Jeffery Yu has come a long way in just under three years of performing standup comedy. The 27-year-old, who daylights as a substitute high-school teacher, placed second in last year's Last Comic Standing competition at the Urban Well, played the Halifax Comedy Festival, interned as a writer on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, and on September 24 will shoot his own Comedy Now! special for CTV and the Comedy Network (with the air date some time in 2006). Not bad for an introvert who only a few years ago couldn't even imagine himself on-stage. He was always quietly funny when giving presentations as a student at school, so he decided to take a workshop with local comic/ psychotherapist David Granirer.
"I was too scared to go to an amateur night, so I thought I'd take this class and in the end we have a show, so I could do that," Yu recalls on the phone from his East Van home. "Back then I would never have thought that I would be doing this."
It was his strong showing in last year's Last Comic Standing that finally convinced him he belonged. "That was the first time where I got a little bit of respect from other comics who hadn't seen me before. Because back then I think I was still sort of the new guy. I was only two years into it. So I was happy that I did well in that contest."
Yu describes his comedy as a little bit dark and dirty (a sample at last year's Vancouver International Comedy Show was "My mom has a strange idea of medicine. She tried to cure hiccups by sticking chopsticks up my bum. But all that did was get me to fake hiccups."), but he's respected for his writing ability. Like fellow Vancouver comic Irwin Barker, who writes full-time for 22 Minutes, Yu doesn't stop at a funny premise or a single punch line: he builds on each with one tag (that's standup for a follow-up punch line) after another.
Unlike Barker, though, he probably won't be making a living writing for mainstream TV shows. In his two-week 22 Minutes stint, Yu figures he wrote about 75 jokes. Only two made it onto the show.
"I think if anything, my material might have been too dark," he says. "A lot of it got laughs and pretty good reactions in the reading room, but I had to know that it wouldn't really get onto air because I've seen that show and it wasn't really a match."
Despite his success, his parents have yet to see his act. "It's just a different world," he says of his night job. "It's like how I wouldn't understand, for example, classical piano. They just don't understand standup comedy. So I don't bother trying to explain it. I think when my Comedy Now! comes out, if they watch that, that would be the first time they see me."