Vancouver made Darryl Lenox into the comedian he is today

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      When Darryl Lenox moved to Vancouver from Vegas in 1994, at the age of 28, he had two Evening at the Improv credits to his name. Turns out the American TV show didn’t make a lick of difference to his career. He got a job headlining the old Comedy Cave in Surrey—and then tanked so bad he was demoted to middler while local comedy vet Richard Lett took over the headlining duties.

      “I came up there and just took it in the face,” Lenox tells the Straight at a hotel, after touching down a week ahead of his Blind Ambition show on Saturday (October 2) at the Vogue Theatre. “I bombed bad. I came off-stage, and Richard Lett let me know that Americans aren’t funny.”

      He laughs at the memory, but he can afford to now. Lenox has become one of the best comics this city—and country—has ever produced. It was Vancouver, he says, that made him into the comedian he is today. “The best thing that ever happened to me was Canada,” he explains.

      Lenox was given the royal boot from the country in 2005 after spending 11 years as a resident. It was a blow that he still feels to this day.

      “When I got kicked out, it was the worst thing that ever happened to me because I felt like the greatest love I ever had said, ”˜I don’t want you no more. You gotta go,’” he says. “It hurt like nobody’s business.”

      Despite those early TV appearances, when Lenox first arrived in Vancouver he knew he wasn’t the comic he could be. And it took seeing how we did it up here that opened his eyes. Before that, he was performing comedy-by-the-numbers without putting any of his soul into it.

      “Sometimes you get stuff too early. And I was just pretty good,” he says about his Evening at the Improv appearances.

      He recalls seeing locals J.P. Mass and Craig Campbell and marvelling at their conversational styles. “They weren’t formula,” he says. “Canadians have their own formula. They weren’t as shiny and ”˜This is a show!’ and I really dug that a lot.”

      Lenox was on a northern–B.C. run when the light bulb went off. After inadvertently making an observation about the residents of Smithers, to great reaction, it dawned on him what he should do. “All of a sudden I kinda got that I really was a fish out of water and I just wanted to talk about everything I saw,” he says. “Every single day I saw something new and it was like a nonstop premise. None of it was an act or a joke. There was literally a guy coming up to me going, ”˜So is it true that black guys have big dinks?’ I just started talking about what I saw from then on.”

      The irony is that it was getting harder and harder for Lenox to see anything at all. He suffered from extreme nearsightedness since birth, and it reached the point where his left eye went completely blind while he was living here. And the right eye, thanks to a cataract and detached retina, was fading fast. After a few falls, Lenox, now living in New York, visited a couple of eye surgeons there, but their bedside manner, as it were, wasn’t inspiring. “I didn’t feel like they cared as much as the Canadians did,” he said.

      So Lenox came back to Vancouver to see his old doctor, who scheduled an operation—with the warning that he could still wind up totally blind. That was something the comic wasn’t prepared to accept, but he went ahead with the surgery anyway. “It felt like it was too much,” he says. “I’d been fighting everything for so long. I don’t want to be that goddamn inspiring. I’m already inspiring; I don’t want to be that much more. It was already hard enough to have people point out steps to me. But to not be able to watch the Yankees or play chess, I was like, ”˜No way, man.’”

      Or, as he says in his standup act, “I wanna choose to play the harmonica; I don’t wanna have to learn to play the harmonica.”

      Thankfully the surgery was a success and Lenox now has 20/40 vision, as long as he’s wearing his glasses. He couldn’t be happier—especially given that his Saturday appearance at the Vogue will be filmed for a DVD release and future sales to TV.

      “It’s the first time I ever felt like ”˜local boy did good.’ I’ve never been a ”˜local boy did good’ before,” he says. “This time I feel like I’m ready.”



      Renu BG

      Sep 29, 2010 at 12:26pm

      As one of the Vancouverites who saw you in the earlier days, I knew you were on your way up. Can't wait to see you in all your glory on Saturday. Congratulations Darryl!! We're rootin' for ya!

      Richard Lett

      Sep 29, 2010 at 12:30pm

      I didn't say Americans weren't funny, just not AS funny as us!