neither of us is crazy-dirty.”
When Martin says, “I’d say we’re as funny as the big-name acts. We’re both worth listening to,” King laughs and offers, “We’re not the Nickelback of comedy!”
And there’s an apt analogy. If you ask most people who don’t go to standup clubs on a regular basis to name five comedians, you’re going to get the most famous names, like Dane Cook, Russell Peters, and Chris Rock. Same with music.
“If you talk to someone who doesn’t go see independent bands and ask what’s your favourite band, you’re probably going to get Lady Gaga because it’s what they’re exposed to,” says King. “And that’s fine. We’re just hoping to expose people to some of the stuff they don’t know yet and some stuff they may fall in love with. It’s an opportunity to move outside of what they’re just handed.”
The two, while flying under the radar of the masses, have entertained audiences all over the map. King, who spent four months this year in Los Angeles, is one of the few Canadian comics to have performed at the US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen and the TBS Comedy Festival in Las Vegas. In August he filmed his first Comedy Now TV special. Martin is a regular on XM radio whose career highlight, he says, was getting a standing ovation at the Comedy Store in London, England.
“Most great gigs you usually have to go on the road for,” says Martin, which explains why he and King decided to create the Comedians You Should See show in their back yard. “Sometimes I’ll wake up and I’ll literally not know where I am. I don’t know what city I’m in, I’m not sure what day it is. It’s a bit disorienting. And you end up usually drinking a lot.”
“You can sometimes sit in your hotel room for nine hours and the show is just such a welcome relief,” adds King.
You could wait until the next notable name hits town and shell out the big bucks or you could take a flyer on some indie comics and say you saw them when. Laughs are laughs, after all.